Byron Pace heads north of the border, where rough shooting expert David Virtue has lined up a goose flight for a very special gun
As a youngster I have to admit my goose shooting success was fairly poor to say the least. Not having anyone to show me the ropes, I was under the misguided impression that a few decoys and squawks would pull in the overhead geese from their lofty flight line into whichever field I was able to shoot. Knowledge is power and I would know better than to make such futile attempts these days. Sometimes I got lucky but most days I drew a blank. For the most part I wasn’t all that bothered, normally still coming home with a hare or a few rabbits courtesy of the 17HMR I also had in tow.
It wasn’t until quite late in my hunting career that I really got to grips with decoying, being very much a rifle shooter at heart. Much of what I have learnt has come from spending time with seasoned guide David Virtue, situated not all that far from me in the Scottish borders. Be it geese or pigeons, he has the ground and the knowledge to put the shooters where the birds are.
As the colder days slowly drew in, the season was already well under way. The geese had been slow to come in at home, but further south in the borders David had already enjoyed great success. Joining him after the coldest week of the season, he was coming to the end of a busy week chasing geese. With teams of guns often booked in well in advance, and many of his clients making a yearly pilgrimage, it was a hectic time of year for David, as indeed it should be for any goose guide worth his salt.
“As the birds applied their air brakes, the team of guns lifted from the hides, swinging barrels through the sky.”
As I joined David on my first geese outing of the season, we reconvened in darkness before making our way to the designated decoying location. Good numbers had been seen on the stubble in the previous two days, and having shot other locations earlier in the week, David was confident they could pull some birds in if they were set up right.
With everyone taking care of their own hides along a fence-line bordering a shallow ditch, the team were soon set up, adding the finishing natural touches of dead grasses well before the light lifted. After that, it was a case of bedding in and waiting.
It didn’t take long for the first sounds of geese in the distance to greet the eager shooters. With decoys set to the front and rear, they had to keep sharp, eyeballing every skein and watching for any smaller groups making a stealthy approach. The first big skeins soared high above, paying little attention to the decoys or the tentative calling from David. It was not to be. They were clearly making for a destination some distance from us, and there was no changing the plan.
Not entirely happy with the layout of the decoys in the cold light of day, a quick repositioning was required before the next lot of birds were overhead. It didn’t take long and this time the game looked to be on.