Most pigeon shooters would agree that the winter & spring of 2014 has been a difficult time to shoot pigeons.
One hour later we were over 20 birds shot. By lunchtime we were doing very nicely although we had lost count, but were getting very low on cartridges.
Most pigeon shooters would agree that the winter & spring of 2014 has been a difficult time to shoot pigeons. The problem has been finding the damn things and I’m convinced that a large autumn acorn harvest will kill off many thousands of wood pigeons, and that’s exactly what we got in the autumn of 2013.
"The dead bird will often have a white excretion around the beak, a swelling in the throat and always be very thin"
The pigeon has for a number of years carried a throat virus that will stop the pigeon from eating and ultimately result in the bird dying of a combination of starvation and asphyxia. The dead bird will often have a white excretion around the beak, a swelling in the throat and always be very thin.
This winter and spring, following a large acorn harvest, the birds are not so plentiful as usual. Many game keepers and forestry workers have confirmed my theory by telling of dead wood pigeon laying about the forest and hedge rows – I rest my case!
The good news for the pigeon shooter, but not the farmer, is that the wood pigeon is an incredibly resilient bird and I’m already finding juvenile birds in March, long before most other birds have even started nesting. The wood pigeon will bounce back as always.
Based on the above information, you’ll understand my concern as my over-seas visitors arrive for their pigeon shooting trips with great expectations of shooting large bags of our wood pigeon.
Fortunately, when one of my regulars from the Netherlands arrived he was experienced enough in the art of hunting to understand that no two years are ever the same. When hunting wild game, we can only do our very best and no more.
Day 1 would be spent on a ploughed field that had contained sugar beet. Good numbers of pigeons had been feeding on the remaining sugar beet tops and to the best of my knowledge; no one had been shooting that farm since I was there some nine months ago.
The birds decoyed well and where certainly attracted to the rotary.
My pigeon shooter “Berrie” made the most of the birds that did visit the decoys shooting a bag of 25 birds – not great, but not a disaster.
Day 2 was spent on a field freshly drilled with spring barley. My reconnaissance the previous day had promised great things but in the end the barley drillings only delivered a bag of 22 birds.
Day 3 and we would have to do the business today as this was Berrie’s last day in the UK.
I had seen large numbers of birds feeding on sugar beet tops and hanging out in a wood that ran the length of the field. My concern was that on previous days when checking out this field, the birds would move in one massive flock as soon as disturbed. This is bad news, as the large winter flock had shown no signs of breaking up for breading.
"The saving grace was that we had been enjoying very mild spring like weather"
The most logical result was that as soon as we went onto the field, the birds would leave in one large flock and not return. The saving grace was that we had been enjoying very mild spring like weather and “day 3” was warm and sunny with a brisk wind blowing from the far side of the wood. Maybe this would work!
As we drove onto the field the birds scattered but this time in all directions, rather than moving as one large flock. We set the hide where the birds had been feeding and with the wind on Berrie’s back.
We had saved 15 birds from the previous day and used these as decoys including the use of two low floaters/bouncers lifting the dead bird just a foot from the ground to simulate landing birds.
The pattern looked really good but I was still unsure what would happen after a few shots had been fired. Would the birds move in one large flock or has the warm weather convinced the birds that it’s breading time and to seek company in smaller numbers….
As usual I told Berrie that I would make contact in one hour to see how thing were progressing.
After one hour we had 8 birds in the bag. One hour later we were over 20 birds shot. By lunchtime we were doing very nicely although we had lost count, but were getting very low on cartridges.
As I drove to the field with another 50 cartridges I began to question my sanity in taking only 50 shells to a field that was shooting so well. On arrival I could hear the banging of the gun and as I drove to the hide, three birds decoyed one after the other and each one met its maker simultaneously.
"I handed over the cartridges and viewed the mayhem of feathers and despatched birds that lay in front of the hide"
I handed over the cartridges and viewed the mayhem of feathers and despatched birds that lay in front of the hide. Clearly I need not have worried about the pigeons leaving this field after only a few shots.
One hour later and I’m en route to the field again with more shells, Berrie running out literally as I arrived.
By 4.30pm we’ve both had enough and we start to clear the hide and dead birds. We have counted 121 birds, 15 of which we brought with us this morning, which makes a bag of 106 birds picked up.
Well done that man, a true Red Letter Day