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marsh man

Can You Overshoot An Area For Pigeons ?

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Just before Christmas the farm manager bought a day on the estate for his farming friends and when the morning finished the guns had there lunch in the same place as the beaters , while having my coffee the farm manager came over and had a yarn and said what a good job I had been doing keeping the Pigeons down as he had seen very few around the estate and at the moment there isn't one gas gun going off on the rape fields.

Yesterday we had a Woodcock shoot where we covered a lot of land where there were Pine woods and some of the rape fields , again there was a total lack of pigeons and like the last few shoots not one was added to the days bag.

Last year I gave this area some stick when pigeons started to hit the crop fields , starting on the late Peas , then Pea stubble during the long hot dry weather , moving on to the standing Barley and then as soon as the Pea stubble was over the first Barley fields were cut , if you can remember the combines were cutting non stop and in our case it was 17 days non stop ( except during the hours of darkness ) which was a new non stop record , each day more and more land was opened up and the bales were left for a few weeks until they had time to take them off .

My bags were nothing special but during the nice weather I was often shooting three or four times a week and getting around a 100+ a week by the time came in September it was getting harder to find enough to warrant setting up and the last ones were on a barley stubble that had been left and i did manage a 30 odd on there .

They were the last ones I shot on there and this year they were only game shooting on half of the estate so if I found any on the other half I could still go.

So this bring me back to the title , Can you overshoot an area ?, by the way the area consist of 5000 acres.

I know you would be able to do it short term but over a period of time there seem very little evidence of any beginning to build back up .

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Posted (edited)

No I don't believe you can do anything to influence pigeon numbers with a shotgun. You will only cull a tiny percentage at best. My friend reckons oil seed rape drives the pigeons away in Hertfordshire. And its true there are hundreds of yellow fields come summer. Whether he is right or not I don't know but anecdotally pigeon numbers have been at an all time low and rabbits have all but disappeared too. 

Edited by Vince Green

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13 hours ago, marsh man said:

Just before Christmas the farm manager bought a day on the estate for his farming friends and when the morning finished the guns had there lunch in the same place as the beaters , while having my coffee the farm manager came over and had a yarn and said what a good job I had been doing keeping the Pigeons down as he had seen very few around the estate and at the moment there isn't one gas gun going off on the rape fields.

Yesterday we had a Woodcock shoot where we covered a lot of land where there were Pine woods and some of the rape fields , again there was a total lack of pigeons and like the last few shoots not one was added to the days bag.

Last year I gave this area some stick when pigeons started to hit the crop fields , starting on the late Peas , then Pea stubble during the long hot dry weather , moving on to the standing Barley and then as soon as the Pea stubble was over the first Barley fields were cut , if you can remember the combines were cutting non stop and in our case it was 17 days non stop ( except during the hours of darkness ) which was a new non stop record , each day more and more land was opened up and the bales were left for a few weeks until they had time to take them off .

My bags were nothing special but during the nice weather I was often shooting three or four times a week and getting around a 100+ a week by the time came in September it was getting harder to find enough to warrant setting up and the last ones were on a barley stubble that had been left and i did manage a 30 odd on there .

They were the last ones I shot on there and this year they were only game shooting on half of the estate so if I found any on the other half I could still go.

So this bring me back to the title , Can you overshoot an area ?, by the way the area consist of 5000 acres.

I know you would be able to do it short term but over a period of time there seem very little evidence of any beginning to build back up .

Locally and temporarily you can eliminate local stocks but as long as national populations are healthy, the next breeding season will see birds migrating in again.

If national stocks are not healthy, like rabbits, shooting can be an important and significant contributor to wiping out local and national populations , especially if shooting is carried out after the winter population die off and before birds have raised following years broods.

