Sticking to your guns
Crowman isn’t happy. More worryingly, he isn’t even set up when we join him at about 2.30pm on a warm and sunny early autumn afternoon. There are pigeons everywhere; in the air, on the ground, in the trees. So what’s going on?
“I’d just set up and dropped about a dozen birds or so when a couple of lads turn up on the tractor to top all the headlands. So I packed up and went to another part of the farm.
“Blow me if they didn’t arrive there as I was getting my stuff out of the truck. I have no idea where they are now but I’m going to make sure they have gone before I set up another time.”
We do a steady tour of the fields and can’t spot the miserable mowers anywhere. But Andy’s preferred site hasn’t yet been cut so we decide to go to another field which has been mown already and set up there.
There is still a lot of pigeon traffic here and Andy doesn’t waste time in getting set up. Whirly in the centre of the pattern, turbo flapper to one side and a mix of real and shell decoys in two ‘lumps’ either side of the whirly.
As soon as the truck is tucked away at the other end of the field, the birds start coming in. There are a lot of ferals keen to drop in but Andy focuses on the woodies. Unsurprisingly they are less keen to decoy but there are three flightlines close to our hide and enough birds are deceived into coming for a look to keep the action brisk.
We are tucked under a line of trees which makes it difficult to spot birds coming in from behind but, as ever, Andy seems to have a second set of eyes that are capable of tracking the pigeons through the foliage.
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The delay in getting started has meant there is only a relatively short window of opportunity to make a bag. As the shadows begin to lengthen, Andy periodically moves his pattern up the field to ensure the whirly and deeks are visible rather than hidden in the shade.
The woodies seem to switch on all of a sudden as afternoon becomes early evening – the ferals disappear and the wood pigeons are coming in with much greater commitment, folding into the pattern and swelling the bag as Andy makes the most of some suddenly hectic sport.
“Peas are an easy feed for the pigeons. They know that they can come here late on and fill their crop quickly with a good food source – a lot of these birds won’t have anything at all in their crops before they get here. You can tell the ones that are hungry ‘cause they really want to get on the ground with their mates.
“It’s amazing when you think we had such a barren few months over the winter, through the spring and up until harvest. Yet now I would say there are more pigeons on this farm than I have seen for many years. They’ve obviously bred well, too, because we have shot lots of youngsters today.”
I chart the level of success through the rapidly disappearing slab of cartridges but Andy’s eye is constantly being drawn to a gap in the adjacent hedge through which he can see a distant flightline. It is an extremely busy flightline channelling an almost constant flow of birds… directly over the top of where Andy’s original hide had been at the start of the day!
“If we had been where I initially wanted to go, I reckon I could have killed around 300 birds today. We’ve bagged around 160-odd, including those couple dozen ferals that you used as a warm-up for your game shoot next week. Not bad for about 3� hours’ shooting, but it could have been so much better.
“You should always trust your gut instinct. I should have gone back to ‘plan A’ after the tractor had left but I was frustrated by the moving around so didn’t bother. If you know there is a prime site, do everything you can to ensure you are in it at the right time.” And that is, unsurprisingly, exactly what Andy did a couple of days later. n