Dying to Kill: Saturday morning with the lads


I should be sitting opposite a client right now; actively listening, observing, and asking all those open ended questions that might lead to some sort of resolution or much needed revelations. Instead I find myself sitting in my car at the side of a road I’ve nicknamed ‘the rollercoaster’ such are the hills and sharp bends – one after the other. I often think when I’m on this road late at night: please don’t let me break down here – aside from the dangerous bends,the meandering road is enclosed like a tunnel by tall dark layers of mature trees on each side. I didn’t expect to be asking a man I never met a difficult open-ended question at the side of a country road

No, I’m not in Galway, I was half-way there when I decided I had to go back. You see when I was on my descent down the ‘rollercoaster’, I suddenly found myself breaking and breaking and it all was surreal when the road was dotted here and there with ducks: bumping into each other, some excited by what probably was new surroundings, and others were just afraid. And then one, one that was so still. I had to break hard when both I and the car facing me both tried to avoid ducks. Yes, it was my life flashing before me as I wasn’t sure if she could break enough to stop running into me on the bend. But she did and she carried on. I put on my hazard lights and despite a man shouting at me I went to the duck but fear makes us defy pain and the duck managed to fly lowly to the other side into a dense ditch area. I couldn’t find her. And yes, you want to shout at the backdrop of gunshots ‘please stop for a minute!’ Every shot was pushing her on. I was afraid I would cause an accident so I drove on. I couldn’t find her. Thinking I can’t miss work again but twenty minutes later I did just that: I decided to go back and look for her. Imagine being shot: imagine the pain and all you can hear are shots surrounding you. 

As I got closer, I prayed that she had died because a wound like that would never allow her to fly again. She had been shot. When I pulled in, I saw a van with springers getting ready to go home. I asked him ‘do you release ducks from here onto this road to be shot?’ I always thought it was a sanctuary. He told me ‘no they just escaped!’ That was a lie. As one after the other quads and other small vehicles passed me with rows of ducks hanging off each side. What an easy ‘sport’, what an easy target. I told him there is an injured duck somewhere here in awful pain. He went silent and got back into his van. And so I started to look for her and yes, there she was, squeezed in behind a pole gasping. But again when I went to lift her, she flew away, just not very well. I went through the gate – the second entrance to this estate, and I was quickly followed by a man on a quad. Yes, we exchanged words that were far from friendly. He told me to leave and I refused until I had the duck and then suddenly he became polite and said, ‘don’t worry, I will sort the duck,’ and he gave a quick glance around and added, ‘that duck is gone!’ I’m sure he was anxious to get back to base to his friends. But I still wouldn’t leave and proceeded with my blanket and cat bag. And there she was. In pain and suffering. I never felt so helpless as he watched me trying to lift her. I was hurting her more, and so he stepped in, and grabbed her by the neck! An act I would not have any experience with. My instinct was to just get her to a vet, and to bring her to Hilltop. Bring her home. But of the two of us, he was the one she needed more at that time. How terribly ironic. 

‘Get out of here,’ he was getting angry now. 

‘Why are you OK, with this suffering?’ I asked him. ‘How many more are here wounded because of poor shots?’

He wouldn’t answer me! So I asked him again.

‘Ah sure,’ he muttered and walked away with the most beautiful duck by the neck. This tall man with his tweed flat cap, walking away proudly with an innocent,injured duck dangling by his side. 

I’m aware of the legalities around shooting and shooting season but just because something is legal, does not always make it right. It does not make the act of half-shooting an animal/bird OK and not taking any responsibility for that bird/animal. No one in their right mind would be OK with that which puts into question the mind that is. 

I’ve added in this piece below from a man who blogs about shooting and duck drives because sometimes you have to step into their minds to try figure it out. And even he has no solution.

‘ The ugly

All too frequently, ‘duck drives’ become a bloodthirsty frenzy of glowing barrels as low birds are met with a wall of shot and others spiral into the stratosphere waiting for shooting to cease and flags to stop cracking before they can land again. Not that this always stops people from shooting at them well beyond an appropriate range…

Ducks, by evolutionary design, have thick down to keep them warm and dry on the water. This down acts like a natural flak jacket and reduces the effective killing range of many standard non-toxic cartridges and, thus, reduces the likelihood of a clean kill at ‘normal’ heights. Regrettably, as is the case on every shoot day, despite best endeavours, some birds require despatching after the whistle or horn has sounded. And unfortunately, and wrongly, not everyone participating knows how to cleanly and efficiently dispatch of wounded game. This really is an ugly side to the sport that must be addressed. But that’s a topic in itself, for another day.

Who’s to blame?

I’m not sure there’s necessarily a need to finger point, and, in any case, it’s near impossible to say with whom the buck stops. If the demand for substantial duck drives wasn’t present, then shoots wouldn’t provide them. Maybe I’ve just answered the question after all, but someone will always be content in filling a gap in the market. Beyond the moralities or where opinion resides – many will disagree with me, and have every right to – I’m not convinced of the value that reared ducks present to paying clients either. More often than not they are used purely to bolster a bag and it appears to only ever be a certain type of clientele that are happy to pay for them. This said, shooting, as a whole, is an extremely expensive sport and choice should remain prevalent. Clients and guests can always choose not to shoot such a drive if they feel it’s not what they want.’

Yes, indeed, we always have choice… why does that choice have to involve causing suffering for sport?

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