Fowling is a term which is perhaps better known in the Fens of eastern England than elsewhere. It was more than the commercial equivalent of the field sport of wildfowling, in that it includes all forms of bird catching for meat, feathers or any other part of the bird which may have been sold on the market at the relevant time. However, it was certainly not confined to the Fens. The land margins of the north produced down feathers from eider duck for eiderdowns and quilted jackets without necessarily killing the birds. In the Western Isles of Scotland, seabirds were taken from their nests on cliffs. In The Fens and other similar places, a decoy was part of a landowner’s well-equipped estate. See a brief description of a duck decoy. (Click the quotation from Lipscombe link.)
However, the epitome of fowling was the punt gunner. He had what amounted to a long, small-bore muzzle-loaded cannon. It was mounted along the centre-line of the forward half of a specially designed boat which slightly resembled a heavy wooden kayak in form. The fowler lay in the after half with paddle blades strapped to his forearms. The skill was to stalk a raft of duck until within the rather short range required and to fire the gun from which small shot scattered. It remained to gather up the harvest and get it to market. In the winter, the punt gun might be mounted on a sled and the procedure repeated on the same principles.
Sly, R. From Punt to Plough (2003) ISBN 0-7509-3398-4.
- For decoys, see pp. 131-133.
- For punt gunning, see pp. 125-130.
- For netting, see pp. 135-138.