Heat map­ping on your shoot

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

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’




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