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Worst season in 22 years


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Has anyone else found the mild weather has impacted their season?  I have been in my current syndicate for 22 years and it has been consistent up until the last 2 years.  Last year was lost to Covid and this year shocking.  We put down 650 and shoot 10 days at an average of 25 or so, this season we have probably shot 60 or so birds and 17 Foxes with NV in the last 6 weeks.  Shoot is 1700 acres. 

Edited by Weihrauch17
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My wildfowling season has been awful this year. Pinks just headed elsewhere after a few weeks and numbers only started building again in the last ten days. Add to that the Avian Flu and the fact that I have hardly been able to get out due to various issues. I am certainly heading for my worst season on the geese.

Our little shoot is just about okay but not brilliant.

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28 minutes ago, Walker570 said:

Anyone come up with a reason other than global warming.  

Lots more people walking around the countryside with there dogs disturbing the birds in the nesting season 

more boats and kayak’s on the estuary disturbing the wildfowl 

heaven knows what it is like in the states they migrate from 

shoots trying to recoup the money they lost last season hoping to hold previous seasons birds  

not putting down the few extra birds as funds are short 

knock on effects the small shoots that relies on the birds from bigger estates wandering 

there’s a few reasons for you 

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I know I have never known numbers anything like this, we have the help of a local Grouse Keeper with his Thermal who does a great job but 17 in 6 weeks is ridiculous at this time of year.  I used to lamp alot up there for years and they were scarce.  Can't help thinking the lack of pressure on them through lockdown and a huge surplus of birds not shot last season has seen a population explosion.  I still think the weather has had the most impact, the Foxes didn't get in the pen.  The one day where we had our best day followed a week of cold weather. Just done a count up and the 60 is more like 40 tops!  Dire.  We put down ex layers instead of Poults also expecting lockdowns so we could shoot from the get go, that has probably added to them wandering also.

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Ex layers are a complete waste of time and money, used them for years then changed to poults huge difference in returns. Ex layers 15% to 20% at best poults 30% at there worst  on our ground. Poults can be more troublesome but worth the extra investment

Edited by 8 shot
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3 hours ago, magman said:

17 Foxes with NV in the last 6 weeks

May have answered  your  own question there

I was thinking similar. A lot may have dispersed with so many foxes roaming about, but I’m no expert. 
Our syndicate birds seem to wander. We put down 350 and start the season around the high forties, which quickly dwindles down to a long dog walk at seasons end. It certainly isn’t unknown for some guns to go home without firing a shot. 
One of my most memorable shots was during the last few yards on the very last drive of the last day of the season, when I fired my first shot of the day at a stonking hen, but it was enough to make my day! 

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Posted (edited)

Yes pressure from so many can't have helped at all.  A combination of things I think but a shocker of a season, 2 birds on the Xmas shoot!  Need a meeting but hopefully Poults and keeping up pressure on the Foxes will see a different season next time round.

Edited by Weihrauch17
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On our 300 odd acre shoot we rely pretty heavily on wild birds, I kept the feeders going up until June as there were quite a few birds around, but I reckon it was a poor year for breeding, and that combined with bad luck in the form of heavy rain on every one of our shoot dates thus far has made it a pretty poor season all round.

We hammered the magpies via Larsen traps from May to July, and I thought we were really getting on top of them, but there are still vast numbers around.

I also concur with the points made by Old Farrier, all of these factors have made things difficult.

Cat 😎

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Forget about foxes, magpies, dog walkers, loch ness monsters, bigfoots or whatever anyone else wants to blame.  It's all irrelevant.  None of the above will have a significant impact upon your returns.

When the weather is as mild as it has been this past autumn/winter, the birds don't have to rely on the food you put out.  Simple as that.  You can't dictate to them where they should be, therefore you just won't see as many come out of your drives.  They have simply gone meandering about, browsing for what they can find naturally, and have no urgent need to be near your feeders and pens.

However, further to that I feel that your stocking density related to the number of shoots is way out of balance.  

