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