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I've got a problem with wind....

Jim Neal

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....I just can't resist it!

I'm still flat out doing the last few bits to my empty rental property before getting it back on the market.  After a quick Sainsbury's prawn mayo sandwich at lunchtime I tried not to look out of the window, but the sight of pigeons struggling and swooping around in the increasingly gusty wind got the better of me.  Before I left home in the morning, I'd taken note of the predicted strong SSW wind, gusting to over 20mph, so I had put my gun and shooting clothes in the car.  However, I said to myself at the time that I really should stay all day to get the house in order, and definitely not go shooting.

So, obviously, at just before 15:00 I cut my day short and headed off to the woods.

My chosen spot was one which I've thus far left alone this winter.  It's just outside my village and the prevailing wind normally carries the shots into the residential area quite strongly - we've had one or two noise complaints in the last couple of years, particularly when two of us shot it last year.  So with lockdown still ongoing I haven't wanted to cause the shoot captain any headaches.... but temptation was just a bit too strong today!  The slightly different wind direction was blowing past, rather than into the village so a quick call to the man in charge and the gun was out of its slip.

I put a full box of cartridges in my pocket and loaded up the gun from a half-empty box which I left behind in the car.  "If I take 27 shots I'll have had a bloody good session" I thought to myself as I strode off.  I felt a bit weird though:  I'm doing decorating/tiling/DIY etc at my rental house so I go there wearing scraggy old work kit that doesn't matter if it gets ripped or dirty.  I'd diligently packed all my shooting clothes, flat cap, gun and cartridges into the car this morning but had forgotten one thing - my moleskins were on the laundry airer after their annual wash.  There they remained.  I walked into the wood in all the right clobber except I was wearing a navy blue pair of knee-pad trousers covered in paint and tile adhesive!

Being the wrong side of 40 now, I've grown used to forgetting about what's below my belt buckle, so I soldiered on regardless.

The wood I was tackling has a very distinct feature in it, which is mightily useful for flighting in roosting pigeons.  There's two parallel rows of very mature leylandii which, to keep things simple, form the flat side of the semi-circular shape of the north end of the wood.  These conifers are really thick, with their branches overlapping forming a significant wind-break, and run roughly east-to-west so usually if you tuck in to them you've got pigeons turning into the wind coming straight overhead, or near enough, and dropping down dramatically to swoop in to the bare hardwood branches in the lee of these conifers.  I can only presume that someone in charge of forestry on this estate maybe 50-odd years ago had a bit of a soft spot for leylandii because they do feature in quite a few of the woods, planted in single or double rows.  I'm not sure but maybe they were put in as a nurse crop after clear-felling, to protect hardwood species from wind?

Trying to shoot this location last year, I became a bit frustrated with the birds flaring away because they could see me too easily - the cover is a bit sparse.  So I built a blind roughly mid-way along the northern side of this row of conifers.  I headed straight for the blind today and events confirmed I'd put it in pretty much the right place.  The one snag is there's a beech tree about 18" diameter about 10yds directly in front of the blind.  I didn't consider it an issue at the time of building because the birds are mostly kiting across you rather than coming in head-on - but it's amazing how many do come in from straight in front and try to sit in that tree!  I've dropped a few sitters out of it after shuffling to the side a bit!

Today was one of those times where you pretty much know within a few minutes that you're going to have a decent session.  The blind I'd built is basically an extension of a small bushy self-set "child" of one of the parent leylandii trees standing over it.  All I've done is cut a few ash poles, hammered them in to the left side of the sapling and lashed them up, before decorating them with cut branches from the big trees.  After 12 months, the left side of the blind was a bit sparse, so I decided it needed a bit more cover added.   With my haste and anticipation to get out shooting I'd not foreseen this shortfall so my only option was to try to snap off bits of tree branch by hand to thread into the existing structure.  Leylandii doesn't snap, a bit like willow, but I didn't get very far with that plan; just after my arrival at around 15:30 the pigeons started coming in.

Within a few minutes I'd let off 3 shots and downed 3 pigeons.  I hate starting like that because it can only go one way!  Of course, I was then 4 shots for 3, then 5 shots with no more to show for it.  My heart was pumping by now, the adrenaline was surging because I could just feel it was one of those special sort of days.  The birds were coming in downwind high over my head, swirling round to either side and then it was a lottery as to whether they'd attempt to stage up within range of my blind.  Plenty didn't, but plenty did.  I've not had this many pigeons fly over me for quite some time, they were coming arriving in flocks of between 5 and 20.  For some reason the woods on my syndicate's shoot normally just don't play host to great hoards of them so I just have to take my chances when they come up.  And they did today.

I have learned over the years to discipline myself out of taking too many wild and hopeless shots at roosting pigeons.  You've still got to have a go at a few screamers, obviously!  But keeping a decent mind on range, I don't try to shoot many out past 40yds.  Time progressed and a few quiet lulls were interspersed by the arrival of several groups from which I pulled down a steady number of pigeons.  I didn't have my dog with me today, and it's a topic for another discussion, but I am struggling with my current cartridges to kill cleanly.  So this meant I'm haring off out into the wood every few shots to chase down and nobble wounded birds!  Doesn't help the heart rate or the kill rate I don't think!

