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Like all shooting pursuits, wildfowling has its own set of guidelines, laws and restrictions. Read them, learn them, and stick to them!
• It is illegal to use lead shot to shoot any wildfowl in England and Wales; and for all shooting over wetlands in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Stick to it – use steel as an alternative..
• All kills must be retrieved and all wounded birds humanely dispatched.
Stick to it – take a dog. It makes retrieving your birds much easier. They are also great for bringing back wounded birds that would otherwise require a long, muddy pursuit. Make sure the first bird is cleanly killed before moving onto a second. If you don’t have a dog, make sure that you only shoot within a range that renders quarry easily retrievable, by you, on foot.
• The following methods of killing/trapping are prohibited – snares; gin, spring, leg and pole traps; nets; bows, crossbows or explosives; electrical scaring devices; poisonous substances; lights, mirrors or dazzling devices; pursuing birds in any sort of mechanically propelled vehicle or boat.
Stick to it – just, um, don’t do/use any of those things on your wildfowling expeditions, ok?
• It is forbidden to use sound recordings and/or decoys of live birds, including blinded/maimed/tethered birds (not that any of you would consider it… we hope)!
Stick to it – Invest in some good decoys… There are great, very realistic decoys available nowadays at affordable prices. Check out http://www.a1decoy.co.uk/ or http://www.tidepool.co.uk/
Alternatively, shop about on ebay or gumtree, or even make your own… the birds don’t care how much they cost!
• As far as guns go, you can use a semi-automatic shotgun (as long as it can only hold 2 rounds in the magazine), but any shotgun must have an internal diameter at muzzle of no more than 1 ¾ inches.
Stick to it – If your fieldcraft is good there’s no reason you can’t be successful with a standard 2 ¾” chambered shotgun and cartridge (although a lot of wildfowlers prefer a 3” chambered gun for shooting heavier loads). Many now choose to use a 3 ½” chambered shotgun or semi-auto; they can handle large steel pellets in modern wildfowling loads.
• The UK wildfowl that can be shot during their open season are:
Ducks: Goldeneye, mallard, pintail, gadwall, pochard, shoveler, teal, tufted, and wigeon, scaup (NI only).
Geese: Canada, greylag, pink-footed and white-fronted (E & W only).
Waders: Golden plover, common snipe and woodcock; jack snipe (NI only).
Other: Coot, moorhen (not in NI).
Stick to it – Get a good pair of binoculars, do your research and know your birds! Take the time to study any potential quarry thoroughly and ensure it is the species you think it is before taking a shot.
You can download the BASC Wildfowling code, which provides more detailed information and important safety advice, using this link http://basc.org.uk/cop/wildfowling/
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