Tips & Hints for November 2012

A Day Decoying with Phil Hardman

A Day Decoying with Phil Hardman

14 November 2012

My year began slowly as far as decoying goes, with the farmer reporting no real damage to the crops in the early part of summer, and very few birds showing in interest. As the year moved on however, the weather made a turn for the worse and the constant rain meant the crops were very late in being harvested, which left them at the mercy of huge flocks of hungry birds. The rape was first to finally be cut, and as soon as it was, the pigeons moved in to clean up what food remained on the stubble that was left behind. With a wheat field still standing on the opposite side of a small road, I was asked to take as many birds as I possibly could, in order to try and minimize the damage the pigeons would inflict on it, as soon as they grew tired of the stubble. The part of the field where the birds were showing the most interest was an awkward area to get set up. It had a very small hedge, but large gaps of bare barbed wire fencing meant a hide wouldn’t blend very well, unless I set up further away. I don't pick the area I set up in; the birds do, so that was a no go from the start. There was a lone oak tree that would provide me with cover from above, but with the wind blowing from behind me, I knew the birds would be landing head on, increasing the chances of me being seen. I chose to wear my Light Leaf Concealment System Suit (LLCS) in English Woodland pattern, as it's probably the most effective thing I've ever used when it comes to not being seen, and when used in conjunction with gloves and a face mask, it really does make a truly effective alternative to the traditional hide. 
 
Using 6 flock coated shell decoys, I set out my decoy pattern, making sure to roughly face them into the wind, about 25 yards out and retreated to my position at the base of the oak tree. I cocked and loaded my trusty .177 Daystate mk4is and waited. The day began slowly, with nothing even flying over the field for the first half an hour. Eventually the first arrival of the day swooped in and landed in amongst my decoys, catching me slightly off guard. Trying to keep my movements to a minimum I shouldered the rifle and took aim, centring the cross hairs of my riflescope on the birds head before squeezing the trigger and sending the pellet on its way! That was the first kill of the day, but no sooner had I reloaded when another arrived, and another. The momentum of birds coming into the field grew steadily as the day wore on, and it wasn't long before I lost count of how many I'd managed to put in the gamebag.  It was a frantic couple of hours, but a truly enjoyable one, as weeks of patience and field work had paid off with what turned out to be my best day ever, up to that point. By the end of the session I had managed to score 62 birds, a personal best. 
 
I didn't have too much time to wait until I was calling on the services of my trusty Daystate once again, this time on the wheat field across the road, which had finally been cut, well, I say cut, half of it had, the other half was still standing. I had even less natural cover in this position than I had during the session before, so once again I had to rely on the effectiveness of my LLCS suit. With my back propped against the wooden fence, and only a patch of long grass at the edge of the field as cover, I wasn't exactly filled with confidence, but by the time the first few birds had arrived, it became clear that they couldn't see me. This was almost a repeat of the first, but things were slightly slower, not really picking up till 5pm. It might have been slower overall, but a huge flurry of activity towards the end of the session saw me ultimately bag even more birds than I had last time out, 71 in total. The farmer was extremely happy when he heard how I'd been getting on; woodpigeons eat an awful lot of food in a day, so a decent sized flock can do a serious amount of damage if left to it. I had a few more sessions before the fields were ploughed, with the numbers being much more typical of your average decoying sessions, 30 on one day, then a couple of sessions yielded mid teens, before my final attempt resulted in a lone pair. 
 
With Autumn now arriving fast, I’ll be turning my attention to other pests, like Grey squirrels and Rats, and hopefully I'll be able to share a few of those adventures with you. In the meantime, Happy Hunting!