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Pigeon Shooting - Will Garfit recounts an unexpected day in the hide. -



One of the qualities of country sports is the element of surprise at the outcome of the day.


“With my passion for pigeon shooting it’s the number of variables that create the challenge, and half the pleasure is in the observation and field craft.”

One of the qualities of country sports is the element of surprise at the outcome of the day.
However, in much of our game shooting we take too much for granted. Any form of commercial shooting has a fairly tightly anticipated bag and any farm or estate on which we are lucky enough to be invited has days arranged for a certain scale of event. With reared game this is possible but less so with wild bird lowland shoots or grouse, when a record year can often be followed by a stock collapse due to disease, or bad weather, in which case no shooting may be possible at all.
So with my passion for pigeon shooting it is the very number of variables that create the challenge, and half the pleasure is in the observation and field craft. With experience one learns to read a situation. For optimum results we need to be in the right place on the right field, on the right day at the right time. It does not matter if you are George Digweed or “Joe Miss-em-all”, those four factors will dictate the amount of sport.
However, even then there is the wonderful element of the unknown and surprise. An illustration of this is when, in April a year ago, I shot a field of clover, which I had watched half-heartedly whenever I passed it. Throughout the winter there was often 50 to 100 pigeon feeding, and occasionally on a weekend there was a chap set up with his hide on the far side of the field. By April much of the drilling was complete and winter flocks were no longer plaguing the rape. I made a point of watching the field more carefully and
still there were the same number of birds, and little movement of others flighting in or out. Nevertheless something made me want to try a day, as I had not seen anybody shooting there for some weeks.

Pigeons over decoys - by Will Garfit

"Pigeons over decoys - by Will Garfit"

I decided that I needed to start at mid-morning, which was before the pigeons came out to feed. This was critical as if they came in ones or twos or small groups I could perhaps shoot 30 or 40 and make a good days sport.
Thursday promised to be ideal and I arrived in time to watch the first bird or two cross the middle of the field. This confirmed the best hide position to be by a telegraph pole – all very convenient as pigeon are usually unphased by a new hide next to such a permanent feature.
I started with 15 dead birds as decoys, together with a motley crew of artificials. Soon the first customers began to arrive on a line from the east. They then levelled out their flight as they headed towards the middle of the field looking for their mates feeding. My decoys
caught the eye of the leading bird and in they came – a straight forward shot was successful but the other two birds had swung round behind the telegraph pole, preventing a chance of a second. I soon rearranged the decoys to avoid this happening again and more dead birds were soon set up to enlarge the pattern.
I had started shooting at 12.30pm and an hour later was surprised to have shot 23. A good start – but I had another 20 birds in the next hour. This was already more than I expected. The strange thing was that still more birds came from the north and I continued at the same rate for two more hours.

Farmers Lament - By Will Garfit

"Farmers Lament - By Will Garfit"

So, the magic 100 landed by 4.30pm. This was certainly amazing but it then went very quiet for the next hour and I was just thinking of packing up when a few drifted in from the west. Then some came from the village behind me from the south. In  fact they came from all points of the compass and my clicker showed 150 by 6.00pm. I tought the day must be over now, but still more birds came, some passing over high having been out to feed elsewhere but having a last look to see if it was quiet and clover was on the menu for dessert. So too were those pigeon and although I had to wait until dusk to click up the last
bird to make 200, I then had the bonus of a carrion crow for 201 and could not have continued, as I only had one cartridge left from the 250 case I had carried out to start the day, which had seemed an excessive waste of optimistic energy at the time.
In contrast to that day I went out the following week on a reliable tip from a farmer friend
near Newmarket, who had pigeons playing on his drilled barley – it proved to be a short story with few pigeon and the highlight was to shoot eight carrion crows. So true is the saying for all country sports: “It’s not what you go out to get, but what you get out of going.”

Courtesy of Shooting Gazette


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