Crowman has a tough choice deciding where to shoot

credit: Archant

We are parked up on the headland of the field next to where we had such great decoying over freshly drilled peas a couple of weeks ago. Those peas are now vigorous young plants about three inches high – although just as appealing to the pigeons!

credit: Archant

The morass of swampy earth is now baked to a pale brown crust, cracking under the pleasant warmth of an early summer sun. The field we are in could easily pass for a recently planted one, just a few weedy green fronds are visible – but look further in and the yellow of rape flowers is clearly visible. “This overwintered crop is so patchy due to the bad weather it looks like a spring crop. And the pigeons will have easy access to it on these thin areas.

credit: Archant

“I’d say the trees are coming into leaf about five weeks later than last year – that is a massive difference, although the fine weather now means that things will catch up quickly. But the pigeons are eating ash buds and hawthorn buds much later than before.

credit: Archant

“So the rape, which is usually past them, is still on the menu. The buds, which are usually over, are still available and the peas are through and sweet and tender. Basically, everywhere you look at the moment, there is different food.”

credit: Archant

Of course, that means the pigeons have lots of options to go elsewhere and this reduces the odds of a big bag. But Andy is looking to stack the odds back in our favour by selecting a site that combines as many opportunities as possible.

credit: Archant

“We have the pea field just the other side of the hedge, the rape out in front and lots of buds on the trees behind. Plus, we are bang on one of the busiest flightlines around here and the birds do like having a sit in these taller trees just behind the hide. The only downside is that the wind isn’t quite right. They are going to use the wind to come in behind and if we put the hide in the best place we are going to be shooting at the power lines. Not good. So it is a bit of a compromise today, but hopefully I’ll be able to nail the birds skipping round behind through a gap in the trees.”

Andy has been impressed with the portable Bergara seat and has used it in the pigeon hide and for boar hunting trips on the Continent. But at around £80 it is a bit pricey for those after a more basic offering. So we picked up the DeLux Spin seat from The Pigeon Shooter ( at the British Shooting Show. Priced at just £35, it features a padded swivel camo seat with a seatback that can either be up for support or folded out of the way for full movement. There is a kit bag under the base that holds 100 cartridges (or a light lunch) and it all folds down to be carried via a shoulder strap.

“It’s pretty comfy but I don’t suspect I’ll get much chance to use it.” He is right of course, and I steal it as soon as he heads outside the hide to adjust his decoys. Very nice it is too!

On the subject of decoys, we also brought along a new variation on the flapper. The FF1 decoy animator from Flightline Decoys ( is designed to work with a Hypa Flapper decoy from Sillosocks ( It gives a realistic 300 wing-beats per minute and is used in conjunction with a timer and 12v battery. There is an FF2 version, too, which is used with a bouncer pole to provide elevation over taller crops for use at different times of the year. The animator costs around £50, plus the decoy and battery.

“It’s always good to try something new. When whirlies were all the rage they produced great results – less so now. Then flappers have evolved and I do like a fast wing-beat as it is more realistic. I’ll be giving it a bloody good go in the next few weeks and see how it performs.”

Pigeons are soon heading into the pattern and Crow is in fine fettle after a couple of rounds of Sporting clays the night before – which is bad news for the birds. Last time we were out, the pigeons were filing obligingly into the decoys, folding up from miles out and dropping right in; today they are more circumspect. But enough are drawn in to at least have a closer look and that provides Andy with ample opportunity.

Behind our backs, a number of birds hop the hedge for shelter from the breeze and Andy has placed the hide so there is a gap directly behind in which he can shoot those sneaking in. As mentioned earlier, the trees are far from full leaf, meaning Andy can track the birds’ progress through the canopy and be ready to kill them in clear space.

The big problem is the one coming up the hedgerow from the opposite direction. Not only does the fall of the ground make them hard to spot early, but many are coming in to land in trees out of range. “It’s just as I thought. If we were where the power lines are, with the wind like this, we’d be getting lots more chances. But then again, we couldn’t shoot anyway.” It’s a Catch 22 situation – but even though Andy knows he’d be hamstrung further down the field, he can’t help but look longingly in that direction on several occasions.

Eventually, I volunteer to take the spare gun and a box of cartridges and tuck under the furthest sitty tree to intercept those looking to land short. I make plenty of noise and add a few to the bag, but even though I undoubtedly move a few birds up to Andy in the hide, it is a compromise rather than a solution.

We call it a day in the early evening and pick up around 70 birds. The sport has been spread out through the afternoon and some of the passing birds coming downwind were pretty spectacular. All in all, it has been a good day’s shooting – the warm sun making it a pleasant change after recent outings.

“I am hoping that this is the beginning of a great summer of shooting sport,” Andy says. “We weren’t quite right today – if the wind had differed, we might have made 100 or so. Mind you, not too bad. We’ve got peas, beans and rape on the farm this year, so no matter what, we will have some options.”

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