Friday 1st December 2017 - winter sport

The rash of pheasant farms across Mid-Wales has its benefits. Apart from providing road-kill breakfasts for a host of kites and buzzards, the hordes of pheasants filter down the valleys providing much sport for the rough shooter. Mind you, it takes the fun out of poaching, when there is a pheasant under every bush.
There is plenty of work for beaters and pickers-up on the commercial and syndicate shoots, and such a surplus of game-birds that even I am being choosy about how many birds I take home. I pushed Rico too hard on an early shoot at Llynlloedd, when we were picking up for a whole team of guns. He was exhausted next day, and an infected foot swelled up for a few days. After a week's rest he was back at work, though I have been careful to keep in in as much as possible. He was apparently fully recovered, but after a run by the river last night I discovered that he had lost a claw from the infected foot. He seems happy enough, though, and we are both looking forward to our second day at Llanbrynmair tomorrow.
I had hoped that we might see a duck or two flight in the dusk, but not one came, though I did see a couple of woodcock out over the river - safe enough from me! A few snipe were scarping about, too. Maybe it's time to dig out the number sevens and try to bag one or two. Every visit to the marsh in the dusk reveals something different. Last night, as I sat under a high bank with my feet in the river, I spotted a water-rail skulking along the shore, then as the light faded, I was surprised by a kingfisher trying to land on my gun barrels. It crashed into my hand and I almost fell in the river! Years ago two young kingfishers together landed on my rod as I waded down a narrow Shropshire stream - only for a few seconds but long enough to put a bend in my old fibreglass rod - but that's the first time one has taken my gun for a branch.
Today I attended the funeral of my old friend David Duncalf from Conway. David was one of the last real sportsman-naturalists, sharing my interest in all aspects of the countryside, from serious gardening, cooking and preserving, to game and sea fishing, wildfowling and game shooting, and, of course, sporting art and literature. He was the founder of OFFA, the loose organisation of sporting gentlemen with whom I occasionally share a day with rod or gun, and his funeral had something of the feel of a day in the countryside with good friends. Even the setting was appropriate - the ancient church of St Mary at Caerhun, set among ancient yews on the site of a Roman fort overlooking the river Conwy.

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