Sporting Shooter Pigeon Shooting

Sporting Shooter Pigeon Shooting

Sporting Shooter Pigeon Shooting

22 November 2012

Where’s woody?

It looks perfect. Acres of freshly drilled peas, with plenty of free offerings readily available on the headlands. Just one thing missing: pigeons! It looks, in fact, like an avian desert. Not a crow, nor a magpie in sight. Actually, there is one Crow – and he is surprisingly upbeat given the circumstances.

"It's funny. I spent a few hours watching the birds the other day and at lunch time there wasn’t a bird on the place. By mid-afternoon they were heading in for a bit of a feed before roosting. The thing is, they know there is grub here – and there's a big acreage of peas just gone in – so they’re not in any great rush. I know I've spent a lot of time talking about the importance of the weather with regards to the birds' behaviour but this is another prime example. The weather has been unseasonably mild and dry. They haven't been cold, wet and hungry. The stores of fat they have built up from the acorn glut mean they are in prime condition. Quite simply, they can pick and choose when they eat. There just isn't that drive and necessity for constant feeding governing their behaviour at the moment."

This means that even when there are large numbers of birds on the ground, a few shots are enough to clear them off. They aren’t desperate to feed in any one particular location. So Crowman has shifted tactics and opted for a much later start than usual.

"I'd normally like to be out and shooting in the late morning, but these birds will be around first thing and then disappear through the middle of the day. The plan is to start later – around 2pm – and make sure we are waiting for them when they pop in for a feed later in the afternoon."

Fortunately, there are other distractions for the Crowman. Glenn Lewis from Jack Pyke has brought a few goodies along for Andy to try out, including some Clearview netting. Andy looks at the flimsy-looking and very transparent material somewhat sceptically, until Glenn demonstrates just how tough it is. Using one of his scrim nets as a base layer, Andy finishes the hide in Clearview and is immediately impressed by the level of visibility the material affords. He is also impressed by the latest Jack Pyke hide poles – the tallest on the market, according to Glenn. He is less impressed by the fact that in order to build a hide big enough to accommodate a shooter, a marketing director, a journalist and a camerman, it requires about £150 worth of them!

Andy sets a sparse decoy pattern, reminding us that the pigeons don't feed so close together on the drillings. Then, it's time to cover up with the latest camo offerings from Glenn's bag of tricks (Andy opting for the summery English Woodland pattern) and squeeze into the hide.

Initial response looks remarkably good, with birds suddenly zoning in on the decoys and whirly. The trouble is, there are a huge number of stock doves in the mix as well as the wood pigeons, and stockies are very definitely not on the menu.

Andy's experience means that he can identify the smaller doves even from a distance from their build and the way they fly. The rest of us get excited every time we see something grey with wings!

"For me, I often enjoy the tricky days as much as the easy ones. The birds are normally at longer ranges and present a more challenging target."

I'm not sure Glenn agrees, though… I get the impression he'd rather they were piling relentlessly into the deeks! Glenn's brought a smokestick along and is keen to get some tips from Andy. He is a clay shooter, predominantly, and his high-ribbed Browning over-and-under looks decidedly different to Crow’s hard-worn Beretta semis. Not that it stops him from making a bit of noise and adding some birds to the bag. Andy recommends that he gets his gun fitted as he feels that Glenn is missing over the top of a lot of the birds. The speed and variety of shots that live pigeon shooting requires (and also the requirement for snap shooting) often highlights problem areas in gunfit and mount.

With a few woodies down, Crowman sprints out to rearrange the pattern and have a look what's in the birds' crops. Remarkably, despite it being 3.30pm they are almost all pretty much empty.

"It's like I said earlier – they know these peas are here. They can just pop in for a quick feed to top up. It's an easy life for them – look at the fat on this one!"

Mind you, that isn't the case with all the birds, and Andy shows us one with a bulging crop crammed with peas. There are dozens of them and this is just one bird:

"Now imagine how many peas 3,000 hungry pigeons can clear in a day!"

It's a reminder of the damage potential of these pests and why farmer Andy is so committed to the ongoing battle with his feathered foe.

The action dies away with the light and although the odd bird continues to present a target, Andy calls time. He debriefs Glenn, talking him through which bits of kit he rates and where improvements might be made. It's valuable R&D for Glenn and he is keen to stress that Jack Pyke are always trying to evolve and improve their product range.

"It's great to see our camo patterns in the field, of course, and to get feedback from somebody like Andy. Obviously he is using his shooting gear all the time and it has to perform to the highest levels. So hopefully his ideas and advice will help us to make better products for shooters everywhere."

Andy is the first to admit that his perceptions have changed over time.

"When I started, there wasn’t much kit available out there, and what there was didn't seem to be quite right or it was poorly made. That's why I made all my own gear – from hide poles to whirlies to that seat that you always steal when you come out with me! It was the only way to get what I wanted. But with some of these items – and the stuff we reviewed last month – it’s obvious there's some seriously impressive gear on offer now, from the turbo flappers to this Clearview netting and these adjustable poles. I'm also more and more surprised by the realism of the shell decoys – especially the flocked ones. I'm not quite ready to swap away from real birds just yet but for convenience and ease of storage these are probably the way to go."

Glenn hits the road but for Andy – and for us – there is still pest control work to be done.