 

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Regular shooting an area will move the birds on to a quieter location. I have one estate with 22 gas guns which are regularly move around and once they are deployed the pigeon just leave the area. If a banger stops due to no gas the birds will return but one shot will lift them and they will not return. We tend to shoot the surrounding farms to reduce the numbers. Reading my posts this Autumn we have shot one field for five plus weeks along with other shooters but the birds have now left the local rape field and moved off.

I believe shooting equipment will move birds on, we try a leave a field for two weeks before we return in ideal conditions but if requested we will shoot. Birds will get use to sounds that are not threatening , industry, railways and motorways. Gas guns in isolation will lift birds  and they will tolerate them. Shooting  reduces the numbers and also makes them associate the noise with danger as a flock into your decoys will mean two shot fifteen spooked.

These are my thoughts on the subject.

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THANKS for the above replies which are logical and make a lot of sense .

We are told by members on here who are a lot wiser than me that the pigeon population is at a all time high and are in no short supply , I agree about numbers being healthy but with the population being at a all time high , this I have my doubts.

A lot of us can go back in the past when in the Autumn and early Winter we would see the young ones build up into huge flocks running into the thousands these would move round the area and if you were one of the only farms growing rape ,  when they found it you would then be in serious trouble and would be lucky if you had any crop left by the end of the Winter , now we still see the odd big flock but not the numbers we once did .

Also I used to take fishing parties out to sea from Yarmouth , again in the Autumn and the early Winter we would sometimes be out there when the Pigeons were moving down the coast from north to south , at the time the people in the know would say they were foreigners coming here in front of the cold weather as they fairly small and darker in plumage , this I put down to the flocks being make up of mainly young birds  , I often wondered if they were coming down from Scotland and the north as where we stick out on the east coast it look as if the pigeons are coming from across the sea , number wise , there would days where they were nearly uncountable with flocks from a few and others running into many hundreds , this might have been going on for a few days and by then there could be thousands in the area .

I accept nowadays with all the rape grown the pigeons don't have to move about for food like they did pre rape days but I am still not convinced we have as many pigeons as we once did . 

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There does not seem to-be any difference in numbers to me, obviously some areas will have more and some less but as you say there is a lot more rape about than there was 50+ years ago.

I can remember seeing the first few rape fields back in 1969/70 and you would see very big numbers on these few and far between fields, these big numbers would also be around at harvest time and you could shoot some very big bags on rape stubble. Take today with so much rape grown those large flocks are now spread over a much bigger area, ok you still get areas that hold bigger numbers like farms near to towns, one thing I noticed over the years was when Scotland had really bad snow fall and the snow pushed down into the north of England the pigeon numbers increased considerably around the Midlands.

I don’t think you have over shot the place they are just in another area, they will be back.

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2 hours ago, marsh man said:

THANKS for the above replies which are logical and make a lot of sense .

We are told by members on here who are a lot wiser than me that the pigeon population is at a all time high and are in no short supply , I agree about numbers being healthy but with the population being at a all time high , this I have my doubts.

A lot of us can go back in the past when in the Autumn and early Winter we would see the young ones build up into huge flocks running into the thousands these would move round the area and if you were one of the only farms growing rape ,  when they found it you would then be in serious trouble and would be lucky if you had any crop left by the end of the Winter , now we still see the odd big flock but not the numbers we once did .

Also I used to take fishing parties out to sea from Yarmouth , again in the Autumn and the early Winter we would sometimes be out there when the Pigeons were moving down the coast from north to south , at the time the people in the know would say they were foreigners coming here in front of the cold weather as they fairly small and darker in plumage , this I put down to the flocks being make up of mainly young birds  , I often wondered if they were coming down from Scotland and the north as where we stick out on the east coast it look as if the pigeons are coming from across the sea , number wise , there would days where they were nearly uncountable with flocks from a few and others running into many hundreds , this might have been going on for a few days and by then there could be thousands in the area .

I accept nowadays with all the rape grown the pigeons don't have to move about for food like they did pre rape days but I am still not convinced we have as many pigeons as we once did . 

