MICK GAR­VEY

WATERLOGGED!

Airgun World - - Contents -

All I can say is, ‘Wow! Wow! and thrice wow! This week has seen so many dif­fer­ent weather fronts it’s un­be­liev­able. Mon­day I awoke to sev­eral inches of snow, which alone is not enough to scup­per my shoot­ing plans, but the week be­fore had seen tor­ren­tial rain and many fields around me, in­clud­ing the lo­cal golf course, were se­ri­ously flooded. The snow was fol­lowed by a warm­ing up and con­stant rain which just added to the stand­ing wa­ter, but not to worry, the weath­er­girl had pre­dicted record tem­per­a­tures later in the week and this would help to dry out the fields. What she didn’t say, or know, was that be­fore these record tem­per­a­tures ar­rived we would suf­fer more rain. ‘Fan­tas­tic’ wasn’t quite the thought I had, but on­ward and up­ward is the only ap­proach – af­ter all, the sun was com­ing, ap­par­ently. I was then in­formed by my neigh­bour that it was go­ing to rain all week­end … what! So I was straight on to my weather app and to my dis­may, it was go­ing to be warm but ac­com­pa­nied by more rain. I even had this con­firmed by my mate Nick, from Bows and Blades, and Babs. I am the eter­nal op­ti­mist, though, and as I checked the app and the weather girls’ pre­dic­tion, I no­ticed that it changed slowly, and in my favour. I was get­ting some­where near be­ing happy now.

FRESH FIELDS

My own per­mis­sions were in a bad way and there was no way I could ap­proach them safely and with­out mak­ing the al­ready quag­mire-look­ing ar­eas even worse, so I was on the search for fresh fields. My work takes me past most of my per­mis­sions and with a slight de­tour I could check out a few more. One in par­tic­u­lar was an in­stant place of in­ter­est and a big sur­prise, too. It’s a road­side crop field with a slight slope, so the rain hadn’t set­tled and had drained off quite well. I could park up rel­a­tively close by and maybe walk half a mile with my gear to the hide I had set up years ago. The big sur­prise was, this field had been har­vested last year around Au­gust/ Septem­ber time, and was still at­tract­ing a few wood­ies some seven months af­ter­wards, and on closer in­spec­tion I could see that there was still plenty of waste from the har­vest ly­ing in the muddy ground.

TO­KEN GES­TURE

Next day, I was able to get out for a few hours and my tim­ing couldn’t have been bet­ter. On ar­rival, I bumped into the farmer who had been check­ing the ground in readi­ness for ploughing, and he had seen the same prob­lem as me. This field was go­ing to be first

“the thud of pi­geon meet­ing ground con­firmed that my aim had been spot on”

on his list, so af­ter watch­ing his trac­tor dis­ap­pear over the hori­zon, I car­ried on to­ward my shoot­ing sta­tion. His part­ing words were, “You must be mad, Mick.” I smiled and nod­ded, but I’m guess­ing like most of you out there, I’m not mad, just en­thu­si­as­tic, and be­sides, a bad day in the field beats any day in front of the TV.

The sun was out and it was quite chilly, but that wasn’t a prob­lem be­cause the new Jack Pike Ash­combe out­fit was keep­ing me snug. There was no breeze so I set up the de­coys to­ward the nor­mal pre­vail­ing wind di­rec­tion, with the odd one or two fac­ing op­po­site di­rec­tions. I also put out a to­ken ges­ture mag­pie de­coy; some­times the pigeons see this and feel se­cure be­cause the mag­pie has great eye­sight and wouldn’t hang around if there was any pos­si­bil­ity of dan­ger – well, that’s the the­ory any­way and it makes me feel con­fi­dent.

Once the ex-army camo net­ting was set up over my hide, I was ready, and within min­utes the first wood­pi­geon dropped straight in, but I was too slow and he was off be­fore I’d even shoul­dered the Im­pact. I give my­self about five sec­onds to get a shot on a pi­geon that just dropped in, but un­til they are feed­ing con­fi­dently you have to be quick. It was a good sign, any­way, but in the back of my mind I knew the re­sults would be bet­ter with a slight breeze to get the de­coys rocking. I had them set up on max­i­mum spring length, but even so, they still weren’t mov­ing. A cou­ple of ‘real’ de­coys would help, and I was de­ter­mined to get a re­sult.

