Advanced Decoying Part 3.
Rise of The Silk Moths.
Blimey where has the summer gone? Here we are moving into the wildfowling season and indeed the game season, I am also very busy with my deer herd management too, the summer pigeon shooting is starting to fade into memory now, here in my latest scribbles about this summer’s crop protection against the grey hordes attacking the crops and the methods and equipment I have been using, you’re not only getting just one article but two, so as always you’re getting value for money as it were and a life time’s experience from the field.
We start off in this one on a very difficult one indeed, this farm is located right on the edge of a town, the shooting angles are very limited here, also because of its location/footpaths/close to an urban population and topography of the land the gun of choice is the Air Rifle, you see the shot gun is not always the best gun of choice, mainly due to the obtrusive bang it makes, safety is never the issue for in Britain we are proud of our firearms safety as we all have very strict rules, but safety none the less is a problem on this farm as people just walk out where they are not supposed to be, that coupled with a vast amount of anti-shooting people living around the area makes it a problem, so the quiet pin point accuracy of an air rifle really is the tool for the job, even though you would not be breaking any law using a shot gun, prudence dictates to me the Air Rifle is my first choice.
Now to be a successful pigeon shooter time and time again with an air rifle comes down to mastering your field craft and marksmanship properties, this is why I call this advanced decoying, we will get to how I outsmart the Corvid’s (crow family) later in the article, quite simply getting pigeons to come into decoys is not the hardest thing if using a shot gun, but to get them to land time and time again and stand for a shot is extremely difficult, I hear many of you laughing and saying I do it all the time, maybe you do get pigeons to land in your decoys occasionally but are you using an air rifle or are you leisurely shooting with a shot gun, with a shotgun people get complacent as pigeons especially juvenile ones in summer are easily fooled.
Many people also rely on the latest gadgets and not field craft, I have said this time and time again, to be a good pigeon shooter or hunter it takes knowledge and time learned field craft, the gadgets help and have their place, but without field craft you just get lucky, I have also said the most essential piece of equipment of any hunter is a good pair of binoculars, reconnaissance and building up a picture of where the pigeons want to be is the key to a good days shooting.
Field Craft, where is the sun? You don’t want it in your face all day, the wind direction locality of drinking water, tree lines/woodland/copses, flight lines, sitty tree or pylon wires etc, natural cover to put your hide, the birds will tell you if you are in the right spot, you can be wrong I am often wrong and have to move.
Decoy patterns maybe wrong the wind may change the birds may decide to feed elsewhere, don’t just sit there like a dummy if the birds are not playing ball find out why, are they seeing you in the hide is the sun silhouetting you are the decoys on their backs, get out the hide and see what’s putting them off work it out, this is a DIY day that YOU are the Captain of, do you need to flag fields off or build a scare crow. sometimes the birds no matter what you do won’t play ball it’s that simple, that’s what makes pigeon shooting a real challenge for me in its untamed rawness and to do it consistently with an air rifle you really have to master your craft.
I will tell you of a few outings this summer protecting the crops in very difficult to shoot situations, especially on the farm I have already mentioned, blimey there are so many outings to choose from as I am a professional pest controller, I specialize in agricultural pest control and crop protection with over 25.000 acres professionally on my books, although I have as many domestic and commercial customers too.
I think I will tell you of the times I am out coaching and inspiring my Young Sports Ambassadors, I know you guys like to know how the kids are doing as it revives a lot of your own memories shooting with your Fathers/Uncles/Family Friends or the old game keeper from the village, I know it brings back so many memories for me as a you Countryman in the making, also reading articles from my child hood hero’s like Fred J Taylor (The Rabbiting Man) John Humphreys (Country Gun) or The Major Archie Coats (The Pigeon Shooter) that’s where I came from as many of you have, I bet you are there like I am now writing this looking off into the clouds of a distant past with a smile on your face remembering your childhood hunting memories.