I think you have answered your own question. The vast flocks you once saw were more than likely down to less feeding opportunities, especially in hard weather. Pigeons are much more spread out now, due to widespread oilseed rape.

I still see flocks of 5000 or more at this time of year, but it isn't a regular occurrence.

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5 minutes ago, motty said:

I think you have answered your own question. The vast flocks you once saw were more than likely down to less feeding opportunities, especially in hard weather. Pigeons are much more spread out now, due to widespread oilseed rape.

I still see flocks of 5000 or more at this time of year, but it isn't a regular occurrence.

Weather have always played a big part in pigeon movement , when we had the big flocks come down more or less overnight it could have been mild in our neck of the woods but as soon as the woods started to fill up with pigeons you could guarantee that within a day or two the wind would swing around to the North / East and would then start a spell of hard weather .

At one time it was stated there was more pigeons died in the winter through the cold weather than any amount through shooting , now I don't think this would be the case , mainly because the winters don't seem nowhere near as cold and the amount of food available that would be above the snow up and down the country .

In the severe winter of 1962/63 we had some sprouts up our garden and the pigeons were eating them while we were standing there less than 20yds away , we thought we were doing well when we shot a dozen with our B S A Airsporter , the simple fact was if you missed with the first shot they still sat there until you hit them , it was a case of staving to death or been shot . 

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I absolutely believe you can overshoot, or shoot out an area. There was a post on here along the lines of more wildlife in the town than the country. I have watched one pair of pigeons in my garden this year, raise 6 broods. That group of 14 are still around hammering my bird feeders!! If I had shot the lot, clearly, there wouldn't have been any left. If I had missed a couple, i would have educated them, possibly, to move away. Jackdaws the same, that group has doubled this year. I don't believe its any different whatever the acreage, its just a question of scale, shoot the 14 in the garden or 1000 on a 400 acre farm, logically, none left. Pigeon double their numbers with each brood. Clearly, some don't survive. But the mathematics works in reverse too.  Its long been my opinion that pigeon behave differently around the country, and that you have migratory flocks that pass through, "Ram raid" the rape and are gone. I also believe,  there is the local population. And rather like the garden example, remove the local population, and whats left are  skitty, undecoyable passers by if you are lucky to see any.  Our most successful member here, PC together with DB shoot extraordinary numbers of birds. Clearly, they are extremely competent shots and put in a huge mileage to find the birds. However, the usual setup is a few dead birds, hide, sandwiches, coffee, shoot a hundred plus each day of the weekend sometimes, and go home. With possibly Motty trailing in second place. The rest of use the same recipe, a couple of shots and the few birds that were around, disappear never to be seen again.  My shotguns are pretty much idle in the cabinet now. 

One estate I used to shoot on, was really good. Clearly my visits and that of another two were managing the birds but leaving a sustainable stock. Then two retired chaps moved into the village and in less than a year, you might count 10 pigeons on a 2500 acre drive round. The crops remained the same, nothing had changed bar these two wiping out the local population and hence the breeding stock.

My other farm is 300 acres of mixed, woodland, arable, cattle. There are two of us on there. The other chap  is up there 3 or more times a week. There is now, not a Hare, rabbit, Muntjac, squirrel, rook, crow to be seen. He pops up a dozen feeders in the winter, to encourage "Wild birds`" onto the farm, from which, he organises two shoot days. Historically, it would produce 20+ brace of pheasants first day, and 10-15 brace for the second, with woodcock and various thrown in. This year, 4 brace of pheasants, 2 pigeon! I imagine that part of the reason is, as there is now no natural food left, the few foxes that were, have dined on the pheasants. But now there are no pheasants, even the foxes have gone! Its really sad to see, but it is totally shot out.

Just my thoughts.

