WILL GARFIT

How do you shoot pi­geons when there are so many ob­sta­cles in your path? By Will Garfit.

Shooting Gazette - - News -

As if on rails, a steady trickle of ones and twos came down­wind and turned to swing into my safe shoot­ing area.

There are oc­ca­sions when pi­geons are dec­i­mat­ing a crop but it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to shoot over the af­fected field be­cause of the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions sur­round­ing it. This was the sit­u­a­tion on a field of peas where pi­geons had eaten from about five or six acres. The farmer had put out a num­ber of spin­ning de­ter­rents but the birds had got used to them and fed con­fi­dently. A gas gun was not an op­tion as it was the first field out­side a town. Res­i­dents would have been more dis­turbed than pi­geons with reg­u­lar loud bangs from dawn till dusk through­out the sum­mer months.

The prox­im­ity of the town was the lim­it­ing fac­tor on the western side of the 25-acre field. There was a busy road on the north­ern side and pub­lic foot­paths in the tree belts on both the eastern and south­ern bound­aries. There­fore it was im­pos­si­ble to shoot from a hide on any of the four sides. Shoot­ing from a hide out in the field was the only op­tion, but from the mid­dle, all the bound­aries would have been within shot. Had the foot­paths been on the edge of an open field, shoot­ing could have been pos­si­ble with care – and with no walk­ers in the vicin­ity – but as they were hid­den in trees it was not safe to shoot in the di­rec­tion of the foot­paths on ei­ther of those two sides.

I de­cided there was just one pos­si­ble op­tion: wait for a strong west­erly wind. This would mean I’d be shoot­ing away from the town and the sound of my shots would hope­fully be car­ried away down­wind, min­imis­ing dis­tur­bance. There­fore by mak­ing a hide about 100 yards out from the houses and then shoot­ing di­ag­o­nally across the field in a north west­erly di­rec­tion there was a nar­row safe field for fir­ing. All this is com­pli­cated to ex­plain without a di­a­gram of the sit­u­a­tion but if you are still with me the story be­comes clearer. A dip in the ground in front of my hide cre­ated a slightly wider arc of fire to my right if birds flew low into the de­coys, as my shoot­ing would be into the hill­side beyond them. I was go­ing to be spot-shoot­ing at birds only when fly­ing in very limited safe ar­eas, not to my left, right or be­hind – only straight in front, low or high. Could it work?

The per­fect wind was fore­cast and the day dawned to try my plan. Time was taken to build a good hide out in the field with cam­ou­flaged net­ting and freshly cut sycamore branches. De­coys were strate­gi­cally de­ployed to fun­nel in­com­ing birds into the nar­row, safe arc in which I could shoot. Be­ing near houses, I had phoned the po­lice to in­form them I was to be shoot­ing pi­geons at the re­quest of the farmer as crop pro­tec­tion. This is a pro­ce­dure I have found to be suc­cess­ful to pre­clude po­lice he­li­copters and armed re­sponse units be­ing de­ployed (which has happened to me twice), should the pub­lic phone to com­plain. In­ci­den­tally, I have al­ways found the of­fi­cers to whom I have spo­ken were grate­ful to be in­formed, and usu­ally take my name, reg num­ber and location. Then, hav­ing noted the re­port num­ber, I con­tact them when leav­ing at the end of the day.

The first birds ar­rived and de­coyed per­fectly, mak­ing straight­for­ward, safe shots as planned. As if on rails, a steady trickle of ones and twos came down­wind from be­hind and turned to swing into my safe shoot­ing area. A cou­ple of birds were then missed as they cut out to my left and I failed to swing through, hav­ing hit my men­tal in­vis­i­ble stop limit on that side. In the same way, dou­bles were limited as the second bird was out of the safe area by the time the first was shot, lim­it­ing my bag con­sid­er­ably. How­ever, in the cir­cum­stances, it was a bonus shoot to make it hap­pen at all. Oh yes, and I for­got to men­tion that there was another foot­path di­ag­o­nally across the mid­dle of the field in front of me. For­tu­nately this wasn’t used and the one chap walk­ing his dog was clearly in view and there­fore in no dan­ger.

The re­sult was bet­ter than I could have hoped, with the in­ter­est­ing chal­lenge of so many lim­i­ta­tions. Pre­cisely 153 pi­geons would not re­turn to eat any more of the crop, but this form of sim­u­lated trick shoot­ing to main­tain safety is not rec­om­mended for am­a­teurs and would def­i­nitely be in the “ad­vanced de­coy­ing” chap­ter of a book!

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