Right let’s get on with this article, this year I am trying out all new kit, I have hides from Jack Pyke/Riverside Out Doors, Floaters from Jack Pyke and Cammo Clothing, Decoys from Enforcer Decoys, The Air Rifles I am using are the simply awesome Air Arms S510 Ultimate Sorter’s, I have nick named them the Silk Moths for they are like shooting pure silk, pin point accurate with a mighty deadly punch, using Air Arms Field Diablo pellets, I have yet to find an Air Rifle Combo of gun and pellet to beat these British Made outstanding engineering awesomeness, in fact everything else comes in way back in 3rd place in my books for the only thing close enough to come near and Air Arms in 2nd place would be an Air Arms again.
I was called in by the farmer who was almost in tears, the crop was devastated with weeks of high winds and rain right on when the barley should have been harvested he lost the crop, with the prospect of winter on the way and no feed for his cattle he quickly direct drilled stubble turnips in to the barley stubble, the Corvid’s (crow family) came straight in and started ripping the seed out of the ground and the pigeons came in behind them and was hoovering it up, a dreadful sight to see a man almost in tears, this 5 acre field as I had said before had 4 houses at the bottom of the field all of them totally anti shooting people.
They normally run out in their gardens banging saucepans etc trying to scare the birds away when I shoot there, what they don’t realize is they are actually doing me a favor by keeping the birds off that end of the field where I can’t shoot them, but shhhhhh keep it between us we don’t want to ruin their fun now do we, there is a main road at the top of the field too, so the shooting angles are very restricted here, I have shot this field many times with a shotgun for 20 years and always had great success, there are no public foot paths on this field so that’s one blessing, I chose to use the air rifle here for many reasons but the main one was another shooter had hit it hard with a shotgun previously when it was standing crop, so fire one obtrusive bang and all the birds went to feed at the house end of the field not returning.
I also had to deal with Corvid’s (crow family) now that was going to make this job a thousand times harder, the camouflage had to 101% perfect as well as the field craft and the marksmanship, I set Niall my right hand man a task take Young Sport Ambassadors Carter and Oliver down the bottom end by the sitty trees keep the birds of that end at all costs, I tucked into the standing maize crop at the top end on a good flight line, I had done my reconnaissance of the field the day before and knew this was a very strong flight line plus with 20 years of experience shooting the field I knew this was just the spot for an Air Rifle shoot.
Niall and the boys in position let’s get cracking, indeed the boys had a lot of fun keeping the birds off that end of the field as they tried to learn how to decoy them, all a learning curve a passage of discovery for the boys, I put my Star shaped pigeon pattern out using Enforcer full bodied decoys, this consists of only 4 decoys set in the shape of a long tailed star, I learnt this pattern from the pigeons themselves with the tip of the star no further than 30 yards away, my good friend Matt Manning asked me about this at the Midland Game Fair this year on my stand, I think he is going to use it and write about how it works in some of his articles, I also placed out 1 single crow decoy 25 yards off to the right of the pigeon pattern, part to be a confidence decoy and part to see if I could build a bag of Corvid’s up as both were feeding together and destroying the crop.
I got back in the maize and immersed myself and became one with nature, young Tess the springer spaniel stayed at my side, within a minute the first wood pigeon landed right in the kill zone, I took a breath exhaled and squeezed the trigger off, whisper quiet the pellet left the gun and a distinct thump as the pigeon dropped to my shot with a few flaps, no obtrusive noise of a shot gun and I barely had time to cock the gun as another landed next to his dead mate, this continued on for about an hour until I had around 20 dead pigeons on the ground.
When the birds told me I had to go and tidy up the pattern, that was just the pigeons, the Corvid’s did the same in that hour and I accounted for a good dozen of them too, I went out to tidy up the pattern and clear my kill zones for another session, of Course Tess wanted to help too and said I had put the birds in the wrong spots so moved them all for me, ahhhhh a young dog she was just trying to help even when I growled at her to leave them alone, she just stuck her nose in the air and went back to the hide as if to say sod you then you can get it wrong all by yourself, the little bugger also ate my cheese sandwich that was sitting on top my shooting bag, my own fault I should have put it back in my lunch bag.
