The Woodcock Season is Finally Here!
Across our magnificent countryside, the Woodcock season is now well underway and it’s one of Gunstars favourite times of year. The season for shooting this fast, elusive bird starts on October 1st and runs right through until the end of January. Scotland get the added benefit of starting 1 month earlier in September.
Woodcock migrate across Europe in the winter months so knowing the exact time they are over UK soil can be tough. Many believe that the majority of the migrating woodcock fall around the first full moon in November, but many are seen in woodland earlier than this.
When the time to shoot woodcock comes around, there are lots of excellent sporting opportunities to outsmart these wiley, erratic birds. A large amount of the woodcock shot in the UK each year have come from those targeting pheasants, as the two birds share a similar preference for dense cover during the day time. Many shooters love hunting this particular bird because of the challenge that comes from successfully shooting such a small bird that can twist and turn and fly very fast. For this reason the guns who shoot woodcock usually have very quick reactions, are accurate shots and are able to exercise patience.
The Shooting Times ‘Woodcock Club’ was established in 1949 and membership cannot be bought for love nor money. Membership to this elite club comes simply from being skilled enough to shoot a left and a right, with at least two independent eyewitnesses and to make it even more difficult, the gun can’t be lowered in between the two shots.
We caught up with Arthur Wye, a member of the Woodcock Club to hear his stories and tips.
When did you first shoot a woodcock?
I’ve been shooting since I was a lad, so for over 50 years now and I remember very clearly shooting my first woodcock. It was very early morning, there was frost on the ground and the light was just coming up. It was quite special and I think my friend was quite envious.
How many do you think you’ve shot in your life?
Around 100 I should think.
Where were you when you took the two shots that made you a Woodcock club member?
It was 13 November 1993 and I was rough shooting with two friends in West Chiltington, West Sussex. It was a cold day but I was trying out a new gun for the first time that day. I shot the two woodcock - thought to myself ‘that was good’ - and thought no more of it until my friends mentioned my eligibility for the Woodcock Club membership. Needless to say, I’ve still got the gun!
What does it mean to be a member of the STWC?
I got a certificate (I’m No. 727) which hangs on my wall and generates plenty of discussion but best of all I get invited each year to the STWC annual dinner. They choose the most magnificent venues for this event so I get to spend a wonderful evening with a cross section of interesting and like-minded people. A couple of years ago I was sat next to a brain surgeon who had flown in from the States. Sponsored by Balvenie whiskey, we shared a few drinks - and shooting stories - and I remember stumbling back to my room thinking he was potentially a very useful contact for the future!