Edited by turbo33

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1 hour ago, turbo33 said:

I absolutely believe you can overshoot, or shoot out an area. There was a post on here along the lines of more wildlife in the town than the country. I have watched one pair of pigeons in my garden this year, raise 6 broods. That group of 14 are still around hammering my bird feeders!! If I had shot the lot, clearly, there wouldn't have been any left. If I had missed a couple, i would have educated them, possibly, to move away. Jackdaws the same, that group has doubled this year. I don't believe its any different whatever the acreage, its just a question of scale, shoot the 14 in the garden or 1000 on a 400 acre farm, logically, none left. Pigeon double their numbers with each brood. Clearly, some don't survive. But the mathematics works in reverse too.  Its long been my opinion that pigeon behave differently around the country, and that you have migratory flocks that pass through, "Ram raid" the rape and are gone. I also believe,  there is the local population. And rather like the garden example, remove the local population, and whats left are  skitty, undecoyable passers by if you are lucky to see any.  Our most successful member here, PC together with DB shoot extraordinary numbers of birds. Clearly, they are extremely competent shots and put in a huge mileage to find the birds. However, the usual setup is a few dead birds, hide, sandwiches, coffee, shoot a hundred plus each day of the weekend sometimes, and go home. With possibly Motty trailing in second place. The rest of use the same recipe, a couple of shots and the few birds that were around, disappear never to be seen again.  My shotguns are pretty much idle in the cabinet now. 

One estate I used to shoot on, was really good. Clearly my visits and that of another two were managing the birds but leaving a sustainable stock. Then two retired chaps moved into the village and in less than a year, you might count 10 pigeons on a 2500 acre drive round. The crops remained the same, nothing had changed bar these two wiping out the local population and hence the breeding stock.

My other farm is 300 acres of mixed, woodland, arable, cattle. There are two of us on there. The other chap  is up there 3 or more times a week. There is now, not a Hare, rabbit, Muntjac, squirrel, rook, crow to be seen. He pops up a dozen feeders in the winter, to encourage "Wild birds`" onto the farm, from which, he organises two shoot days. Historically, it would produce 20+ brace of pheasants first day, and 10-15 brace for the second, with woodcock and various thrown in. This year, 4 brace of pheasants, 2 pigeon! I imagine that part of the reason is, as there is now no natural food left, the few foxes that were, have dined on the pheasants. But now there are no pheasants, even the foxes have gone! Its really sad to see, but it is totally shot out.

Just my thoughts.

I think you have made some valid points. I suppose a lot also depends on how many pigeons were in a particular area to start with. I have shot between 500 and 800 pigeons on the same field in a matter of weeks, on a few occasions. If those areas consisted of 1000 pigeons, then I would have made a pretty severe dent in the numbers. If those areas held 20000 pigeons, then I don't think you could tell the difference. I have shot those same areas since, and there is still an abundance when crops and conditions are favourable.

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Last October more than 5000 pigeons descended into an area shot exclusively by me. I had several decent bags but by no means did I make a significant dent in their numbers.

Then magically they mostly dispersed to pastures new and I never saw good numbers in that area again.

This year the migrants chose a slightly different area and they are holding well there but in terms of numbers it will be less than 1000.

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Very interesting thread! I had started to think the same MM. Numbers here in mid Suffolk well down for the third winter running now. Very few flocks about and very few flighting or in the woods. Hardly any gas guns or scarers out this year either. I shoot over 9 farms approx 4000 acres and think i will need to be looking for more?. Hard to find birds to set up for anywhere at the moment. 4 plus years ago and with a bit of fieldcraft  i could shoot 20 plus most outings anywhere and 1200 a year. Been less than half that the last 2 years. Half the perms are shared and 2 recent retired fellas shoot a couple during the week. Over the last 2/3  years i have heard of a few huge Autumn/spring bags of between 500 and 1100 birds taken locally. Some of the shooters recon it doesn't make any difference to local population as birds move around? I am not so sure unless hard weather push them about? I have noticed particularly the last 2 winters on game shoots with maze covers that birds have been going in them to feed and not moving unless disturbed. There are about 25 to 70 birds in most drives. With so many shoots now relying on maze covers in the area it's easier for the lower numbers to hide a feed all day without disturbance. When they are they just lift circle round and drop back in or to another cover because they know they are safe. i don't think they had a very good breeding season this way last year. With a lot of the early nests failing or predatored. . .It's not all bad! just have to adapt and work harder for less. Walking more fields hedges farm yards and roost shooting. Less pigeons, but lot more squirrels crows  couple of foxes plenty of rats a mink and the odd rabbit. Nice to see so many woodcock about few more snipe to. Lot  more english partridge about and doing so well.  Just my rambling thoughts on it.   Atb. NB

