The game season seems just a distant memory now so our sights are set firmly on that other great sporting bird, the woodpigeon. Following a mild and dry spell of weather in early March conditions were perfect for the farmers to start spring drilling and the first seed to be drilled is always spring barley.
The woodpigeon has been restricted to a diet of rape, rape and more rape for the past four months so the prospect of a change in diet is bound to be of great interest to them.
"The prospect of being able to pull the birds into your decoy pattern"
For the pigeon shooter it's quite exciting too. The prospect of being able to pull the birds into your decoy pattern at last, instead of chasing them around the rape fields week after week puts a little spring into our step. For many of us it's the beginning of the new season and an opportunity to start to notch up some decent bags at last, particularly this year as the maize strips have been so baron and most of us have missed out on the chance to shoot some good bags on the chopped-up game covers.
So, spring is finally here, the big winter flocks are starting to break up as the birds thoughts turn to matters of the heart. Already I'm seeing the woodies on my roof and fences going through their courting rituals, the cock bird bowing to his chosen hen as she backs away playing hard to get. This is what every keen pigeon shooter has been waiting for - the breeding season.
In my area we seem to be blessed with very large numbers of woodpigeon although I'm sure the local farmers don't see it as a blessing. The prospects for shooting large bags of woodies this spring and summer are looking good.
Here's a few tips for making a good bag on drilled barley;
1, Keep a daily check of where and when your farmers are drilling their spring barley. You'll have a window of opportunity of only a couple of days from when the field is drilled to when all the excess grain is eaten by pigeons, corvids and game birds, so timing is everything. The pigeons will only take 24 hours to find the drilling and 48 hours to eat all the seed and move on. Why not phone your farmer to ask where and when he'll be drilling.
2, If you're in an area where they grow sugarbeet, once the beet has been lifted, the chances are that's where the spring barley will be drilled. This is logical crop rotation and the timing is right as the beet is harvested by late February and the spring barley drilled as soon as the ground is dry enough in late Feb. or early March.
3, When setting out your decoys remember to put plenty of space between them. Birds move around looking for the spilled seed on the ground and that tends to mean birds are spread out across the field rather than bunched up as they would be in low patches of rape. It's all about making your pattern look realistic to incoming pigeons.
4, Finally, if your farmer says he's drilling that 20 acre field on Monday, you'll need to be there by Wednesday. It just wont keep till the weekend so take a days holiday or throw a sickie. This is important and you shouldn't let little things like work or the wife's birthday get in the way of making a good bag!