My, how times have changed!
The old fella picks his bird and squeezes the trigger, at that point a second pigeon swings in behind the target bird. One "bang", but two birds drop dead into the crop. The old fella almost falls off his seat, such are his celebrations. more......
I've been shooting, or should I say "shooting at" woodpigeon for something like 40 years. It's only in the latter years that I've been hitting the damn things with any kind of consistency. In truth, I spent the first year or two taking shots at passing birds, only to see them swerve and flare but carry on their way unharmed.
Many long months of shooting at woodies and still looking for my first kill, I had more flares than Burtons but my first pigeon was proving to be elusive. Then it happened, one Sunday morning whilst walking along a row of horse chestnut trees a pigeon darted not more than 10 meters above my head.
Instinctively I swung my single barrel AYA 12 bore and pulled the trigger as I had done so many times before. This time to my amazement the bird crumpled dead in the air then hit the ground with a thud.
"I still remember thinking, as I picked the dead bird from the meadow, what a beautiful creature it was."
I still remember thinking, as I picked the dead bird from the meadow, what a beautiful creature it was. Indeed, all of these years later, I'm still of the same opinion, the woodpigeon is a magnificent bird.
At some point during those early years, I realised that if I were to achieve any kind of consistency with my shooting, I would have to go clay shooting. In reality, walking around a farm with your shotgun is a wonderful way to pass a few hours, but will not help you improve the accuracy of your shooting.
In contrast, a few hours shooting clays on a good sporting layout, will work wonders for you marksmanship. Although I find the two disciplines to be quite different, there is no doubt that 100 cartridges fired at moving targets on a clay shoot will take just a couple of hours. On a farm, it may take weeks. It follows therefore, that clay shooting is the most effective way of improving your marksmanship.
Field craft however is different again and is a slower learning process altogether. As the seasons change, our field craft has to change and adapt with our quarry's feeding habits and changing routines. In short, this is a slow learning process and there is no substitute for experience.
"No videos, very few magazines, not very much of anything"
Now was it just me, or was there a shortage of information available to the aspiring pigeon shooter back in the 60's and 70's. No videos, very few magazines, not very much of anything. In fact most of us were self-taught.
Many long hours were spent walking around the farm looking for flight lines and should you be fortunate enough to find one, you would almost certainly look for a suitable tree or ditch, or anything that would afford you some cover, so you could shoot the birds on their line of flight. A good bag in those days was perhaps 6 birds.
Very few people owned decoys and even fewer would have known how to set a decoy pattern properly.
On one occasion whilst shooting a flight line about 100 yards from a quiet lane, I was enjoying moderate success when two policemen approached me. I was fairly relaxed about the whole thing, as I was facing away from the lane, I had permission from the farmer to shoot, everything was legal and above board.
"To my surprise, the two bobbies said they had received a complaint from a jogger who had been hit on the head by a dead woodpigeon"
To my surprise, the two bobbies said they had received a complaint from a jogger who had been hit on the head by a dead woodpigeon. At that point one of the bobbies burst out laughing, then all three of us were falling about. But spare a thought for the victim, as if joggers-nipple is not enough to contend with. Thankfully the police took no further action.
These days' things are oh so different. My two younger brothers are both keen pigeon shooters along with my two nephews and youngest son. There is a mountain of information available to us all with regular articles in the shooting mags and endless pigeon shooting vids/dvd's, plus lots of old'ns around to show the young'ns how it's done.
I'm pleased to say that I was with both of my nephews and my son when they shot their first woodies. Further more, they didn't have to wait a year or two to achieve it.
It must be wonderful to bag your first woodpigeon on your very first outing, over a well set decoy pattern from a well constructed hide. Then see a well trained dog go to retrieve your first kill. Boy how times have changed, lets hope they don't take it all for granted.
A couple of weekends ago my son paid one of his many visits to my home in Norfolk.
He often visits to eat me out of house and home, drink my wine and always to go pigeon shooting.
We went out mid morning to recci some of the local farms looking for our afternoon's sport. One of the farms that I shoot is a little further a field but I considered it well worth a look. The farm has four fields of rape, two of which have suffered major pigeon damage.
"This looked an ideal spot for father and son to enjoy an afternoon's sport"
On arrival around 200 birds took flight from the damaged areas of crop on the far side of the field. Many more birds moved to and fro across a neighbouring meadow. This looked an ideal spot for father and son to enjoy an afternoon's sport.
The wind huffed and puffed, the white clouds moved quickly across the blue sky. The oilseed rape that hadn't been damaged was now standing tall and in full bud, just another week or two and it would be in full flower. We would make our set-up close to a hedge, a nearby ditch ran up the field ahead of us with damaged crop either side of it.
If only the pigeons have read the script it should be a good afternoon. The hide up, the decoys set, the whirly spinning and the Jeep tucked behind the hedge at the far end of the field. Father and son nearly ready when the first bird arrives. Father still on his way back to the hide tucks himself close to the hedge as son pops up from the hide and "crack" the first bird of the day falls amid the decoys.
"Well done son, now let me in the hide". Once dad is on his seat, several more birds make for the decoys. The old fella picks his bird and squeezes the trigger; at that point a second pigeon swings in behind the target bird. One "bang", but two birds drop dead into the crop.
The old fella almost falls off his seat, such are his celebrations. "FLUKE" shouts the young one. Lets face it, he's right. But of course the old chap says, "No, I did it on purpose 'cause I don't have many cartridges"
Amid much banter and ribbing the next four hours see 40 pigeons fall victim to father and son. At 6.00pm father insists that shooting comes to a stop. Her at home is doing Turkey Roast and you wouldn't want to arrive late for fear of wearing it, rather than eating it.
Both old'n and young'n leave the field with broad smiles and a sense of satisfaction. We will no doubt recall the afternoon's sport over a pint or two on many occasions to come. "Oh and that fluke shot dad", "That was no fluke son".