IN response to your news item regarding the Ashbeach school outing to Welney. Clearly Ray Poolman not only did not read the letter, he did not listen to his daughter and I wonder exactly where he obtained his information.
To set the record straight: Ashbeach School approached Ely & District Wildfowlers over six years ago to see if we knew anywhere that the children could observe shooting. We decided we could provide because wildfowling, the pursuit of ducks, geese and waders is one of the sports where the least birds are shot. In the last six years we have taken more than 120 children.
When I say the least birds shot, that is fact. In the six years we have been taking the children, only two duck and one wood pigeon have been killed, one of these on the last outing.
Before the outing the children are told by their teachers what they are going to see and that it may involve duck being shot. The children do not have to go. It's not compulsory. If they wish to go a parent must read and sign a form and give permission.
On the day concerned the children did not go to Welney, they went to Waterbeach. The latter was chosen because global warming and lack of rain meant the washes at Welney were dry.
Upon arrival the children, teachers and adult helpers were seated behind a net screen 10-15 feet behind us. We in turn were seated in front of their hide behind a screen of tall reeds.
I gave a demonstration on gun safety, pointing out guns are not toys and should not be played with. Our warden gave a demonstration of duck and goose calling, then our land manager gave an honest description of the use of the dogs and the importance of having a dog just in case a duck is wounded, being honest enough to state that not all quarry species are killed every time.
Since duck feed mainly at night, the most likely time to see an evening flight is the last 20 minutes of daylight. When it was almost dark two mallard came in and were shot at by the warden and myself. We both fired at the same time and, due to the poor light, neither of us knew if we actually got it. None of the children, helpers or teachers saw it killed.
A dog retrieved the duck. The duck was not dead as suggested by Mr Poolman. The warden waded out and intercepted the dog before it reached the bank. He dispatched the duck out of view of the children.
The warden carried the duck back to the hide, it was not carried by a dog as suggested by Mr Poolman.
At the end of the flight, some 20 minutes later, the children were offered the chance to touch the duck. Some did and some declined.
Of the 22 children who took part, all said they enjoyed the trip. One lad asked if he could take the duck home and eat it as it would go with the pheasant his father shot.
It seems to me that Mr Poolman may well have misunderstood the letter he signed, but that is his fault and not the school's or the wildfowlers'.
This in one complaint in six years.
Should the board of governors wish to see wildfowling we would be pleased to take them along, the education authority are welcome too. Wildfowling has nothing to hide and Ashbeach School should be applauded for giving their students the opportunity to see and make their own decisions regarding what takes place in the countryside.
DEREK J ROBINSON
Ely & District Wildfowlers