Har­vest time!

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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.


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.

Com­fort shoot­ing.

So in love with this com­bi­na­tion.

Part of the day’s kit.

Retriev­ing a few from the field.

What a crack­ing day!

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