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The Wildfowler’s Quest: Forty Years of Wandering with America’s Foremost Wildfowler. — George Reiger

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The Wildfowler’s Quest, by George Reiger, published by Nick Lyons Books in 1989 is his memoir of gunning for wildfowl in the latter half of the 20th century. I remember when I was growing up my father had amassed a pile of hunting magazines, copies of Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream to name a few. I spent many hours poring over these magazines looking for articles on waterfowling. I learned a great deal about wildfowling across the United States and to a limited extent in Canada. At the time it never occurred to me that people across the world enjoyed wildfowling too. What makes this such a good read is that Reiger recounts his experiences gunning for wildfowl both in North America and in different parts of the world including chapters on wildfowling in Argentina, South Africa, Europe and the UK and the USSR.

Among the more interesting accounts Reiger includes is that of gunning for wild geese in the Netherlands over live decoys. He described this wild goose hunting strategy noting the following:

The greatest excitement for me was that we were using flying decoys. My host had raised the decoys (all white-fronts) from eggs, and he had four family groups. As you know, geese maintain very close family bonds. The male decoys are tethered in the field in front of the blind at a range where the shooting is to occur–20 to 25 yards–, no more! The females and young are taken into the hide (alias, blind), and this is the stimulus for every bird to set up the most unbelievable clamor to try to locate one another. This certainly gets the attention of the wild birds which look, but usually continue on their way. That is, continue until the young birds in the hide are thrown into the air whereupon they fly about in search of their parents. Meanwhile the adult females are allowed to wander outside of the hide. With all this activity, the wild birds come in as if on elastics! (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

This goose hunting strategy worked very well as Reiger recounts “every time my host lofted a bird, we had a little bunch come to us. We shot (two guns: a double and an o/u) ten birds in half an hour and decided that was quite enough–but we could have had 25 geese by 10 o’clock!” (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

The book includes chapters on various species of wildfowl, including rails, geese, sea ducks and woodcock and is beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Joseph Fornelli. In the concluding chapters Reiger discusses clubs, conservation and the appeal of wildfowling for those who take part in the sport. In my opinion, this book is well worth reading for anyone who relishes wildfowling and wants an understanding of the history of the sport in North America and across the world.

Posted by Geoffrey