Firstly, stocking density has a massive influence on pheasants' behaviour.  You don't release anywhere near a high enough number of birds to make them rely on your feed.  I had my eyes opened to this a couple of years ago.  I had losses to disease of over 200 out of a pen of 650 which served three drives outside the wood.  At the end of August we were offered 900 birds at an almost give-away price, so in they went.  At season's end it was the best return on a pen I've ever had by a long, long way.  You couldn't get rid of the birds.  Even the morning after a shoot they were climbing over each other to get back into the covers and feed.  That's all down to competition for the food, so if you don't put enough birds down you won't get them "hooked" on your food supply.

Secondly, shooting pressure.  Going after them 10 times per season is never going to work with that few birds.  As you thin them out it becomes a game of diminishing returns.  Less birds going to your drives, less will follow, the more they just split up and go their own way.  You'd get better returns shooting them 5 times a season rather than 10.

To enjoy more success on the keeping side and better shooting throughout the season, whoever is in charge needs to get the paying guns to swallow a dose of reality and up their fees so you can put more birds down and cover the cost of feeding them.  Keep them on pellet for a bit longer and have a couple of tons of cracked maize to mix with your hand-fed wheat in order to hold them better. 

And if someone could convince my shoot captain of the things I've just advised, I'd be really appreciative as I struggle to get a roll of fence wire out of him most years!!!

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The shoot has put similar numbers down for the last 50 years and had consistent returns, I have been in for the last 22.  The shoot is large but there are other shoots all round and our releases are generally based over 2 areas.  Our main release area which is our bread and butter has for this year at least been devoid of birds. 

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On 02/01/2022 at 00:27, Weihrauch17 said:

Has anyone else found the mild weather has impacted their season?  I have been in my current syndicate for 22 years and it has been consistent up until the last 2 years.  Last year was lost to Covid and this year shocking.  We put down 650 and shoot 10 days at an average of 25 or so, this season we have probably shot 60 or so birds and 17 Foxes with NV in the last 6 weeks.  Shoot is 1700 acres. 

Absolutely horrific we only put down 300 in 3 pens but to all intents and purposes they have vanished from what should be the best site.   Mild weather like spring again today butr hope for a change before our next shoot on the 15th.

Blackpowder

 

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We are on course for 30% return this year from poults. I was aiming for 35% but the shooting (myself included) has been substandard, with lots of pricked birds. Worst case scenario as they are then neither in the bag nor on the ground at the next shoot. Our shoot suffers from: being high and exposed in the hills; not in the catchment of other shoots; not having a ‘keeper to dog in. However we just about make it work. On top of our 1/3rd return we also get lots of wild game, which makes it well worthwhile over the year.

We keep an eye on young-to-old returns. A lot of the birds we shoot at this point of the season are very old, some of the cocks have spurs like inch long shark’s teeth. I hypothesise that after the initial shot days spreading the birds there is such low density of birds a single older cock can dominate a feeder in the main woods, with young cocks pushed out to the peripheries or surrounding land. As the older cocks eventually get shot, cocks from further around the shoot get drawn in. 

Anyway, whilst I track all of the above it is not of the slightest importance to anyone else. As all the other guns say, it is the fact they enjoy the day that is important not putting in huge bags. Like Scully’s statement, by January it becomes somewhat of a nice walk in the country with some slow gin and good company. 

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11 hours ago, Jim Neal said:

Forget about foxes, magpies, dog walkers, loch ness monsters, bigfoots or whatever anyone else wants to blame.  It's all irrelevant.  None of the above will have a significant impact upon your returns.

When the weather is as mild as it has been this past autumn/winter, the birds don't have to rely on the food you put out.  Simple as that.  You can't dictate to them where they should be, therefore you just won't see as many come out of your drives.  They have simply gone meandering about, browsing for what they can find naturally, and have no urgent need to be near your feeders and pens.

However, further to that I feel that your stocking density related to the number of shoots is way out of balance.  

Firstly, stocking density has a massive influence on pheasants' behaviour.  You don't release anywhere near a high enough number of birds to make them rely on your feed.  I had my eyes opened to this a couple of years ago.  I had losses to disease of over 200 out of a pen of 650 which served three drives outside the wood.  At the end of August we were offered 900 birds at an almost give-away price, so in they went.  At season's end it was the best return on a pen I've ever had by a long, long way.  You couldn't get rid of the birds.  Even the morning after a shoot they were climbing over each other to get back into the covers and feed.  That's all down to competition for the food, so if you don't put enough birds down you won't get them "hooked" on your food supply.

