The Woodpigeon as a quarry species is one of our most challenging birds to shoot.
Indeed there are very few game birds to compare with a Woodpigeon twisting and swerving over the decoys. I guess this is what keeps us coming back time and time again to strive for those magical "big bags".
The Woodpigeon as a quarry species is one of our most challenging birds to shoot. I have worked as a full time pigeon guide since early 2005 and during that time I have heard these words more times than I care to remember," the birds are decoying but I just can't hit them".
"Over the coming months we will be running a series of features on pigeon shooting to help you become more proficient at this discipline"
Indeed there are very few game birds to compare with a Woodpigeon twisting and swerving over the decoys. I guess this is what keeps us coming back time and time again to strive for those magical "big bags". Over the coming months we will be running a series of features on pigeon shooting to help you become more proficient at this discipline. Input from some of the UK's leading pigeon shooters will be included.
This month's feature is designed to get you started in the sport and as we all know, the first thing we need is permission to shoot from the man who owns the land. Gaining Permission to Shoot Woodpigeon.
The very first thing you should consider when approaching the landowner is this. You are effectively about to ask him if you can come onto his property to discharge a shotgun. You are a total stranger and for all he knows, you could be psychotic. Put yourself in his shoes and imagine your doorbell rings. When you open the door you are confronted by a complete stranger dressed in camo gear.
His opening gambit is; "'ello mate, any chance of some pigeon shooting?" My guess is that you would simply say -no thanks! Or if you were concerned for your safety, you would probably make some kind of excuse like "my game keeper looks after the pigeons" or "I already have someone looking after the pigeon shooting" Any of this sound familiar?
Now let's rewind for a moment. Your doorbell rings but this time when you open the door; a clean-shaven relatively smartly dressed man confronts you. His opening gambit is; " Hello Mr Jones, my name is Bob Laidlaw and I'm a very keen pigeon shooter. I live in Pretty Village and I'm looking for local farmland where I can help with crop protection.
"He buys expensive Gas Bangers, he replaces the gas bottles on a regular basis, and he buys those silly plastic hawks on a pole"
I am fully insured through my ABC Membership and I can supply references". Now I don't know about you, but I like the sound of this fellow. He can shoot my pigeons any time he wants. As the old song goes, it's not what you do; it's the way that you do it. Remember this, woodpigeons are a pain in the side for the farmer. Mr Jones spends hundreds or even thousands of pounds defending his crops against damage from pigeons, rabbits and corvine. He buys expensive Gas Bangers, he replaces the gas bottles on a regular basis, and he buys those silly plastic hawks on a pole.
He even spends hours of his valuable time banging wooden stakes into the ground and tying white plastic sacks to them. This man needs help and you're the man to give it! Don't be put off by the fact that there is a game shoot on the farm. I shoot on dozens of farms where they shoot game during the season. Simply reassure the farmer and gamekeeper that you'll work hand in hand with them.
You wont go where they're releasing game birds and you'll only do the crop protection immediately after they have had their shoot day and it will always be with their prior knowledge. Most of the smaller shoots only shoot every second Saturday so there is plenty of scope for you to shoot the week after their game day when the pheasants are scattered far and wide, then leave the place in peace for a week before their next shoot day.
If this farm grows Oilseed Rape, the best time to make your approach is the end of January or early February. The farmers get a little paranoid about the pigeons hitting their rape crop at this time of year as the birds are moving around in very large winter flocks and five or six hundred woodies feeding on the crop all at one time can cause an awful lot of damage.
You also have the added advantage that the game season is just finishing and he will probably be more concerned about protecting his rape crop than upsetting his gamekeeper. Having said that, the gamekeeper issue will have to be addressed and it's better that you approach him in a friendly sympathetic manner than have a confrontation later on.
"Always let him know when you've had a good day on his land. He'll be very pleased to receive a text or quick phone call to say you've just killed 30 or 40 pigeons on his field of rape"
Now if it's your lucky day and Mr Jones has welcomed your approach, remember the job has only just started. Always let him know when you've had a good day on his land. He'll be very pleased to receive a text or quick phone call to say you've just killed 30 or 40 pigeons on his field of rape or peas. He'll be even more pleased if you take him a bottle of his favourite tipple from time to time. But know this, he'll never forgive you if you leave tyre tracks around the headlands of his fields or empty cartridge cases scattered around on his land.
Always leave the place as you found it save for a few less pigeons. So to recap, if we make a good positive business like approach with a smile and a firm handshake, there's a good chance he'll listen to what we have to say. If you talk "crop protection" it will be more relevant to his needs and you'll be more likely to get a positive response.
Stress that you have 3rd party insurance cover and you can give references (If you have a mutual acquaintance, so much the better). If you give the names of references (your employer or local businessmen) it's unlikely he'll follow them up but if you already shoot on a local farm and you tell him this, he may well phone the other farmer as they generally know each other. If you get permission from him, make yourself an asset to his business.
Let him know when you've shot a good bag and be a help to your farmer and not a nuisance. He will not tolerate your rubbish or wounded birds left about his property. He won't tolerate complaints from neighbours or the public about you shooting near horses, footpaths or public rights of way. Finally, always remember that it's a great privilege to have access to farmland to pursue our sport and we should never take that for granted. A card at Christmas and a bottle of something nice goes a long way in showing our appreciation. Good luck and good hunting.