Since my last posting and the reference to the young lad who was accompanying his father wildfowling I have been taken to task for suggesting that he might be learning something useful. To be honest, I thought that it was a quite reasonable statement to make but I guess because I have always been so fiecely critical of the wildfowlers there, it wasn't what people would expect me to say.
Let me try and explain.
I have never totally condemmed all forms of shooting, just those alongside nature reserves and those that make no attempt to give anything back for what they take. For some people, a perfect world would see no shooting at all, but let's face it, it's here and it ain't going anywhere in the near future and so the best you can do is to look at what's good and bad about it - and yes, there are good bits. Historically, a huge amount of wildlife-friendly habitat was, and still is there because of shooting interests. It is provided, protected and maintained for most wildlife because it also makes good shooting habitat - remove shooting from the British countryside and you very likely overnight remove many thousands of acres of perfect wildlife habitat with it.
Shake your head, deny it for all your worth but deny those people their "sport" and wildlife would also be denied a huge acreage of perfect habitat because it would be immediately ploughed up, grubbed out and over-grazed out because no government, especially one about to sell off our forests, would be able or willing, to grant-aid or protect that degree of habitat. Hard as it is to accept, remove most of shooting and you also remove a lot of wildlife with it.
Now - over the last couple of months - and I can hear the cries of "I knew it!" and "heresy" already, I have got into regular E-Mail correspondence with a long-term member of the Kent Wildfowlers, who I have yet to meet and who took me to task over my criticism of his fellow members at Shellness.
This guy would no more give up his shooting and fishing habits of many, many years than I would my opposition to the wildfowlers being allowed to shoot in front of The Swale NNR, but we persevered.
Our early exchange of E-Mails were as you would expect, quite hostile towards each other as we rigidly stuck by our points of view, but we couldn't let go and we stuck at it and carried on swapping comments. The longer we did, and once we had defined the no compromise areas, it was amazing just how much common ground we had between us. Our attitudes towards each other's views softened and we actually found ourselves agreeing on some points, as well as realising, the killing aside, that we had grown up with and still have, very similar concerns for wildlife in general.
Amongst book loads of swapped views and opinions that we have shared a few stand out. He has made me realise that true foreshore wildfowling has pretty much a pin-prick effect on wildfowl numbers - there are far worse examples of shooting, which he admits too and equally despises.
He has also admitted, to his surprise, to find out via RSPB magazines, the true extent of successful prosecutions against wildlife crime, which are never mentioned in the shooting press for obvious reasons.
Our correspondence has taught us, and allowed us, to accept things that we didn't think we probably would, to widen our views on things, and above all, proved what simply talking to each other can achieve.
So, to go back to the little lad on the saltings with his father, there's no guarantee that he will grow up to be another wildfowler but what is guaranteed is that he has experienced a cold dawn, he has experience the wildlife associated with it, he has experienced that "feel" for that time of day - how many of his critics can admit to the same.