By The Ole Hedge Creeper
I keep getting asked to write some technical articles about rifles ammo and ballistics etc, but quite simply that’s not my bag at all, it’s not because I can’t write them it’s quite simply I get bored to tears writing them, when Greg said err mucker how about you write an article about the 17 HMR and get a bit technical with it I said nope not on your nelly as I would get bored not finish it and well just bugger off out shooting.
I decided I would write one about the 17 HMR but in my usual train of thought whilst out actually doing the job and using it, well it all started off when farmer called me and said the weather has held the harvest back and they can’t get up on the hill ground to finish the spring barley harvest, that coupled with combine harvester trouble has really held them back.
Now being the very last seed crop in the area and the fact that the rain and the wind had flattened it the pigeons and corvids were playing havoc with it, I have been so busy with the many other farms (14,000 acres) I look after this small crop of no more than 30 acres had slipped under my radar, when farmer requested my services saying his crop had turned blue I jumped straight into action.
Now many of you know I am a champion of the young sports and indeed head up Pass It On Young Sports, this was also the perfect time to get two of my young sports out in the hides etc and get their eye in with the shot guns, young sport David with the 20 bore little Jen, I tell you that boy is a surgeon with that little gun and for a left hander shoots brilliantly and naturally too, young sport Jake many of you will know as my little protégé he loves it all from ferreting to shooting from air rifles to fishing, the boy is a pure natural no matter what field sport he takes part in.
We head of to the crop fields armed with the shot guns, I let the young sports take it in tunes to shoot, they did an initial recce and decided on the flight lines etc and were to put the hide and set the decoys out, the birds decoyed like a dream and young sport David took first blood with a cracking right to left crosser, followed by Jake as the next set of birds dropped in with a cracking right and left like a well-oiled machine with ole Serge’s (god rest his soal) Berretta A301 semi, the boys did well for a couple of hours as an initial show our faces shoot.
I went back a couple of days later with young sport Jake, David could not make it due to he had a gym competition, Jake again studied the fields, looking for the flight lines the wind etc, he chose were to put the hide how to set the decoys out etc, I sat with the dog in the back of the hide and just supervised, almost immediately the pigeons started dropping into Jakes decoys from the wood we were tucked under in our hide, Jake did exactly what I taught him give the birds chance to commit, this is where many a novice will make the mistake and fire too early, the birds dropped in right over us from the wood over flew the decoys turned back in on the wind to decoy right into the kill zone.
Jake did exactly what I taught him right down to the letter, it was like watching an old pro shoot as the dog and I sat there all wide eyed as each bird dropped in to the decoy pattern, bang then a puffs of feathers after each bird fell the bag began to grow as he took a jack daw in fine style, even a squirrel made the mistake of coming out on a branch Jake bagged that too, well Jake had fired his 2 boxes of cartridge’s and had accounted for a fair few birds, for a young man who has only been shooting for a year he shoots remarkably well.
The dog and I cleared up the shot birds and the squirrel whilst Jake packed the hide up and collected the decoys in, we picked up 15 pigeons 1 jack daw and a squirrel, there were other heavy hit birds that fell in the wood but alas the vegetation was so thick neither I or the dog could get to them so the foxes and badgers will eat well this night I thought, Jake was over the moon and was smiling like a Cheshire cat, and so he should be he shot very well, farmer pulled up to check the crop as he was going to cut it the very next day, I don’t think he could have been more happy, he also took some pigeons for the pot so a good day all round.
Indeed the they did cut the crop the very next day and both myself and the young sports David and Jake joined me bolt shooting rabbits and pigeons etc from in front of the combine harvester, we did have a wonderful day and put a fair few in the bag much to the cheers of the farmer and his farm hands, farmer asked me to keep an eye on the stubbles as he wanted to drill pretty much straight away some crop or another as a bit of an experiment, I don’t know what it was I simply can’t remember what crop he said, but my job was to put the birds off and keep them off.
I did this with the shotgun to start with but soon became bored shooting large bags of pigeons over the decoys, no not bored but sort of lacked a challenge for me, I scratched my head and thought what shall I do next, I thought I know use a 4,10 shot gun really challenge myself whilst still keeping the birds off the stubble, but no I found this quite easy too as I was only shooting out to 30 yards.
HMMMMM I know let’s use the 17HMR and take the birds at 200 yards and to make it more of a challenge and not use decoys and shoot from the truck not from a hide, yes that’s the sort of challenge I was looking for, you see I am not really a fan of the 17HMR I much prefer a 22 rim fire, quieter the rounds are cheaper and I like to test my stalking skills so you have to get much closer, the 17 also does not like the wind much so this I thought would be the challenge as the wind whips through that valley on the hill like a wind tunnel.
I pulled on to the first of the 3 fields the odd pigeon here and there nothing to write home about, farmer also said I should shoot with a magnum with that little pee shooter so I went and got a mint magnum and munched that, not sure if that’s what he meant but it did freshen me up with a minty fresh flavour.
I shot a pigeon and a rabbit but not much showed itself on the field so I moved to the next field, about the same there not much about apart from the odd pigeon here and there, I thought well let’s take a look at the small field on the valley if there was nothing on that one I would call it a day as the weather looked like it was going to rain and I had some fresh meat for the ferrets.
Bowl me over sideways this little 3 acre field was blue with pigeons, I could see the flight line was from an old Ash tree in the centre of the hedge, so that was going to be my shooting point, I drove in and the sky turned blue with pigeons going in all directions, I reversed the truck under the tree and as far into the hedge as I could, like I said I was going to shoot from the truck and test my skills out to 200 yards and also limit myself to 30 yard square of where I shoot the first pigeon, the first bird dropped in at around that distance and that’s where I bagged him, that was the start of the decoy pattern.
For the next couple of hours bird after bird dropped in, if I was using a shotgun from a hide I could of shot a red letter day, the best I had was 30 birds on the ground feeding all at the same time as flock after flock circled my position, I shot each bird in turn taking my time choosing my targets, I shot 25 pigeons for 25 shots, I had to go and pick one up from the wood as for some reason it got up after I shot it that amazed me that did.
All in all a great day but my verdict is still out on the 17HMR as I am still a 22 rim fire fan but the 17HMR is growing on me slowly, I just wish it was more quiet and the rounds were cheaper, please keep the letters and emails coming in Greg and I try to get back to you all, until the my next offering of scribble’s and rambling’s may I wish you all a proper job muckers.
I also had the old masters out on another farm and by that I mean my Old Dad and Uncle Dave, those that have read my books will know of these pair of sly old foxes who have the eyes of hawks the ears of bats and the nose of blood hounds, they are masters when it comes to pigeon shooting in fact any field sport for that matter, I could hear their bangs from further down the valley from my truck, they bagged up with a red letter day themselves.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper
Aka Rob Collins