In late January of this year I was contacted by a farmer who was having sleepless nights over pigeons destroying his crop of rape. I of course said I would be only too pleased to help !
As the Game season draws to an end, our attention turns to the woodpigeon. Shooting woodpigeons on winter crops is a very hit and miss affair, invariably we are decoying the birds on winter oilseed rape and you know how difficult that can be. A couple of shots and the birds move off in their large winter flocks to another field of rape and you're left cold and wet with very little sport.
The other option of course is to shoot the birds as they return, often in big numbers, to their roost wood. This will almost certainly be a wood with plenty of conifer and pine trees and often plenty of ivy growing in the wood. Our old friend the woodpigeon likes somewhere nice and warm to roost and conifer and ivy being evergreen offer plenty of cover for the birds on a cold winters night.
Roost shooting is often considered a beaters perk and at the end of the game season the beaters will be allocated a wood to shoot and they'll arrive at around 2.30pm and wait for the pigeons to arrive. Unfortunatly this is not done very scientifically and often will result in very little shooting on the first Saturday in February, and even less on subsequent Saturdays as the pigeons become wary of that particular roost wood.
However, if roost shooting is done correctly it can be the most effective way of reducing pigeon numbers at this time of year and providing some first class sport for the shooter.
"Direction of approach is all important if we want to get under the birds as they come down to roost"
Firstly we need to establish which woods the birds are using as their favoured roost. Once we know that, we need to work out which part of the wood they prefer and what direction they'll approach from. We know they'll land into the wind but their direction of approach is all important if we want to get under the birds as they come down to roost.It all comes back to that old thing reconnaisance.
In late January of this year I was contacted by a farmer who was having sleepless nights over pigeons destroying his crop of rape. I of course said I would be only too pleased to help. On my first visit I could see why he was losing sleep, somewhere in the region of 400 woodies were grazing on his crop. He promised to place straw bales at two spots which the birds seemed to favour so that we could errect hides.
I returned a couple of days later and although the bales where in situ there was not a pigeon to be seen on the large field of badly damaged rape. As it was an hours drive to get to the field I decided we should trust in the fact that the birds liked this particular feeding ground and they would be sure to return.
"Clearly they thought I had lost the plot and things were only going to get worse"
Two hours had passed without a shot being fired. My brother and son who had made the trip with me were starting to give me strange looks. Clearly they thought I had lost the plot and things were only going to get worse as another brother and my nephew were soon to arrive to help cover the ample conifer woods around the farm.
At around 2.30pm large numbers of woodies were heading in from neighbouring farms and pouring into one end of a long conifer belt. I would say that within a period of 15 minutes upwards of 200 birds had landed there.
Decoys were cleared away post-haste, brother number two and nephew had arrived and we were placing ourselves into the woods.
Although the birds were spoiled for choice with lots of conifer woods on offer, it was the long belt of trees that they wanted to roost in and the gun shots from son and two brothers were starting to irritate nephew and I, as we had very little to shoot at.
Only one course of action, lets all get in the same wood. This is exactly what we did and one hour later we had 50 plus woodies to show for our efforts.
This one day in particular proved that shooting the roost can often be the most effective way of solving the farmers problems and getting some damn fine sport for ourselves.
We returned five days later knowing exactly where to stand in the wood and bagged another 30 plus birds. You certainly can over-shoot the roost woods and the birds will soon realise that this is not a safe place to sleep so I've decided to rest this wood for a week or more to give the pigeons confidence in this roost. Once they start to return in good numbers we'll be there waiting for them again.
If you're roost shooting this February, it's certainly worth doing some recie a day or two before you shoot. You'll need good cammo clothing and a face mask is a good idea. We know the woodie has great eye sight, so the better you conceal yourself the more likely you'll be to out- smart the birds. If you have a gun dog take him with you, he can pick your birds while you're waiting for the next incomer, you could miss a lot of opportunities while you're looking around the brambles and undergrowth for shot birds.