Secondly, shooting pressure.  Going after them 10 times per season is never going to work with that few birds.  As you thin them out it becomes a game of diminishing returns.  Less birds going to your drives, less will follow, the more they just split up and go their own way.  You'd get better returns shooting them 5 times a season rather than 10.

To enjoy more success on the keeping side and better shooting throughout the season, whoever is in charge needs to get the paying guns to swallow a dose of reality and up their fees so you can put more birds down and cover the cost of feeding them.  Keep them on pellet for a bit longer and have a couple of tons of cracked maize to mix with your hand-fed wheat in order to hold them better. 

And if someone could convince my shoot captain of the things I've just advised, I'd be really appreciative as I struggle to get a roll of fence wire out of him most years!!!

This is the best reason for poor results and returns 

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12 hours ago, Jim Neal said:

Forget about foxes, magpies, dog walkers, loch ness monsters, bigfoots or whatever anyone else wants to blame.  It's all irrelevant.  None of the above will have a significant impact upon your returns.

When the weather is as mild as it has been this past autumn/winter, the birds don't have to rely on the food you put out.  Simple as that.  You can't dictate to them where they should be, therefore you just won't see as many come out of your drives.  They have simply gone meandering about, browsing for what they can find naturally, and have no urgent need to be near your feeders and pens.

However, further to that I feel that your stocking density related to the number of shoots is way out of balance.  

Firstly, stocking density has a massive influence on pheasants' behaviour.  You don't release anywhere near a high enough number of birds to make them rely on your feed.  I had my eyes opened to this a couple of years ago.  I had losses to disease of over 200 out of a pen of 650 which served three drives outside the wood.  At the end of August we were offered 900 birds at an almost give-away price, so in they went.  At season's end it was the best return on a pen I've ever had by a long, long way.  You couldn't get rid of the birds.  Even the morning after a shoot they were climbing over each other to get back into the covers and feed.  That's all down to competition for the food, so if you don't put enough birds down you won't get them "hooked" on your food supply.

Secondly, shooting pressure.  Going after them 10 times per season is never going to work with that few birds.  As you thin them out it becomes a game of diminishing returns.  Less birds going to your drives, less will follow, the more they just split up and go their own way.  You'd get better returns shooting them 5 times a season rather than 10.

To enjoy more success on the keeping side and better shooting throughout the season, whoever is in charge needs to get the paying guns to swallow a dose of reality and up their fees so you can put more birds down and cover the cost of feeding them.  Keep them on pellet for a bit longer and have a couple of tons of cracked maize to mix with your hand-fed wheat in order to hold them better. 

And if someone could convince my shoot captain of the things I've just advised, I'd be really appreciative as I struggle to get a roll of fence wire out of him most years!!!

That comment is factual, makes perfect sense to me and nicely finished with a sense of humour

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13 hours ago, Jim Neal said:

Forget about foxes, magpies, dog walkers, loch ness monsters, bigfoots or whatever anyone else wants to blame.  It's all irrelevant.  None of the above will have a significant impact upon your returns.

When the weather is as mild as it has been this past autumn/winter, the birds don't have to rely on the food you put out.  Simple as that.  You can't dictate to them where they should be, therefore you just won't see as many come out of your drives.  They have simply gone meandering about, browsing for what they can find naturally, and have no urgent need to be near your feeders and pens.

However, further to that I feel that your stocking density related to the number of shoots is way out of balance.  

Firstly, stocking density has a massive influence on pheasants' behaviour.  You don't release anywhere near a high enough number of birds to make them rely on your feed.  I had my eyes opened to this a couple of years ago.  I had losses to disease of over 200 out of a pen of 650 which served three drives outside the wood.  At the end of August we were offered 900 birds at an almost give-away price, so in they went.  At season's end it was the best return on a pen I've ever had by a long, long way.  You couldn't get rid of the birds.  Even the morning after a shoot they were climbing over each other to get back into the covers and feed.  That's all down to competition for the food, so if you don't put enough birds down you won't get them "hooked" on your food supply.

