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Shootus interruptus


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Back by popular demand for one week only... 

The merest hint of a breeze from a south easterly direction and bright sunshine do not make for the best roost shooting conditions, and it didn't look promising on the approach to my favourite wood as there were no pigeons to be seen. A nearby maize cover strip had been half flailed and earlier recon with my binoculars had shown a few grey blobs in amongst the flattened stalks so hopefully they were still in the area. Pops joined me on time this week and decided to cross the river and occupy the 'new' (now nearly 40 years old) plantation where we have had some luck in previous years. 

There was plenty of life in the wood as I made my way to my favoured spot, and the dog was virtually tripping over pheasants and hares skulking in the up until then undisturbed coverts. I barely had time to unsleeve my trusty 12 before a peach of a woodie passed overhead in a perfect facsimile of a driven target. I arched my back, getting off a hasty shot and was pleased to see it connect and send the bird crashing down in the clearing behind me. Dog dispatched for an easy retrieve and I was unexpectedly off the mark. It wasnt long before another chance presented itself high and to my left. It required a second shot to finish it off after the first had merely tickled its tail feathers. It crashed down in a thick bramble patch which the dog refused to enter so not for the last time this afternoon I unloaded the gun and went for a wander. It was quite a mission to reach it and required quite a thrashing with a hastily cut Hazel stick to clear a path. 

It was about this time I noticed unfamiliar noises apparently emanating from somewhere behind me, in the direction of my parked car. A regular, if slightly echoing metallic banging alarmed me enough to pack up my gun and head off to investigate. As I got nearer to the car I realised that the sound wasn't coming from that direction at all, but was actually from the farm yard about 3/4 of a mile away and the still conditions were allowing the sound to travel much further than usual. I returned to my spot and resumed my vigil.

The pigeons came sporadically, only ever in singles or pairs and quite frustratingly at the very edge of my range. I downed another couple, but my ratio was now starting to look average. With no wind to stir the treetops, my ear defenders were picking up a multitude of woodland sounds that would normally be drowned out by the creaking and whistling of tortured branches. A woodpecker probed the trunk of a nearby poplar. Pheasants crept around in the dry leaves, watched by the Eagle eyes of the hound, and how she quivered with the anticipation, but the nod to chase never came. The birds dried up as the sun dipped behind the treeline, streaking the trees ahead of me with dappled light. If I wasnt shooting, it would have been absolutely enchanting, but alas, all it did was provide a distraction from the boredom. 

Pops appeared in front of me like a dpm clad spectre emerging from the undergrowth. Whilst lost in my reverie, he had crossed the river and slipped in the corner of the wood unseen, on the hunt for some potential firewood. He spends less and less time actually shooting these days, but I had heard him at least pull the trigger once or twice. Turned out there was another shooter in the plantation, so he had come back to the old wood and decided to stop by and keep me updated. He lingered for a while and we shared a few shots for no return before he carried on his way. 

It wasn't much longer before something else interrupted. I was aware of some voices and figured they were coming from people on the footpath some half a mile away on the edge of the common. Imagine my surprise when I caught sight of a flash of red in the corner of my eye, just on the edge of the wood on the margin of the OSR field. I quickly sleeved my gun and made to intercept. As I got closer I was relieved to recognise the boss man and his wife, out with their dogs for an afternoon stroll. I made them aware of my presence and they apologised for the intrusion before returning the way they had come. I could hardly tell them off for walking about on their own land now could I? 

Back amongst the pigeons, and at last I started to see some shootable prospects. I think they have been practicing new tactics, because they were appearing in one's and twos like before, but with a twist. I would hear the wingbeats and see a bird approach but right on the limit. While tracking and waiting for it to circle round, another would slip in lower and closer from the opposite direction, getting to safety before I had time to snap a shot off. Very cunning indeed. Eventually I got a few more before deciding to call it a day, but in truth it was a poor afternoons sport. It was so disjointed and the birds just weren't about in great enough numbers. Pops was waiting for me by the car with his stack of scavenged firewood, and he took my birds home, 9 for 22 shots. He didn't have any to show for his efforts. That's it for roosting this year. It'll be harvest time before I get out on the pigeons again. 



Edited by adzyvilla
Added a picture of a silly dog
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Excellent report mate, very much enjoyed reading it 👍  9 woodpigeons in those conditions is a mega bag and roughly 2.5:1 is a very good cart/kill ratio, I'd be proud of that.  It was the exact opposite of good roost shooting weather on Saturday.  I shot two, of which one was a sitter!

Lots of people would have left that pigeon in the brambles but I'm right in there with you, legs full of prickles, can't lose it!! 😅

Am I presuming correctly you're either the keeper or farm worker on this land?  Just wondering, if your roost shooting is restricted to only February, had you thought about a moderated gun so you could squeak a bit more sport out of it?  A stealthy gun allows you to go out more of the year, places you couldn't usually shoot and more frequently because basically nobody would know you're there!

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Thanks Jim. Not a keeper or farm worker, just lucky to have a couple of very good permissions with understanding owners and good keepers. 

We have shot on into March some years when conditions are right, but this year isn't one of them. I think the other guys who roost shoot have decided to knock it on the head, I'm just unlucky I missed the first half of the month. It's not really about being seen/heard, I think it's more about disturbing the woods and the wild birds. 

Switching to decoying isn't too bad, and I might have a go on some of the remaining maize strips later on in the month, but it's not my favourite form of shooting as it requires some forward planning and I don't always have the time to do recon and pick the right day for time off work. Oh to have more time on my hands. 

But what the keeper says goes, and he'll have his reasons. I've plenty of other things to be getting on with. 

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Fair enough, sounds like you're making the best out of the situation  👍 I find my hushpower just helps me get out for a walk around a lot more often (not that I'm any good at shooting it!)

I have the same trouble time-wise with decoying, so I just can't pursue the permissions any more.  I wouldn't do it justice, so I have to rely on the odd invite out every now and then from someone who likes to share a hide and a bit of banter!

I normally roost shoot up to the 2nd Saturday in March - problem being I miss dinner and my boy's bath time, which I'm supposed to be responsible for, so serious brownie points need earning at the moment! It looks like there's going to be very little strength in the wind over the next week or so.  That probably means I'll have nothing much to report on until next winter except the odd invite out on the fields if anyone is feeling that way inclined.  My last decoying session was a blank! 😪

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