Conon worked like a champion. I watered him and let him rest at intervals, then with the heart of a lion he hunted again.

There have been days pigeon shooting when I have packed up early for lack of action but never have I done so because it was too good. However one day recently it happened, not just for one reason but two.

When on the north Norfolk coast with my wife it is a time of holiday and an opportunity to paint the landscape we love. However I always have my gun should I see a few pigeon and a chance to shoot. I saw pigeon flighting to some laid barley only three fields away from the house.

Bernard keepers the farm part-time and we often enjoy a day’s pigeon shooting together. However he was away on a fortnight holiday but I knew he would encourage me to have a go if there was a chance.

I arrived at half-past one and was surprised to see a good number of pigeons already on the field. I had quite a walk along the headland to get to the place in the hedgerow I felt would best cover the field, with an area of laid barley within range on which to show my decoys. As I settled in to an easily erected hide, my trigger finger was beginning to twitch.

" Then the sound of my shots disturbed a wood half a mile away and pigeons came in upwind"

Shooting started immediately as birds came downwind from behind, but saw the decoys and then turned to come in. Then the sound of my shots disturbed a wood half a mile away and pigeons came in upwind, others came from woodland to my right. In fact the only point of the compass pigeon did not come was from the North Sea out to my left.

The pigeon decoyed well and the shooting was fast and furious. Not the most testing, but it is important not to lose focus as any pigeon can change angle so quickly in the air. However, I was on form and had 48 birds down for the first two boxes of cartridges. Thinking about Richard Faulds training for the Olympics got me going and after an hour and a half I had 100 with only five missed.

Woodpigeon on the wing - by Will Garfit
Woodpigeon on the wing - by Will Garfit

The next hour was even more exciting and I had another 100 on my clicker by 4:15pm, wonderful sport taking on all comers – whether down-winders from behind, long crossers or high overhead – and a very long crow.

Sadly my Olympic bid was over as I had taken 108 shots for that second hundred. I’m sure Faulds would not have dropped a shot at all. It was in the second hour that my dilemma, in fact double dilemma, surfaced. Firstly my dear old dog Conon was watching with wagging tail but picking up was going to be difficult.

Secondly if I stopped with still more than three hours of feeding time for the birds, this field would hopefully shoot again when Bernard was home in a weeks time. For two good reasons therefore I decided to stop shooting, a difficult decision as I might have easily beaten my own previous record.

"I picked by hand all I could see then Conon worked like a champion"

However I could not ask more of Conon or spoil a chance for Bernard.
I picked by hand all I could see then Conon worked like a champion. I watered him and let him rest at intervals as I carried sack after sack of birds back to the car. Then with the heart of a lion he hunted again. Barley is not kind to dogs and I would check every ten minutes or so that there were no barley awns trying to work their way into his nose or ears.

What a great day.

So what happened the following week? Bernard arrived bronzed from the southern sun and was interested to hear my story. He chided me for not going for my record and giving up, but equally was excited to have a go on such a hot field. We went two days later and struggled to get 30 between us. The birds had departed and split up all over the county to feed. Oh dear – but despite Bernard’s recriminations for not shooting on while the pigeon were there I still could not have asked more of my friend Conon even though he always encourages me to keep shooting too. There is a moral to the story – I’m working on it.

This article published by kind permission of The Shooting Gazette.

Making The Most Of An Unexpected Opportunity
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