NE­CES­SITY

To my right was a small stream lined by hawthorn trees, and be­yond that an­other of last year’s har­vested fields with alder trees run­ning at right-an­gles to the stream. These trees of­fer a van­tage point to pigeons so they can over­look the hawthorns and get a clear view of my pat­tern. In my in­fi­nite wis­dom, I had set up an­other hide that looked out to these trees and the field, and the odd cou­ple of wood­ies were show­ing in­ter­est in the de­coys and then skirt­ing over to the huge alder tree, so I could eas­ily move be­tween my orig­i­nal hide to the sec­ond one. The trees hadn’t got into spring yet, and the leaves were still ab­sent, so this made it easy for the ev­er­watch­ful pigeons to spot me through my peep­hole. Ne­ces­sity be­ing the mother of in­ven­tion, I took the black and gold car­rier bag in which I car­ried the camo net, cov­ered up the peep­hole and – bingo! I had my first bird of the day within sec­onds of re­turn­ing to my fir­ing po­si­tion. This was in­stantly set out among the half-shell de­coys with a twig un­der its chin. An­other pi­geon from the alder was greeted with a 25 grain Air Arms Di­ablo, the thud of pi­geon meet­ing ground con­firmed that my aim had been spot on, and this one was also rushed out to the pat­tern.

SAT­IS­FY­ING SHOT

More in­ter­est was now be­ing paid to the de­coys, and I was watch­ing the wood­ies come from the far end of the field di­rectly to­ward me. I was to­tally con­cealed and ready, so I knew that once they landed, it would be game

over for them. I tracked one in par­tic­u­lar from what must have been 300 yards away and watched as it came closer, and dropped lower and lower un­til fi­nally open­ing its wings to land at the back of the set-up. At around 45 yards, it stood per­fectly still for a head­shot and gave me the most sat­is­fy­ing shot of the day. Usu­ally, their heads will be down when feed­ing, giv­ing you a shot be­tween the shoul­ders that will drop them in­stantly, but it doesn’t give you the same feel­ing as a per­fect head­shot. Tak­ing them from trees gen­er­ally gives you more chance of a head­shot, but the most im­por­tant thing is a good clean kill.

Although they are ver­min, wood­pi­geons have my ut­most re­spect. They are sur­vival­ists and adapt­able to all sit­u­a­tions, and this is prob­a­bly why they’re the most sighted birds when on my trav­els. They are ev­ery­where, from crop fields to shop­ping malls, from ser­vice sta­tions to hous­ing es­tates, you will al­ways see these birds. Take time to check out their nests; they are ba­sic – just a few twigs pre­car­i­ously po­si­tioned on the slight­est of branches, and many times al­most within hand’s reach, amaz­ing re­ally.

PER­FECT AMOUNT

Back to the ver­min con­trol, and the bag had now grown to six – a far cry from the heady big bags of sum­mer, but if ev­ery day was a red-let­ter day, the ex­cite­ment would be gone. I had been there five hours, and av­er­ag­ing one an hour was slow, but I was sur­prised at the time be­cause I had re­ally en­joyed my­self and six would be a per­fect amount for me to breast-off later.

I had started to wrap things up, leav­ing the de­coys and gun un­til last in case some­thing came along for a late sup­per. I even had the ruck­sack packed and camo net away and was pluck­ing the de­coy spikes from the ground when a sin­gle wood­pi­geon landed in the hawthorn bush be­hind me. I dropped to a sit­ting po­si­tion, rested the Im­pact on my knee, set the Air­max cross hairs on its eye, and down it came … straight into the stream. The shot had taken the woodie cleanly, and from around 35 yards and a rather un­com­fort­able seated po­si­tion I was happy with that. I wasn’t too sure about pu­rity of the stream wa­ter, so this woodie was not des­tined for the freezer, but Char­lie will ap­pre­ci­ate it on my next fox­ing foray.

LES­SON LEARNED

So, to sum­marise we shouldn’t over­look fields that ap­pear to have had their day long af­ter har­vest­ing. The waterlogged sur­round­ings had driven the wood­pi­geons this way, these greatly un­der­es­ti­mated birds had adapted to the con­di­tions, sought out a food source – and so had I!

The beauty of it all.

Cov­er­ing your face is vi­tal.

That’s bet­ter!

All lined up and rar­ing to go.

I didn’t even get chance to get my cap on.

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