IN­VIS­I­BLE MAN

Phill Price shows us that he’s not all there - in the hunt­ing camo depart­ment

Air Gunner - - Contents - ClearView net from Jack Pyke 4 x 1.5m £ 34.95 www.jack­pyke.co.uk

Imade a prom­ise to my­self at the be­gin­ning of this year that I’d make more time to pur­sue my favourite quarry, the fan­tas­tic wood­pi­geon. I re­spect and ad­mire these hand­some birds and love the de­li­cious meat they pro­vide. How­ever, they are a wor­thy ad­ver­sary, be­ing very quick to de­part if we make even the slight­est er­ror in ap­proach­ing them. Count­less times I’ve tried to stalk them in wood­land, only to be seen and my ef­fort wasted.

After the bar­ley was har­vested on my friend’s farm, he had a day de­coy­ing the pi­geons over the stub­ble with his shot­gun and had a fine day’s sport. I was des­per­ate to have a go as well, and the fol­low­ing Sun­day af­ter­noon I man­aged to find a cou­ple of hours when I could get to the farm. It was a beau­ti­ful, dry sum­mer day and the coun­try­side looked perfect. I stood back at the gate, watch­ing pi­geons go­ing in ev­ery di­rec­tion in ones and twos, and tried to de­cide where to set up my de­coy pat­tern. The car was stuffed with kit, and I’d also bought my sweet lit­tle Labrador bitch, Ge­orgie, out for some pick­ing-up fun. She loves to work and is also com­pletely quiet and pa­tient, vi­tal skills for a dog asked to sit in a hide.

LACK OF PREP

It was all go­ing well un­til my com­plete lack of prepa­ra­tion started to take its toll. The poles I’ve used in the past to hold the hide net are green plas­tic gar­den poles, nor­mally used for grow­ing run­ner beans. The ground was baked hard and I strug­gled to get them in. Bash­ing them with a rock only bent them, and with the wind blow­ing hard, the net was go­ing all over the place. I used my ma­chete to chop up some dead branches and bodged up some props, but to be hon­est, it was a poor job. Just as I thought I’d get the ri­fle I looked over my shoul­der to see a pi­geon lift from the de­coy pat­tern and fly away. Bug­ger! At least, I knew the de­coys were work­ing, though. I tucked Ge­orgie in by my feet, cov­ered her with a spare net, and then put on all my camo gear in­clud­ing a face veil and gloves. Pi­geons can spot my pasty skin miles away, so I cov­ered up as much of it as pos­si­ble.

“Just at that mo­ment a pi­geon landed be­hind my de­coys and a clean head shot opened my ac­count for the day”

Please land

Soon, the birds be­gan to come in, but as so of­ten has hap­pened to me in the past, they wouldn’t quite land and then they’d flut­ter away. It was such a tease; so close to me, and yet I was un­able to shoot. Still, it was great to see so many up close. After a while, I no­ticed a steady stream of birds fly­ing over a small hill in the field and I wanted to know why. Just at that mo­ment, a pi­geon landed be­hind my de­coys and a clean head shot opened my ac­count for the day. I cast Ge­orgie out and she de­liv­ered my bird to hand, adding to the plea­sure of a good shot.

Be­hind the rise, the field was alive with pi­geons mixed with a huge flock of rooks and jack­daws. As soon as I was seen, the corvids lifted and drifted over to the neigh­bour’s land, and yet the pi­geons seemed less keen to leave. I col­lected my gear and set up again in what I hoped would be a bet­ter spot. By now, the hide poles were com­pletely use­less, so I though I’d try some­thing new. I had one of Jack Pyke’s ClearView nets with me which I draped com­pletely over my­self, the ri­fle and Ge­orgie. I felt a bit like Harry Pot­ter and his cloak of in­vis­i­bil­ity, and do you know what, it worked like magic, too! As way to travel light, yet have ex­cel­lent con­ceal­ment, I can think of no bet­ter so­lu­tion.

Kept on com­ing

The birds com­pletely ig­nored me and came in one after an­other. Of course, most didn’t land and be­cause it was a breezy day I lim­ited my shots to a max­i­mum range of 25 yards, so lots of birds were left alone. It was su­perb. Birds ar­rived from the left and the right, whilst more set­tled into the tree above me. One by one, the bag be­gan to build and I was hugely frus­trated when I ran out of time and had to pack up. Even as I was col­lect­ing the de­coys, more birds drifted in only to jink away as they saw me.

A mod­est bag of seven birds wasn’t too bad for an hour’s work, and I was happy with my day. I learned that I need some bet­ter hide poles and felt ter­ri­ble that in my rush I’d for­got­ten to take any water for Ge­orgie. I hope to go back as the other ce­real fields are har­vested, bet­ter pre­pared and on days that are less windy, al­low­ing me to reach fur­ther. I also need to un­der­stand why some birds land whilst the ma­jor­ity sim­ply won’t. This isn’t a prob­lem for shot­gun shoot­ers, but for us it’s an in­fu­ri­at­ing sit­u­a­tion for which I need an an­swer.

“I felt a bit like Harry Pot­ter with his cloak of in­vis­i­bil­ity, and do you know what, it worked like magic, too”

Main: With the ClearView net draped over me and Ge­orgie they just kept com­ing

Above: If you have lots of feath­ers on the ground, clear them away

Bot­tom: Just a few de­coys were all I needed

Bot­tom in­set: A mod­est bag that was hugely en­joy­able to take

Be­low in­set: My old crow de­coy away from the main pat­tern serves to re­as­sure the pi­geons

Left: These gar­den poles just wouldn’t go into the hard soil

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