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The Hot Spot
July was a waste of time: three outings all failing miserably with birds in the air but showing no interest in the crops on which I was set up.
You quite quickly get a feel of whether the birds are in the mood and want to be where you are. Some days they will come in even if you are out in the field picking up, others times they will come in but with a little persuasion needed and sometimes they just fly past your pattern, swing in to have a look and then turn away and go elsewhere.
Sometimes you can change tactics and affect a turnaround (move to a different part of the field, alter your pattern, use or desist from using the magnet etc). Other times it makes no difference, you are just not going to shoot any numbers that day. On your own land, that is fine; pack up and go home. If you are on a paid-for guided day, it is harder because you will have to persist and could end up spending ten hours in the hide but shoot only five or six pigeons.
August started with the rape cutting. Pigeons began to hit it in earnest as soon as the cutter made its pass. We had a good flight line but I was too busy with Game Fair, work and the like to get on them straight away. A week later, there was muck spread all over it and rooks and crows joining the pigeons for the feast.
I set up in a plantation (providing excellent cover - almost no need for a hide, just weave some low braches together in front, make sure you have a good backdrop of trees and stand still in a face mask and cammo shirt.
I took a friend from N.Z to try out the art of pigeon decoying and we set up just before noon. A half dozen shells added to the magnet and we soon had birds coming in just right - crossers, quartering birds and those driven-grouse like shots that come straight at you, wings folded.
I was using a 1900 Dickson round action with 30" Damascus barrels and its speedy handling qualities and perfect balance made it ideal. Peter was using his 1885 Purdey hammer gun. Both were 12-bores and we loaded up with Gamebore Pure Gold 30g fibre wad shells. I have yet to find a better performing game shell for English side-by-sides.
The birds came in thick and fast - in singles, pairs and groups up to ten strong. The trick is to focus on the bird selected and follow it with your eyes locked on, choose the kill point and shoot smoothly. Pigeons change direction suddenly and you need to learn to read the angles they typically take and predict the path they will take upon approach. Don't shoot too soon and don't snatch a panicky shot if things change rapidly; stay on your bird and wait for a moment of stability - then take your shot without hesitation.
In three and a half hours we had 75 in the bag; then we had to pack up and get Peter back in time for his flight home. The birds were still coming in thick and fast as it was only 4 o'clock.
The next day I returned and found the same spot not shooting quite so well. Mid afternoon, I moved and setup in a nettle clump in the middle of the field. This added 12 birds to the bag and I had a total of 45 by the time I called it a day. Killing birds at all angles from 15 to 55 yards over along day is great sport - where else can you get so much action without spending a fortune?
Take a friend to share the day and you add the social aspect of the sport; or take a youngster and introduce them to the excitement and field craft inherent in pigeon shooting. May the wind blow and the birds fly!
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