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1 hour ago, NatureBoy said:

Very interesting thread! I had started to think the same MM. Numbers here in mid Suffolk well down for the third winter running now. Very few flocks about and very few flighting or in the woods. Hardly any gas guns or scarers out this year either. I shoot over 9 farms approx 4000 acres and think i will need to be looking for more?. Hard to find birds to set up for anywhere at the moment. 4 plus years ago and with a bit of fieldcraft  i could shoot 20 plus most outings anywhere and 1200 a year. Been less than half that the last 2 years. Half the perms are shared and 2 recent retired fellas shoot a couple during the week. Over the last 2/3  years i have heard of a few huge Autumn/spring bags of between 500 and 1100 birds taken locally. Some of the shooters recon it doesn't make any difference to local population as birds move around? I am not so sure unless hard weather push them about? I have noticed particularly the last 2 winters on game shoots with maze covers that birds have been going in them to feed and not moving unless disturbed. There are about 25 to 70 birds in most drives. With so many shoots now relying on maze covers in the area it's easier for the lower numbers to hide a feed all day without disturbance. When they are they just lift circle round and drop back in or to another cover because they know they are safe. i don't think they had a very good breeding season this way last year. With a lot of the early nests failing or predatored. . .It's not all bad! just have to adapt and work harder for less. Walking more fields hedges farm yards and roost shooting. Less pigeons, but lot more squirrels crows  couple of foxes plenty of rats a mink and the odd rabbit. Nice to see so many woodcock about few more snipe to. Lot  more english partridge about and doing so well.  Just my rambling thoughts on it.   Atb. NB

I am not so sure by having more land would make that much difference , I can only vouch for my area around South / Norfolk and North Suffolk , going a bit further afield on shoots and the odd trip to the game dealers I haven't seen anything to make me want to make inquiries , in fact the different shoots I have been on are saying the same .

Another thing I have noticed is no where near as many young birds coming on the late stubble's during July and August , again could it be overshooting the same area ? , we have to accept the possibility that some of the old birds we shoot have got swabs left in the nest , with one parent left there is a good chance they will survive , whereas there is another strong possibility that by keep shooting the same area the remaining parent is going to come unstuck and then there would be very little chance the young'uns can fend for themselves .

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In a word YES you can overshoot an area, in my opinion. Of course there are other factors which play a part but round here it is very clear that farms with frequent game shoots (some are twice a week) seem to have few pigeons in spite of the extra feeding opportunities. The highest bird density is on a local farm shoot, only shoots every 2 weeks and only 4 times. Lots of food is put down and NO pigeon shooting during the game season. Wait for Feb 2nd.....!!! (had a few 100's off there last year)

In addition, pigeons here seem very magnet, decoy or hide shy and are very flighty. I have seen bunches of them approach a flock of undisturbed feeding pigeons, then flare away in panic, that flighty. On the other hand, I found a lot of happy birds on an un-shot farm the other week, 2 of us had a 70-bird day on winter rape, which for me is very unusual.

Some farms, which seem idea for them, historically carry few pigeons, even if the crops are suitable. Is this because the local pigeons don't teach their young that food can be found there, because they (parents) never fed there?  Then in turn, migrant birds are not "directed" there by following the locals?

Something to think about as we await Freedom Day

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