We arrived at an enormous pea field at about mid day and a good number of birds were already flying about. I was the guest of Paul, a new pigeon shooting friend, in deepest Essex.
There were two fields separated by a stream in the valley, the whole area being about a mile long and three quarters of a mile wide. Although it was a vast area the birds favoured one corner where a lone oak tree was the focal point and an obvious place for a hide. This was on the downwind end of the field so we flagged the upwind end as best we could.
The action was exciting from the very start but after a while it was obvious that more birds were coming to my side. Too many were flying to the tree rather than the decoys, which with the low canopy of leaves meant that they were often lost out of sight before making a chance of a shot.
"By setting up dead birds as decoys further out the pigeons started to decoy rather than come to the tree. "
To solve both problems we moved one of the rotaries from its position in front of me so it joined the other rotary on Pauls side. This change of tactics immediately steered the birds more evenly across my front towards him. By setting up dead birds as decoys further out the pigeons started to decoy rather than come to the tree.
The shooting was evenly shared and we had more chances of multiple shots as birds focused on the decoys - soon a good partnership developed and with synchronised shots we killed twos, threes and sometimes four birds at a time. We each clicked our kills and had 100 in the bag after only 90 minutes of shooting.
Still birds came from all angles and made classic decoy shooting with birds out in front or wide crossing shots, as well as high ones through the gaps in the leaves overhead. The exciting thing was we had 360 degree shooting around our tree and soon had 200 kills.
"...It was a record double shot for us both. "
Some birds started to land at the far end of the field we had not flagged, so Paul zoomed off on his quad bike to put a rope banger there. By the time he was back I had added 20 to out tally. We got to 300 after another hour and still the birds kept coming. This number of birds must have been doing a lot of damage to the crop. Just when we got up to 400 potential bad news in the form of a combine, arrived and started at the far end of the field working around the headland to where we were set up. This could have spoilt the sport and reduced our dead birds to puffs of blood and feathers. Paul phoned the farmer who in turn contacted the harvesting team, which turned around to work at the far end of the field. A drama was averted and still the birds came from all angles and did not slow down until around 8pm, with 509 pigeon and one crow in the bag it was a record double shot for us both.
As the farmer had not wanted us to use dogs for fear of damaging the crop we methodically quartered the peas - picking up by hand. It was nearly dark by the time we had loaded up Pauls Land Rover. A day never to be forgotten and as we shook hands in parting I was sure my eyes were as bright as Pauls in the last rays of the setting sun.