After about an hour of shooting I reached into my pocket to reload and suddenly realised I was down to my last two shots.  That quickly became one shell left after dropping an easy sitter that caught me off guard as I was looking the other way.  A few minutes more on high alert with only one cartridge in the gun ("make it count, don't miss, don't miss" !!) and I knew I needed to head back to the car for that half box I'd left under the seat. I was also overheating and very thirsty at this point, having forgotten to bring a drink with me, and knew I had a bottle of water in amongst the piles of junk in the car.  I flipped cartridge no. 27 out into my pocket, shed my shooting coat and flat cap, stashed my empty gun away from the hide in a thick conifer bush, grabbed the 9 pigeons already retrieved and dashed back to the car.  However I arrived at the car with 10 pigeons - I'd taken an optimistic swipe at a bird passing fast over my left shoulder and wondered at the time whether I'd connected with it.  I had, and it was laying on the ride on my way back to restock my left pocket!

So after a 15-odd minute break from the action, I was back behind the blind, re-armed and re-hydrated.  Then I needed a wee and missed a flock of about 30 coming over whilst I had the wrong weapon in my hand.  Emptying the bladder works almost as well as lighting a cigarette.  I swear if I was an incontinent chain-smoker you could shoot a bag of 1,000 pigeons over my head whilst I stood in a wood for a few hours peeing and smoking.

Having consoled myself with the suggestion there was more action to come than ammunition I had in my pocket, I then arrived at what I quite often experience when roost shooting - a lull in action about 45 minutes or so before sunset.  I even had time to wrestle some more bits of foliage off the little sapling on my right, to help fill up the left side of the blind.  But then the madness kicked off!  Groups of between 10 and 30 started dive-bombing into the wood in front of me.  The wind had changed slightly, turning more to a south-westerly, and therefore the birds were crossing over me from right to left.  Annoyingly this meant the best place to lock onto them was...... the beech tree slap in front of my face!  Blind position needs re-evaluating I think.

The line moved even more to the left of me as things got past 5pm, and I dropped three birds almost literally on top of each other, such was the consistency of their path into the trees.  And then, that was it.  Nice to drop a bird with your last cartridge, but it's a weird feeling having to pack up quite a while before the sun sets.  But I'd shot all my cartridges, what could I do?!

I took a few very satisfying shots of varying difficulty which made the session very pleasurable, but the highlight was a bird that caught me looking the other way, heading over my right shoulder into the wind which was very strong at that point.  I locked on to it and literally swung in front as it flew over the leylandii so it was pure guess-work as to when to pull the trigger, I was just looking at greenery.  A massive chunk of tree fell down....I had a feeling I'd connected.... and then as if you'd put your VCR on rewind, the pigeon came back downwind, haymaking with its wings as it scooted off about 50yds in front of me into the trees.  "I'll never pick that without a dog" I thought.  Wrong, got it, stone dead just about where I'd marked it.

I swept through the wood and, surprisingly without a dog, accounted for everything I thought was there before heading back to the car.  A bizarre thing then happened.  You know when you're on your own, you kind of talk to yourself... well I was just remarking to myself how often it is that when you're on the way back to the car you find a bird you never knew was down... well sod me at that exact moment I saw a blue-grey shape on a log off to my left - an injured pigeon - so I dropped my gun and haul of birds, chased the bird down and dispatched it pronto.

Final score was 18 woodpigeons and a very big smile on my face (I'm not very photogenic so no mugshots, sorry)


Crop contents: majority ivy berries, quite a few mixed ivy berries and clover, one only clover.  Several empty, one bird table fodder and only one stuffed with rape (we've got virtually zero rape round here).  A couple of sycamore samaras.


Edit:  I forgot to mention, several birds were still gleaning acorns from somewhere as you can clearly see in the above picture, one in particular was very heavily laden exclusively with them.

Edited by Jim Neal
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55 minutes ago, WalkedUp said:

Better than a write up in the Shooting Times, good writing and excellent shooting by all accounts.

I agree, Jim could teach some of the modern day writers in Shooting Times how to encapsulate the atmosphere of the day. Not that I read ST these days, the best writers are now sadly long gone. Don`t need magazines when we have all the wide experience of those on PW, plus the banter of course.

Excellent write up and what sounds like an great day with a good bag at the end of it.

Many thanks for posting.

More of the same please Jim. :good:


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As for write ups , way above of what we have come to expect from our talented members .

If we had a leader board , Jim would be perched on the top and could there for some time to come .

THANKS for sharing Jim, and now get back to the decorating and tiling :good:

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Thanks gents, those are some very kind words indeed :blush:

I was a bit shocked when I saw how long that post rambled on for and I do think I waffle a bit, but hey, I don't do it very often because I don't often get the chance!

Hopefully I'll have another experience worth sharing before roost shooting stops. 👍

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On 25/02/2021 at 12:15, pigeon controller said:

Well done Jim, excellent report. I did manage 53 in the wind on Tuesday. 

Thanks PC, was that bag roost shooting or over decoys?  I couldn't imagine that much shooting in a wood during the last 2 hours of daylight!!

On 25/02/2021 at 14:36, dead eye alan said:

Now missing PCs weekly log too.

Have been for some time, hopefully when he's properly back online we'll have a catch-up!

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Jim fantastic write up and just goes to prove that even when it all gets wrong it still ends having a great afternoon.


fingers crossed you can knock of early again and give us another great write up 

atb Agriv8

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Posted (edited)

I'm having my last roost shooting sortie of the season in that same place either Wednesday or Thursday this week, depending on what Michael Fish predicts.  Will hopefully have a decent last report.  I blanked yesterday, not worth a post!! 😂

Edited by Jim Neal
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