“ … over by La Lande, we had two lakes covered in reeds and floating grass. Between them, at the edge of a connecting stream, my husband had had a small hide built for shooting at wild ducks.” Maupassant, Tales and novels, v. 1, A Wife’s Confession., 1882, p. 800.
A hide night with Normandy as a backdrop
This small, permanent, well camouflaged pit structure serves as a shelter when hunting along the shore or in marshland. We’re in Normandy, in the Seine estuary. I look out from our camp on arrival and admire the picturesque landscape as the sun sets over the Normandy Bridge. What can you say, the ducks are in fine voice and nicely positioned in a star formation; the call ducks are out in number; wigeons, mallards, teal, pintails… the massed foam decoys are playing their part and melting into the landscape.
Final preparations before the evening flight: tidy the hide and sort out room for 4 in an 118ft² twin bunk with kitchenette. This is rare luxury for hunters operating out of hides, who usually make do with a more rudimentary setup.
The wait in the good mood
The ducks are quacking, the hide is in position, the waiting can begin in a typically northern atmosphere, as genial as can be with aperitifs and Belgian beers to get things underway. The friendly meal is gradually warming up, when everything suddenly stops, stock-still. The call ducks have piped up; we switch off the light and open the side windows to glass the horizon, scanning for the slightest silhouette of ducks landing in response to the calls.
False alarm… we sit at the table around a nice beef stew generously washed down with lashings of red wine. Time passes and we are lulled by the ducks. We are briefed on the night watch duties, the berths are as comfortable as can be, I skip my watch and fall asleep.
I wake from my slumber at 4 am, and go into groggy mode. On the lookout for the slightest shadow, senses keen. My hearing is sharp, and my ears are alert; a racket of ambient snoring, whistling, quacking, etc. Looking into the distant half-light and silhouettes, I scan the horizon. The merest changes, movements and stirrings are suspicious. I’m not alone, but enveloped in this unique scene in which everyone plays their part to perfection. I’m a spectator to the natural world around me, part of the scenery without even realising it.
The sun rises over the Normandy Bridge; I’m tired and I haven’t fired once because nothing has landed; but I’m glad to have had this unique experience of hunting from a hide. It’s time to pack up this living theatre, take our leave of the actors and bring the curtain down on this show in the Seine estuary.
In conclusion, my mind returns to the waiting, the mud and the grub, and I think to myself that the best is still to come, and that’s a good thing for the ducks whose feathers were not even ruffled!
Final words of advice: I was kitted out for the experience head to toe in the Grand Passage range, with a Maxus Camo Max5 semi-automatic, Winchester Xtended Range Bismuth ammunition, and a pair of Toucan binoculars from Kite Optics.