The bare minimum of kit, bright blue skies, and plenty of pigeons – this pre-harvest foray is what pigeon shooting is all about for Andy Crow
Fancy a bit of a walk?” Truth be told, I’m not overly keen, and with England v Colombia in the World Cup due to kick off in a couple of hours, we don’t have much time to shoot anyway. However, these pages don’t fill themselves, so, with Andy chivvying me along, we load up and head off.
With a long walk through standing crops in 30° heat, travelling light is the only option. A net, four hide poles, half a dozen Sillosocks, 100 cartridges
and a flapper with compact battery are the bare essentials, leaving plenty of space in the decoy bag for the pigeons Andy is optimistic we are going to shoot.
We stop in the tramlines among the sea of rapidly ripening wheat and Andy points out the hordes of pigeons rising and falling from the yellowing ears.
“It is such a thick crop this year that they are basically landing on the stalks to feed,” he points
out. “There are hardly any flat areas, but the sheer weight of the birds is pushing it down in places.”
The wheat is probably three weeks from harvest and trying to recover shot birds will be impossible if we tackle them here. “In a few days, the rape will be cut and I’ll be having some big days on those early stubbles, hopefully. But I’ve got a little plan for a few hours of action today.”
We continue our yomp to the far edge of the farm where Andy has topped off a couple of acres of set aside between his last wheat fields and the neighbouring land. There is a perfect natural hide in the blackthorn hedge with a bushy ash tree behind to break our silhouette. With a bit of camo netting to close in the sides, our shooting position is ready.
Andy sticks out a few decoys on the parched grass and we wait to see what happens. There are clearly birds in abundance and this is a well-worn flightline to the farm.
We aren’t waiting long before the first birds flight past and Andy trims a nice left and right out with his Blaser F16. Another couple of birds are
dropped in quick succession and Andy nips out to set up the FF5 flapper and put the other fresh birds into the pattern.
There are hundreds of birds in the vicinity of the farm, but Andy knows his best chance of a big bag is after the first crops come off. Today, he has set up with the wind from behind the hide and the sound of our shooting going away from the main feeding areas to minimise disturbance. If harvest is the main course, this is the amuse bouche.
The added motion of the flapper starts to encourage passing birds to decoy and these, along with flighting birds, give Andy plenty of shooting. A quick change of Teague chokes from ¼ and ¼ to 3/8 and 5/8 gives him a bit of extra oomph for longer crossers that are using the wind to good effect.
It is immediately noticeable that there is a distinct difference in the kills at distance – the
‘We aren’t waiting long before the first birds flight past and Andy trims a nice left and right out with his Blaser F16’
tighter constriction and denser pattern smashing the birds that bit harder. Andy is also in the zone today and is pulling off some fabulous shots. Stuff coming in from behind is not visible until the last second and requires fast feet and hands to get onto the bird. Snap shooting at its finest and just one reason why Andy stands in the hide – a seated shooter would simply not have the time to react in this particular scenario.
At one point, the flightline seems to push further down the hedge line so we respond by sneaking down to a thick stand of bracken to intercept them more effectively. Of course, as soon as we do that, the birds head back to where we originally started!
Andy continues to add shot birds to the pattern and, as afternoon becomes early evening, a larger percentage are setting their wings into the decoys for a last top-up feed of the day. Their last feed ever, as it turns out.
Andy is sure that the birds would continue to come in for another hour or more, but with kick-off approaching and the cartridge supply dwindling to nothing we stop and have a gather up. A few long droppers can’t be recovered from dense foliage but 70 birds for 100 shots is a really nice return. It’s been a fun and challenging two hours.
“I expect I’ll have some much bigger days in the coming weeks, but this is what pigeon shooting is all about for me. Minimal kit, a nice opportunity to sneak out for a couple of hours and then it’s down to you, your fieldcraft and your gun.
“Brilliant fun that’ll keep me going while I am sat on the combine in the coming days.”
With a natural hide ready and waiting, it only takes some camo net to fill in the gaps
A nice bag is achieved before it’s off to watch the footie
Andy sets up his nets in a natural blackthorn hide
Pigeons settling in to feed on standing wheat