Secondly, shooting pressure.  Going after them 10 times per season is never going to work with that few birds.  As you thin them out it becomes a game of diminishing returns.  Less birds going to your drives, less will follow, the more they just split up and go their own way.  You'd get better returns shooting them 5 times a season rather than 10.

To enjoy more success on the keeping side and better shooting throughout the season, whoever is in charge needs to get the paying guns to swallow a dose of reality and up their fees so you can put more birds down and cover the cost of feeding them.  Keep them on pellet for a bit longer and have a couple of tons of cracked maize to mix with your hand-fed wheat in order to hold them better. 

And if someone could convince my shoot captain of the things I've just advised, I'd be really appreciative as I struggle to get a roll of fence wire out of him most years!!!

Good post. 

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17 hours ago, Jim Neal said:

Forget about foxes, magpies, dog walkers, loch ness monsters, bigfoots or whatever anyone else wants to blame.  It's all irrelevant.  None of the above will have a significant impact upon your returns.

When the weather is as mild as it has been this past autumn/winter, the birds don't have to rely on the food you put out.  Simple as that.  You can't dictate to them where they should be, therefore you just won't see as many come out of your drives.  They have simply gone meandering about, browsing for what they can find naturally, and have no urgent need to be near your feeders and pens.

However, further to that I feel that your stocking density related to the number of shoots is way out of balance.  

Firstly, stocking density has a massive influence on pheasants' behaviour.  You don't release anywhere near a high enough number of birds to make them rely on your feed.  I had my eyes opened to this a couple of years ago.  I had losses to disease of over 200 out of a pen of 650 which served three drives outside the wood.  At the end of August we were offered 900 birds at an almost give-away price, so in they went.  At season's end it was the best return on a pen I've ever had by a long, long way.  You couldn't get rid of the birds.  Even the morning after a shoot they were climbing over each other to get back into the covers and feed.  That's all down to competition for the food, so if you don't put enough birds down you won't get them "hooked" on your food supply.

Secondly, shooting pressure.  Going after them 10 times per season is never going to work with that few birds.  As you thin them out it becomes a game of diminishing returns.  Less birds going to your drives, less will follow, the more they just split up and go their own way.  You'd get better returns shooting them 5 times a season rather than 10.

To enjoy more success on the keeping side and better shooting throughout the season, whoever is in charge needs to get the paying guns to swallow a dose of reality and up their fees so you can put more birds down and cover the cost of feeding them.  Keep them on pellet for a bit longer and have a couple of tons of cracked maize to mix with your hand-fed wheat in order to hold them better. 

And if someone could convince my shoot captain of the things I've just advised, I'd be really appreciative as I struggle to get a roll of fence wire out of him most years!!!

@Jim Neal, a great insight, enjoyed reading your post, thanks

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Good post Jim Neal.

If I wanted to I could ask three or four guns to have a mini driven day on one of my farms which is nowhere near another shoot which puts birds down. 

There is plenty of food for pheasants as there are lots of stubbles and I have no doubt that we could easily shoot a bag of between 30 and 40.

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13 minutes ago, JDog said:

Good post Jim Neal.

If I wanted to I could ask three or four guns to have a mini driven day on one of my farms which is nowhere near another shoot which puts birds down. 

There is plenty of food for pheasants as there are lots of stubbles and I have no doubt that we could easily shoot a bag of between 30 and 40.

Welcome to Lincolnshire folks!

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Must have been forty in the farmyard I was in this afrernoon, scavenging what they could find on the muck heap and the maize silage. The odd one found out that my squirell feeders also has nice tasty food. One hen bird I know of which has learned to lift the lid.

Been one of those mild winters we do occasionally have. Due for a hard winter soon.   '47   '62-63   '72   '81? 82?  etc in around ten year periods and I remember them all.

1947  the milk wagon could not collect our milk for five days until the bulldozers had cleared the 6ft drifts.  The milk was stored in those drifts in 12 gallon churns and in perfectly good order.

PANIC !!!  Warmest New Years Day on record by an amazing one degree.  Well I never.

Edited by Walker570
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