One of the many agricultural pests we deal with are Wood Pigeons. These wily adversaries are highly adaptable and very difficult to keep off of crops.
They have almost super-hero eyesight and are extremely cautious of anything new placed on a flight path or in a field where they are feeding and always seem to be just out of range!
There are a few times of year when you can really get to grips with controlling wood pigeons; at harvest, at roost in February or March, then in bad weather and snow at any time – especially on Oil seed Rape sprouts.
Last week, we were called to one farm where we do regular work to go and shoot over oil seed Rape stubble which had just been harvested. This farm seems to be plagued with wood pigeons, and the farmer wanted to get a few shot before ploughing up the field, so it gave me an opportunity to introduce Simon to shooting wood pigeons over decoys.
This method of shooting is one of the most used, basically, you set up a number of “dummy plastic pigeons” called pigeon decoys about 25 – 30 meters out from your chosen shooting area (these are chosen with lots of factors in mind – pigeon shooting is all about observation and looking for the feeding habits of the Wood Pigeon). You then erect a “hide”, a structure that basically hides you from sight, which can be made from natural materials or camouflage netting etc – ususally in a hedgerow – then you settle down to wait.
The next 30 minutes or so will determine who the day will go – the pigeons will either spook and fly off – then something is wrong, or they become suicidal and fly into the decoy pattern (takes years of trial and error to work this out). If things are not right, you have to make adjustments, if you get it right – prepare yourself for loads of action!
Shooting is done by using shotguns – generally 12 bore with a specially designed cartridge to maximize the killing effect – wood pigeons are very hard to kill. I have been pigeon shooting since I was about 8 years old with my grandad and his friends, so for Simon this was a new and very exciting experience.
After the first few shots, he managed to calm down and think about the shot (anybody who has been pigeon shooting will understand what I mean!), then results started to come. We try to average 1 in 3 shots, but beginners usually average anything up to 1 in 10! I was on standby to take out a few when Simon missed, so our average was maintained nearer the 1 in 4 zone…but next time he will be more confident.
Anyway, it was a great introduction to a different way of controlling Wood Pigeons and Simon did really well. The trusted Jasmin was on hand to pick up any dead or find any wounded so we can dispatch them quickly and a few hours produced a reasonable amount.
The by product is of course some beautiful plump wood pigeon – a real favorite of mine, so then Simon got a lesson in pigeon plucking and dressing as well! As normal, we share the bounty with our local farmer so he was very happy too – cant wait until next time really!