The aim of this guide is to give a broad, yet useful, introduction to duck flighting.
Duck flighting will traditionally take place at a flight pond during two times of the day: early morning or early evening. The British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) defines a flight pond as “an open area of fresh water or marsh used by wildfowl in the evenings, when they flight from their daytime resting places on estuaries of large water bodies, in order to feed.” In a flight pond you are most likely to find Mallard, but these ponds also tend to attract Teal and widgeon if you are close to the foreshore and other species of wildfowl.
For an evening flight all participating guns should be in place well before the expected flight time – so pack your shooting gear early. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with your surroundings and where your accompanying guns are so you can see where you’re safe and clear lines of shot are. Your host should be able to give you advice on where to expect the duck to flight from (particularly useful if there is little wind). It will be dark when you leave and when you are picking up so a powerful torch is a must have item and decoys and/or a duck call may be useful. Finally, ensure you (and your gun dog, should you choose to use one) are well hidden from your quarry.
A large part of this involves wearing warm clothing which blends in with the background. It is advisable that you keep the amount of skin visible to a minimum – keep all this in mind when picking your shooting clothing. We recommend caps and gloves as must-have items for any duck flight. Any expert will tell you not to look up into the sky as this will expose your face and scare off your quarry. To prevent this from happening, face protection, such as the Deerhunter MAX 5 Facecover, will keep you well hidden from the birds.
In addition, a warm, protective shooting jacket and trousers is essential to staying comfortable and well hidden. We can think of no better combination than the Harkila Pro Hunter Icon Jacket and matching Pro Hunter Icon Trousers, which is a favourite with country sportsmen and women all across Europe.
Basic rules & behaviour
The ground rules for the flight, such as the maximum time to the end of flight following the first shot and maximum number of cartridges allowed per gun, should all be agreed in advance and make sure there is a clear rule to signify the end of the flight and that everyone acknowledges when that signal is given. There is nothing more dangerous than shooting with little light and someone thinking the flight is still on when the rest are moving around picking up. Also keep in mind that it is very important not to overshoot on one particular duck pond and when shooting over water, always use a lead-free shot.
Make sure you mark your birds down and keep an accurate count. It will save you lots of time and ensure a clean pick at the end of the flight… not always that easy if people don’t quite know where their birds fell and it is dark. In the event that your prey lands in the water, having a dog is very useful for retrieval so it is always worth making sure that at least one gun has a good dog with them.
N.B. During the winter months where many flight ponds are frozen or semi frozen make sure you try to avoid your duck landing on the ice or in the water. Ask your host the depth of the pond before the flight so that you know whether it is safe to send a dog or yourself onto the ice to retrieve your birds if they inadvertently do land in the wrong place.
Also be aware that during prolonged periods of cold weather, flighting can be banned so make sure you keep yourself informed accordingly.