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My eldest’s first pigeon

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Just got back from a family trip to the beach and my favoured fields had been cut end of last week. My mate shot one for 35 on Saturday and another mate shot another for 25 on Sunday. These are the expected bags for a day in my shooting area as it’s hilly with very little arable.

Feeling I had missed out I asked my eldest son, aged six, if we wanted to come shooting with me as a ruse to be granted extraordinary permission to shoot on a Bank Holiday Monday. He was very excited and dressed himself, a packed lunch was made for both of us which was an unexpected bonus. We set off with decoying gear (thanks to @worrall26 for loan of the hide poles etc, @Westley for gift of his flapper, @boo for hide nets and @rimmer for the extra cartridges!) but not expecting too much. The first farm we arrived at had three-day old stubble but was pretty dead, a handful feeding but none returned after being clapped off. The next farm is 5 mins away and was only finished being cut late last night, it wasn’t bailed yet so I was not hopeful of many birds. There was a decent clump of 40 or so feeding on a far edge at the boundary of the permission. These were clapped off but just landed further on the field. We stopped and watched as often these small flocks will just up and leave if there is a shot never to return. After a few minutes it was apparent that not many birds were joining them but there was a faint flightline to a big coniferous woods that passed the centre of the three fields. The main field is triangular and awkward to shoot but I favoured it over the smaller two for visibility of the pattern and the distance from the boundaries and roads. A central spot in the hedge was cut back to give a large pocketed hide, for me, two dogs and my boy with the slim wind to our rear. My son was tasked with putting the decoys out whilst I set up the hide seats, poles and nets (in that order to ensure good footing, field of view and that you do not snag the net). I do not worry about a distinct pattern but have a mass of old decoys in clumps with a clear central ‘kill zone’. I put up a hypaflap flapper, a hyperflap magnet and erected a standard magnet awaiting fresh birds to put on it. My son commented that with all the attractions we had made a little fairground just for the pigeons. 

In the hide our belongings were neatly ordered well in front of our feet securing the base of the net with a 30 year old 12bore Beretta semi auto (bought from @Velocette) and the moderated .410 secured in its sleeve. My son was sat away from the ejection port for obvious reason. I kept him tight to me on a low stool away from muzzle blast. He was positioned to the side blocking the magnets and where an unseen road comes too close to shoot in that direction. Normally the magnet seems to spook the pigeons and the look for the static decoys. We both wore ear defenders and had a brief discussion about the rules of the hide. I reminded my son of the year ban he had recently served for touching my (unloaded and without magazine) air rifle when we had been doing some plinking. He had been with me to clays midweek for the first time and was unphased by the noise so I was confident he would be ok.

We didn’t wait long before we were inundated with crows, approaching from the rear with the hedge for cover before drifting across on my side and begging to be shot. My son had decided to wear my cartridge belt as a bandolier and was tasked with passing me enough cartridges (one at a time, correctly orientated) to ensure the gun was always full. He also took over the clicker. The first 50 of the day were almost all crows, closed off with a nice triple. Having thought 50 was sufficiently unattainable I had reluctantly agreed that at that point my son could shoot. We sleeved the semi auto and went out to tidy the pattern. 

We lowered the hide poles to the minimum height and loaded the single shot Pedretti. I held it over his hands from kneeled behind him, wrapped around in a bear hug. Shooting a moderated .410” can be hard enough without a six year old boy attached to it, which I learnt really slows one’s swing. Miraculously he (we) connected with a close in crow within the first couple of shots. The beauty of the moderated subsonics is that you can hear the pellets hit the bird, which is very satisfying. My boy was delighted and so I put the gun away, raised the hide poles and shot again. The crows had thinned to a trickle but pigeons began to flight over. Not many decoyed so at 65 birds when we had swapped back to him shooting it was a long wait until anything suitable, eventually he connected with a beautiful 10 yard right to left crosser wood pigeon that I will remember for my life. It had over shot the decoys and was aiming to disappear over the hedge but was sent tumbling into it with a “phut” then the sound of throwing sand against a wall. At 85 he shot again another crow but as the birds refused to decoy we missed quite a few with the .410”. I felt he was tired and as much as he wanted to shoot felt the need to limit his chance to keep him keen. I sent for my wife to collect him and then we carried on shooting racing to get 100 before she arrived. The quality of shooting was probably my peak, I doubt I will shoot that well again, I shot instinctively and they fell. The birds were now all flight lined, high and fast. You heard the counter click before the birds thumped onto the floor. Many were over 40 yards, a handful paced out at up to 60. I don’t know if it was the pressure of wanting to show my boy how to shoot, or the love and pride I felt each time he called “great shot daddy” before adding another to the clicker. I probably should have made more than the couple of triples but was conservative in selection. Often getting singles rather than put a second shot onto a second more distant or swerving away bird. We hit 100 and he was very happy, but wanted to collect them all in and tidy up the spent cartridges before he went.

After my son was collected I felt a sudden loneliness. This lasted for a while until 150 was in my sights, then 200. Worried about my cartridges running out I shot efficiently and execution style. Not wasting shots on no hopers. I hit 204 when I ran out of 12 bore, so switched the the .410” until that ran out on 210 birds. I was worried I would end on a streak of four misses but connected beautifully with a pigeon passing behind on my last available shot. 

It took an age to pick up, the dogs had to tunnel through the long hay piles to collect any runners that had burrowed in and then we walked around to the other two fields to pick up from behind. We lost about 15/20 in the hedge but I was very pleased with the both my old dog and younger bitch. There was not much wind but the old dog went very far out to find the clipped birds that flew on and runners that had made a go for it. He is deaf so took no instruction from me. The bitch was very direct. Piling headfirst under the straw heaps and hedges when she could scent a bird, working like a shark with only her tail visible above the ripples of straw. The only negative was that she crunched a couple of runners which was disappointing but my fault for having her retrieve psychotic crows. 

Overall a very enjoyable and memorable day. 

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22 hours ago, WalkedUp said:

Apologies it is long and boring. I’m too tired and it’s too late. 

Far from it walkedup! It was a great report and immersed me completely! Cracking pictures too. I really enjoyed reading it and as has been said above I’m sure your son will remember that day for a very long time 👏🏻👏🏻

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