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Jim Neal

A bit of fun at last!

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It's fair to say I have mixed fortunes.  I'm lucky enough to be self-employed and often able to free up time when I need it, for example a bit of roost shooting on a February afternoon.  However the land I have access to isn't really heaving with pigeons at roosting time so it's often a job to carve out a decent session.  I shoot on my game syndicate's land which consists of lots of isolated small/medium sized woods spread about over a big area.  When you commit to shooting a wood you have to be on the money every time because by the time you've upped sticks and moved somewhere else it's too late.

I do like to get out as often as I can though, regardless of how much shooting I end up with.  There's only one wood I've found at the moment where the pigeons are roosting in any great number, or with any determination, so that was my destination on Saturday.  Storm Dennis was really starting to shake the trees.  Things looked good as I trundled slowly along the track next to the wood to my parking spot; roughly 200 birds got up and left in about 5 separate groups as I drove along, and amazingly they struggled off upwind.  So far, so good!

Questioning my own sanity as the wind almost tore the door off my car when I opened it, with a pocket full of shells and my gun on my arm I stumbled in to the wood and took up an observation position in the middle.  As expected, after about 15 minutes the birds started coming back in ones and twos, zipping around the wood and back in to the trees via the leeward corner, exactly where I'd got the incoming flightline noted from a couple of previous visits.  I quickly headed towards my intended spot but got stopped short by a phone call from the shoot captain.  We had a quick exchange of relevant info about forthcoming shoot matters, then I suddenly had to shout "Hold on mate!" and put the phone back in my pocket.....  around 100 pigeons had decided to return and were hanging in the wind over my head, kiting and swirling!

2 barrels fired and one pigeon down, I quickly finished off the conversation (trying not to sound rude) and stuffed a couple more cartridges in the gun.  Anyone who's shot game coming thick and fast off a cover will know exactly the strange phenomenon which befalls a shooter in this situation.  When there's nothing in the sky, you'll pull two cartridges out of your pocket both the correct way round for loading, and you'll have the gun shut ready for action in the blink of an eye.  However, when you've got targets approaching fast you always seem to grab the shells by the wrong end, fumble and drop them, and generally take what seems like a lifetime to get the gun reloaded and pointing back in the air!  This was such a time, but I did manage to pick off a nice right & left before that flock decided to head somewhere a little less ouchy for the evening.  So far, so good!

Birds picked, I stashed them somewhere I'd remember and proceeded to my intended spot, keeping a good eye on what was above me - not really for anything feathered but for anything covered in bark that would give me a nasty headache in the increasingly blustery storm.  Yes, it's a bit silly going into a wood in a howling gale, however I justified it with the reasoning that with all the high winds of the last week or so, if anything big is going to fall down it would have done by now.

I didn't have to wait too long before some more pigeons came in on the line I'd anticipated, but they surprised me by landing up in the trees about 30yds short of me.  2 sitters added to the bag (they can't all be spectacular shots, can they?!), and I was starting to get the feeling I should have put a few more cartridges in my pocket.  I then took a nice one which came on a line upwind to me then flared away, almost like the Starship Enterprise going into warp!

So far, so good. 5 birds for 6 shots, but it then went quiet.  The wind dropped, it started to rain, and in about 10 minutes I suddenly realised I was freezing my nuts off!  I heard a few passing crows calling, got my caller out of my pocket and managed to turn a couple of them round.  However, they were too far past at this point - even though the wind had dropped a bit it was still pretty gusty so they just hung in the air out of range.  I shot at one anyway, partly out of spite and partly to see what the shot stirred up.

I then endured what I call when roost shooting the "Wilderness Period".  For the next hour, the wind started blowing properly again along with icy cold rain, but it was gusting in different directions.  Only the odd single bird appeared, screaming across wind in front of me just outside the wood.  A couple of them tempted me into shooting but to be honest I'd got more hope of taking a poop in the Queen's handbag than bringing them down.

This is the mental battle of shooting, particularly with roosting pigeons I feel.  Gradually, a few more birds started to come in.  My average had been dropping, I'd missed a couple of easy ones, then another flock of 50 or so birds appeared over me.  They were hanging in the wind, flaring and dipping, coming in and out of view from behind the trees I'd decided to use as a screen.  Literally, at one point I was wetting myself with laughter as I frantically pointed the gun at one bird, then another, then another, unable to make up my mind which one to shoot at as they all tumbled around in the air in front of me!  I'd lost my Mojo.

This appearance of a decent sized flock happened several times until the action stopped.  Eventually I got tuned in to them though, and brought down a few satisfying birds with another couple of right & lefts.  In hindsight, I didn't react quickly enough to the slight change in wind direction which made a big change to the way the birds wanted to come in to the wood, meaning I was trying to shoot them coming across me rather than straight on.  I was constantly changing positions during shooting, getting further and further away from my start point.

Session over, I worked my way back to the car like a squirrel who'd lost his nuts, picking up one or two birds from here and there as I'd shot them and left them somewhere easy to spot.  I carried 11 back with me, unable to pick one hard hit pigeon which had flown on a bit before dropping and presumably running somewhere out of sight.  I'd have picked it with a dog I'm sure, but Ihadn't taken a dog on this outing, partly for their safety and partly because I know this wood has no bottom cover and a liver & white spaniel is a recipe for disaster when you can't hide them away behind anything.

26 shots for 11 birds, my best session this winter so far in terms of results but also in terms of enjoyment.  I do like a nice bit of wind! 😖

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We have been treated to some excellent write ups of late and your one is up there amongst the leaders .

Well done for sticking the conditions out till the end , you deserved all you got :good:

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2 hours ago, marsh man said:

We have been treated to some excellent write ups of late and your one is up there amongst the leaders .

Well done for sticking the conditions out till the end , you deserved all you got :good:

Yep i'll second that.

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Thanks gents, and sorry I didn't realise I'd written that much, it was only supposed to be a quick report! 🥱

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