SUM­MER PI­GEONS

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

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

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

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