CROCKETT’S COUNTRY WAYS:
Heat mapping on your shoot
Over the years I’ve been taught the ways of the countryside, the ways of the shoot, and the thoughts of the bird that provides so much pleasure to so many.
An old keeper called Simon always seemed to flush more birds than anyone else when beating, and shot more birds when we walked-up the drives. He had a secret that some will know, some will understand through instinct, and which will come as a delightful surprise to others. Sometimes old knowledge develops without technology. Years of open-minded observation and simply talking to the older generation goes a long, long way.
Simon’s secret was all to do with temperature. Pheasants typically have a body temperature of around 40-41ºC or around 105ºF. This means that they will feel the cold more than we do; the need for them to warm up is an overriding requirement imprinted in their DNA. They will seek out warmth whenever they can. You’ll often see them on hard and compact soil or tracks, where they are actually multitasking – they are pecking for grit to help them digest the food in their gizzards, and trying to keep to the warmest parts of the woods to raise their temperatures. When the temperature finally drops enough they’ll shelter in undergrowth where, again, they multitask. They use the insulation of the undergrowth to warm up, and the undergrowth also offers them protection from predators – although in both cases it isn’t much!
To illustrate this, I took some photos using a thermal imaging camera. The temperature on my car’s dashboard said that it was -3ºC when I took the photos. Out in the fields, the temperature was around 8ºC in the hedgerows, but 16ºC out in the field in the sunshine [pic 1]. (You can see the temperatures down the left-hand side of the photos.) There are no prizes for guessing where the pheasants were parading. They were keeping away from the cold shade in the bottom part of the field [pic 2].
In the woods it was a different story. The trees were all around the 16-17ºC mark. The woods were warmer than the surrounding fields that were in the shade. The insects were around the trees, which were a degree or so warmer than the surroundings [pic 3], and so were the pheasants. After all, they don’t just eat grain; they also munch on a few insects, too.
So, if you are beating, have a good think about where the temperatures are highest and thus where the pheasants are likely to be. If you’re putting down feeders then think about where the pheasants will want to be, or perhaps you will want to feed them away from the sunny spots to spread them out for a more even drive. Simon swore by this and he was extremely successful.
If you’re engaged in some walked-up shooting then think about where you’d like to be with regards to where the birds might be hanging about. Everyone thinks that pheasants are not the brightest birds, but their way of thinking is not too far from mine – I wish I’d never written that now! Happy shooting in the sunshine!
‘Think about where temperatures are highest and thus where the pheasants are likely to be’