Shooting and fishing: ‘Why would you want to spend £36 a year sponsoring a satellite-tagged woodcock’

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Thanks to some muddle with my bank account I have only just received a rather smart certificate from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust telling me that I am the proud sponsor of Rocket, a woodcock, along with, I suspect, 5,000 other woodcock aficionados.

But it looks all very personal as if I am the one and only sponsor. (I remember being very disappointed that a starfish we adopted at the Macduff Aquarium one summer turned out to have been adopted by an entire primary school from Renfrewshire. But you get over these things. And that’s nothing compared to the Moray Firth dolphins which are being sponsored by at least three different organisations as far as I can make out.)

Anyway. Along with my woodcock certificate has come a passport in which I can write the names and dates of the various places Rocket visits on his or her round Europe rovings after he/she has been fitted with a transmitter at the beginning of next year and goes online.

I have also been sent woodcock stickers which I shall put on my cartridge bag, with things like “I (Heart) Woodcock”. Interestingly there is not a sticker for “Woodcock do it on the wing” (which they do) or “I shoot woodcock”, but that may be too close to the bone for even the GWCT. Which of course is the whole problem – or rather the point at which all reasonable folk give up in disbelief.

Why would you want to spend £36 a year sponsoring a satellite-tagged woodcock and follow it on a computer from Skye to the Urals and back only to shoot it when it returns next November? Well, not shoot it personally; but it runs an outside chance of being shot by someone if it gets back here at all. Frankly the truth is they are very good sport and very good eating and that’s about it.

But here’s a funny thing. The other day I got an email from a reader who said that over the years his dogs had been happy to retrieve woodcock, which a great many simply won’t do, but the one thing they refused to eat was left over woodcock scraps (perhaps they didn’t like his wife’s cooking).

Fired with the spirit of inquiry I tried the remains of two woodcock carcasses on Crumpet, the cocker, and Mango the golden retriever and sure enough Crumpet dropped hers after an exploratory chew.

On the other hand Mango, who is a complete dustbin, ate the lot and then had to be put outside as she started that awful retching business that dogs do before throwing up.

Which she did, under the washing line. So I’m not sure what all that proves.

But did you know that a woodcock has 360 degree vision? The only thing it can’t see is the tip of its bill. Fancy.