Back in the hide the action started again for the couple of hours or so until it was time to pack up, I think the picture says it all as the Young Sports helped me pack up, remember we just started with 4 full bodied decoys and 1 crow decoy using a natural hide and air rifle.
The next shoot was totally not planned, no reconnaissance I was not going to this job to do crop protection, I was there to clear feral pigeons and rats from a grain mill, I was going along quite nicely and dealt with the job so went to the farmhouse back door to drop my invoice off, Farmer came out ER Boy I have a problem on the middle ground can you go out and move some pigeons off some crop, well yes of course but I had no gear with me today well apart from my air rifle that is, this one I normally do with a shot gun as its way out in the middle of nowhere, I have let George from the farm next door plant some stubble turnips in as his wheat crop is still standing and is buggered should have been harvested 3 weeks ago, bloody pigeons are playing havoc on it, luckily I had 4 of the Enforcer full bodied decoys in the truck as I had forgotten to put them back in the bag from the other shoot.
I told farmer I only had just over an hour as I had to be at another job but I would return with a full set up including shot guns the following day, again I have been dealing with this farm for the best part of 20 years, I took a guess that the lone Ash tree was a good place to have a go, I set out my 4 bird decoy pattern and sat back against the tree no hide just a face veil and gloves on this Jack Pyke Camo is brilliant I telle, the pigeons were like bees round a honey pot landing in the tree above me then dropping down to the decoys or just landing straight in, by the time I stood up and had to leave I had the best part of 20 fresh shot wood pigeons on the ground, I returned the very next day with the Jack Pyke/Enforcer Decoys gear and shot a further 400+ with a shot gun, but the size of the bag is not what matters it’s the being there and protecting the crops and putting your field craft to the ultimate test that’s what matters not the size of the bag, also complying with the necessary GL Licences etc I strongly urge you all to read the GL licences and carry the necessary ones with you as I do.
Also have you got your gun ice cards? What’s that I hear you say? They are Gun In Case Of Emergency cards, they are devolved especially for us country folk, now I know you will say you got it on your phone etc, but what if your phone is in your truck 3 miles away or its flat or locked etc, is it worth it for the couple of quid it costs for these cards not to have it, as they say always carry never use, I have a card in ever shooting coat the truck and in my wallet just in case, I already know this simple card has saved several lives, so don’t be a tight arse for this card can save your life, go on to their website www.gun-ice.co.uk
The last shoot was with my ole Air Arms S410 my own rifle not one on test from Air Arms, I have been using Air Arms since 1989 and that was an Air Arms Camargue and I have not looked at another air rifle brand to keep as my own since although I have tested a great many for the magazines etc.
I was called out to a rat job in a piggery yard, again a very old client of mine, I set all the traps in place and even shot a few rats, when the Farmer next door came in to see my Farmer Client, I was introduced and said and well a long story short he is now also my client, I had to look at a standing wheat crop, he had managed to get the barley in but not the wheat before the weather turned, I could not use a shot gun as the fields were surrounded by horses, I gave it a go on a flight line into the wheat field under an old oak tree on the barley stubble, again no hide half a dozen Jack Pyke flock coated shell decoys a face veil gloves and my old Air Arms S410, I telle that little gun in my hands is a laser nail driver, again knowledge and a little recce told me that lone oak tree was not only a flight line but also a sitty tree, I think that photo says it all really not bad for 3 hours eh.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have remembering this and many child hood memories of a countryman of the old school. Remember all the gear in the world will do you no good consistently if you don’t master your craft and learn proper old school field craft, if you don’t you won’t be consistent you will just get lucky from time to time, read/carry and understand the GL licences, always the leave the countryside how you find it in fact always leave it better than you find it, take all your rubbish home and leave nothing but footprints behind, Always have a home for your shot game do not leave it behind saying it’s for the foxes, it’s totally immoral to treat your game this way and brings each one of us into a bad light, remember each and every one of YOU is an ambassador for Country Sports where Conservation should be at your core beliefs, until the next time may I wish you all dry powder and straight barrels.
By the Ole Hedge Creeper