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