PI­GEONS: How to make the most of windy con­di­tions

Stormy weather can be a clear sign that there’s some epic sport to be had on the pi­geons, so while most peo­ple are hid­ing in­doors, Andy Crow has been mak­ing the most of the gales

Sporting Shooter - - Contents - WITH ANDY CROW

Andy Crow likes hav­ing wind. But ap­par­ently, not ev­ery­body does. “A lot of se­ri­ous pi­geon shoot­ers aren’t al­ways very keen to shoot when it is re­ally windy. The key to mak­ing a big bag is shoot­ing twos and threes and this is al­most im­pos­si­ble in a gale of wind; as soon as you shoot the first bird, the oth­ers dip a wing, catch the wind and they are out of range in the blink of an eye. The flip side is you can have some re­ally fun, chal­leng­ing shoot­ing!”

Pi­geons can’t sim­ply stop feed­ing when the wind blows, but the weather will in­evitably have an im­pact on how they be­have. Un­der­stand­ing these changes will give you the best chance to make a de­cent bag.

“It’s not hard to think like a pi­geon. If you have to fly about, high winds are not much fun. As a re­sult, they will try and utilise ev­ery ad­van­tage they can. They fly lower, us­ing the land­scape to shield them from the worst of the weather.

“For this rea­son, I don’t use my favourite bush hide out in the mid­dle of the field. In­stead, I will try to find a site in the lee of a wood where there is a food source. At the mo­ment, the birds are still feast­ing on the mas­sive acorn crop. The birds use the wood for shel­ter and beat into the wind nice and low – giv­ing you a de­cent chance.”

With Storm Eleanor rav­aging the Bri­tish Isles, Andy sees the op­por­tu­nity for some de­cent sport but he’s go­ing to have to work for it. Tor­ren­tial rain means that the fields are wa­ter­logged so the Po­laris is out of the ques­tion. Shanks’s pony is the order of the day, so Andy sets off on foot with a mas­sive

ruck­sack stuffed with hide poles, shell de­coys, net­ting and two FF5 flap­pers that can be run from a com­pact bat­tery.

The flap­pers are run­ning on a timer, one either end of the de­coy pat­tern, and the birds are beat­ing in from the left, into the wind, hug­ging the edge of the trees. Andy tucks the hide into the hedge and cam­ou­flages it with some bracken.

“There are a cou­ple of real ad­van­tages to a wild day over a still one. Firstly, the sound of shoot­ing is muf­fled and dis­persed much more

‘It’s not hard to think like a pi­geon. High winds are not much fun so they fly lower, us­ing the land to shield them from the worst of the weather’

quickly. On a still day, a cou­ple of shots can send your quarry into the next county – when there’s a gale, it tends not to dis­turb them so much.

“Also, on a still day, the birds seem happy to spend longer up in their sitty trees be­tween bouts of feed­ing. When the tree­tops are thrash­ing about they move much more fre­quently as the weather un­set­tles them. The re­sult is you have more packs of birds mov­ing through­out the day and your shoot­ing trou­bles them much less.”

One key safety is­sue to be aware of when shoot­ing in the woods is fall­ing branches and de­bris. “Even a small lump of dead wood drop­ping from a height can be dan­ger­ous so bear this in mind when you are build­ing your hide. I’ve had a few near misses in the past.”

Andy is up and at them by 9am and he soon has a dozen birds on the deck, but the day threat­ens to be de­railed when a call comes in from the farm re­port­ing a fallen oak block­ing a road­way. Andy has to pack ev­ery­thing up and trudge back to the yard. An hour or so with the chain­saw en­sues, clear­ing the drive, be­fore he can re­turn to the hide and crack on again. It is al­most 11.45 be­fore shoot­ing re­sumes and with mid-win­ter day­light in short sup­ply, he has to make the most of it.

For the next cou­ple of hours, the traf­fic and ac­tion is al­most con­stant. While never get­ting truly fre­netic, there are pi­geons mov­ing through the whole time – some birds are de­coy­ing well, oth­ers just flight­ing past, hug­ging the shel­ter of the tree­line. Small packs, which are ideal, give the chance to trim out a cou­ple at a time. But get­ting two is quite a feat and get­ting three from three in windy con­di­tions is al­most im­pos­si­ble – even for the Crow­man!

Andy is grate­ful of Rosa the Lab’s as­sis­tance, es­pe­cially on birds with a bit of al­ti­tude as they can end up fall­ing a long way from where you ex­pect them to.

“If they are turn­ing a wing when they get hit they can eas­ily drop 80-100 yards away. I try to be as ac­cu­rate as pos­si­ble mark­ing them down. Rosa has al­ready shown she’s got a great nose and she works hard to make a find which is a good com­bi­na­tion.”

Andy sticks with his usual choke and car­tridge com­bi­na­tion as he tends to only tackle birds at closer ranges in these con­di­tions. And then, at around 2pm, the ac­tion switches off al­most in­stantly. Andy counts in 137 birds – a re­ally fan­tas­tic day in con­di­tions that would keep most pi­geon shoot­ers tucked up in­doors.

He is thrilled to have done so well in such a short time – al­though less chuffed about pack­ing the bag out on foot!

Andy sticks to his usual choke and car­tirdge combo, even on windy days

Think like a pi­geon, ad­vises Andy

A de­cent bag of 137 pi­geons is a great re­sult in windy con­di­tions

Take care of fall­ing branches – this can be a real prob­lem when the storms are a-blow­ing

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