Top tips for shoot­ing over spring drillings

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Spring is here and the farm is ex­plod­ing into new life: the rape fields are in flower, the trees are green­ing up nicely and the trac­tors are work­ing flat out, pre­par­ing the seed beds and drilling peas, beans, wheat, oats and more.

For Andy it is an ex­cit­ing time of year, but de­mand­ing too. As well as try­ing to get his crops in, while dodg­ing down­pours and deal­ing with break­downs, he is also keep­ing one eye on crop pro­tec­tion.

“Mod­ern ma­chin­ery makes life a lot eas­ier, that’s for sure. The new trac­tors are amaz­ing ma­chines and the tools we use on them are so much more ad­vanced than when I started out in my farm­ing ca­reer. Of course we are try­ing to im­prove ef­fi­ciency and elim­i­nate waste, and the lat­est seed drills don’t leave much on top for the birds to get at.

“The main ar­eas of in­ter­est will be the head­lands where we are turn­ing the trac­tor around and lift­ing the drill out of the soil. There’s al­ways a bit of grub there. Or any rough, rocky or wet patches of ground can also leave seed closer to the sur­face and ac­ces­si­ble for the pi­geons.

“The birds like to get their greens as well, and they love the newly emerg­ing leaves as they break out of the buds. Ar­eas that pro­vide this food source im­me­di­ately next to a newly drilled field will al­ways be pop­u­lar. Hawthorn, beech, ash and oak are all on the menu as and when they come out.”

This new pro­fu­sion of fo­liage to­tally trans­forms the look of the hedgerows and woods and that is im­por­tant to bear in mind when you are build­ing your hide.

“It is im­por­tant to make sure your hide changes with the sea­sons. And, for me, that means trim­ming up some fresh fo­liage to help blend my camo nets. No net on the mar­ket can match that fresh spring-green colour, so if you don’t in­clude any, you won’t blend in well.

“I like to try to set up where there is a flight line and maybe a sitty tree to at­tract them, leav­ing a bit of a gap in my pat­tern to ‘fun­nel’ them to­wards the hide.”

With a lo­ca­tion se­lected, it’s time to set out your de­coys of choice – whether dead birds or plas­tics – and at this time of year you don’t need too many.

“If you watch birds work­ing drillings you’ll no­tice that they don’t clus­ter to­gether in big blocks. So a few well-spread de­coys will suf­fice to start you off.

“If you can’t drive on the fields and need to travel light, but still want move­ment, then you can get a neat, light­weight flap­per from UK Shoot Ware­house. It’s based around a Sil­losock de­coy, the bat­tery is re­ally small and it mounts on a floater pole for good vis­i­bil­ity.”

At cer­tain times of the year, Andy ide­ally likes to al­low pi­geon num­bers to build be­fore or­gan­is­ing a day with mul­ti­ple Guns for the best chance to make a good bag. But that is less of an op­tion on the drillings.

“Bear­ing in mind that there won’t be a huge amount of seed ly­ing around, don’t be tempted to leave the field for too long un­til you shoot it. It can be a bit of a case of here to­day, gone to­mor­row as they hoover up the free of­fer­ings, es­pe­cially if a lot of birds are hom­ing in on it.

“And you might only see a few dozen pi­geons on the ground at any one time, rather than hun­dreds. If the traf­fic to and from the field is reg­u­lar then it’s worth a crack and that is where your time spent watch­ing is re­warded.

“Mind you, it only takes a cou­ple of weeks be­fore the young plants are emerg­ing again and in many ways, they are a big­ger or at least more con­sis­tent draw than the drillings, so don’t be too dis­heart­ened if you miss this win­dow of opportunity.

“With crops such as peas, the birds will be at them from the mo­ment they come up and will hap­pily feed on them for the rest of the grow­ing sea­son. Lupins, too, can be a strong draw early in their growth be­fore they get too big.”

Ob­vi­ously, as the man do­ing the drilling, Andy knows when his fields are go­ing to be planted, but given the rel­a­tively short win­dow of opportunity open to the pi­geon shooter af­ter the seed goes in, it is a good idea to keep in con­tact with your landowner to find out what is be­ing drilled and when.

In terms of when to shoot, there is no need to set your alarm clock early. A late morn­ing or even early af­ter­noon start is per­fect and you should find the birds at their most ac­tive in the mid­dle part of the day.

“Most of all, it’s a plea­sure to shed those heavy win­ter coats, be out in the spring sun­shine, with the sky­larks singing and the hedgerows full of blos­som. And if you get some sport into the bar­gain then even bet­ter!”

‘The birds like to get their greens, and they love the newly emerg­ing leaves as they break out of the buds. Hawthorn, beech, ash and oak are all on the menu’

Lupins get left on the sur­face where the drill lifts as the trac­tor turns at the field edges

De­coys should be spaced out, not crowded

Emerg­ing leaves (oak in this case) are also on the pi­geons’ menu

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