Hallelujah! The day I’d been waiting for finally arrived, and the harvest began. I have several fields that produce extremely well during harvest time and my worry was that I might be away on holiday when they were cut, but the phone call came and with the advice from my farmer, “You’d better come and look at this, Mick.” I was over for a recce in a flash. It usually takes a day for the pigeons to find the cut fields, but there were quite a few already feeding on the leftovers from the combine harvester.
My plan was to drive round and check where they were congregating. As usual, there seemed to be favourite areas for the feeding hoards, and I also sit it out on the highest part of the fields, checking the skyline. I could have started the shoot there and then, but with all the activity from the farm vehicles the birds would be constantly in the air so it was better to let things settle and have a free run the next day.
There were flocks of 50-plus scattered all over the fields and I knew that by tomorrow these numbers would increase, so my plan was to use the favoured ‘drive by’ method, and set up a hide adjacent to a couple of oak trees. This would give me the chance to pick off a few woodies that would undoubtedly land here to check out the decoys I’d be setting up.
The wind was non-existent, but according to the forecast it would be increasing later the following day. I also had another problem; my farmers had customers already for the hay bales, so they would be cleared the same day as baling took place, and they also were going to disc harrow the fields, with the view to drill for rape seed almost immediately. These guys are keen – very keen – so timing would be key for a good day.
I have to say that the sight of the combine with young Ben at the controls and his younger brother, Tom, at the wheel of the tractor/trailer was a sight to behold, and it felt longer than 12 months since the last harvest, but Ben assured me that they were actually early, and on checking my shooting log I found that he was right. maybe my eagerness was getting the better of me and I was losing track of time.
I spent the evening before my planned attack sorting my kit out and, as usual, the weapon of choice would be the .25 FAC FX Impact, topped with the 4-16 Hawke Airmax, which really is a great combination. Air Arms 25 grain diablos would take care of the pests in the field.
The weather was forecast as being a hot one and I’d be in the Hilux most of the day, so I’d be wearing shorts, Viper camo T-shirt and a Jack Pyke gilet. My recently delivered, stubble camo net would be set up at the oak
“It allowed me to view the field in front of me as well as the one behind”
trees and it gave a continuation of the ground stubble and blended in quite well, although I would have preferred to have set up against hay bales. These were to be taken immediately, though, so the oak trees would have to do. I gave the barrel on the Impact a thorough clean with the 20/20 PatchWorm system, filled with air, topped up my pellet pouch, and checked my zero whilst leading in the barrel. All was good, and I was ready for the following day’s action.
STUBBLE CAMO HIDE
I was awake before the sparrows and once the truck was loaded I was on my way. I was even there before the farmers, and in double-quick time I had the FX loaded and balanced on the over-sized cushion I use as a rest on the passenger seat. I had travelled no further than 100 yards when the first group of feeding woodies appeared as I crested a slight rise, no more than 40 yards away, and with their heads down it was a case of picking the easiest for a ‘between the shoulders’ shot, and within seconds the first kill of the day sent the majority of the flock skyward, but as always, a few greedy ones remained, giving me the chance of another shot.
The ease of reloading without having to move away from the scope pays dividends, and I actually took three from this group before they had all moved on. Within 10 minutes, I had taken 10 woodies and it was beginning to feel like a good day was indeed on the cards.
I made my way past a small copse of oak trees and could plainly see a few woodies sitting in the depths of the branches and foliage, thinking they were safe from harm, but this was not the case and another two were taken from each end of the small wood.
I had to get to the next set of oak trees because this was where I was going to set up the Jack Pyke stubble camo hide. It allowed me to view the field in front of me as well as the one behind that was at a lower level, and the hide gave me plenty of cover from the front, and the oak trees gave equal cover for shooting out to the rear field.
I set up decoys in both areas, and even as I set up the lower field decoys I could see interest being shown in the upper field where I had just set my pattern. This was going to be a good day, I could feel it! I sat
behind the netting to scan the area and the action started almost immediately. Once the pigeons see another one land, it’s like a magnet and before you know it they are dropping in from all corners. When they are ‘on’ the feed it can become a little manic, so taking birds from the edge of the group helps to keep them grounded rather than taking from the centre and sending them skyward again. I took around half a dozen before they all moved on. I was losing count of how many I had taken, which not a big problem because the numbers are not that important at the end of the day, but a big bag does mean a happy landowner – and that is important!
As I took the perimeter track and picked off twos and threes at every stop, I was surprised how few feral pigeons there were; usually they are around in large numbers, but not today, which meant more for the local pub, I just hoped his freezer was empty.
I really had lost count of how many I had taken and the boxes in the back looked pretty full, but I soldiered on, as you do, and decided to check out a large rabbit warren. I was in luck. Two conies sat out in the sunshine unaware of what was coming their way, so with not even a breath of air and the sun high in the sky, I lined up the crosshairs from about 50 yards and brought the first one straight down, stone dead with a clean headshot. This sent the second one scurrying down the warren, but I’d be back around later to see if it reappeared.
By now, I’d completed a few circuits of the fields, every time in a different direction and still taking pigeons from all sorts of areas, including power-line posts and hawthorn hedging. I sometimes took so many that I had to go back and pick them all up because I was moving with them as they moved. Taking one from the group would get them to lift momentarily, and then land straight away, giving the chance of another shot, and as I said before, the cocking system makes rapid-fire shooting a breeze.
It was mid-afternoon when the tractors turned up to disc the fields in preparation for drilling, and this was going to limit my shooting because I didn’t want to drive all over the prepped fields. Luckily, the wind hadn’t risen and longer shots would be no problem, so I
“With time running out, I had to do whatever was required”
checked out various POI distances, noted them mentally and managed to take birds out at distances of 50 to 60 yards with no problem.
My last ‘long shot’ was 65 yards (laser checked) between the shoulders, which dropped without so much of a twitch – another testament to the FAC Impact. I have to say that the higher power from the FAC FX doesn’t make the shots any easier, it just gives me the ability to take longer shots; it is no more accurate than a sub-12 at the shorter distances.
The disc-harrowing continued so my day was going to be cut short and I found myself chasing groups of pigeons, which is something I don’t generally do because I prefer to come across them slowly, but with time running out I had to do whatever was required. It did lead me to the second rabbit, though. The forecast wind finally arrived, putting paid to any long shots, and the areas to shoot were becoming gradually smaller so it was time to call it a day and have a count up. I was thinking 70-80, but I was gobsmacked to see the final number of 91, plus two rabbits. I know for certain that if the farm boys hadn’t been in a rush to get drilling for the rape seed, I would have busted the 100 score easily ... and I dare say that a 150 could be on the cards with a dusk to dawn outing – that’s maybe something I will have to work on. Needless to say, the landowner was over the moon with the result and, on reflection, the numbers are important for many reasons; pest control, the farmer’s happiness, and my bragging rights in the pub when the landlord starts telling all the shotgun guys that his fridge is full of my airgun-shot pigeons. Happy days for all concerned. I
I have waited so long for this sight. Jack Pyke stubble camo netting – just the ticket.
With the fields disc-harrowed and deeked, they still came in.
So in love with this combination.
Part of the day’s kit.
Retrieving a few from the field.
What a cracking day!