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Eddie Jones makes the most of a short, un-planned pigeon & corvid hunt, armed with his Ultimate Sporter air rifle & a bucket load of luck
Most of my hunting trips are pre-planned, but occasionally, I will just pick up a rifle and head off to any permission ground that I fancy. This trip was exactly that, I was sitting at home mentally listing all the jobs I still had to do to the house, and then thought ‘it can wait’. I was sick of looking at paint brushes, skirting boards and the list I had made to finish off the house. I had nipped up into the office and looked at the Ultimate Sporter, the rifle had made the decision easy and I was soon heading off down the road. The farm I was visiting has been good for me in the past and I have had some good shooting around the buildings. There are usually good numbers of jackdaws and magpies that frequent the cowsheds, flighting in and out all day, stealing whatever food they can get, then leaving just as quickly.
It was around two o’clock when I arrived at the farm. Usually, there is no one about, but the farmer’s daughter was there mucking out her horses. This causes problems with the jackdaws and magpies because they will be quite happy sitting around 100 yards away just waiting for you to leave, so I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t got the place to myself, but all was not lost.
As I drove to the bottom of the yard, I noticed about a dozen pigeons take flight. They had been feeding under an oak tree, quite a way from where she was mucking out, so they could feed undisturbed. Luckily for me, I had a few decoys in the van – I tend to keep them in there now because so many times I have had mediocre days that could have been better if I’d had decoys to start with.
I took a couple of decoys over to where the pigeons had been feeding and set them close together because I wanted them to look like a breeding pair. This has two advantages; the area they were feeding on was only small, so I wanted to leave room for others to land straight away, rather than circling around or landing high in the tree. Also, I feel putting out a pair encourages bachelors that might want to try their luck at stealing the female. It is a ploy that has worked well over the years, when the numbers are low. I didn’t want the pigeons to land in the tree because 50 yards over the bank is a footpath, and if I missed, I didn’t want to risk any pellets going over the bank and causing harm or stress to the public.
So, decoys out, all I had to do was wait. I had tucked into some cover 35 yards away. I would have loved being closer, but I couldn’t see my decoys through all the undergrowth. I knew the hold over with the Hawke Vantage was a half mil dot, so I would have no problems at this range.
Well, it was a long 40 minutes before I saw any activity. I watched a pigeon come down the tree line, and it was heading straight for me. I had already raised the Ultimate Sporter to my shoulder, to minimise any movement when I landed. No matter how hidden you are, or covered, there is always one that sees you. The pigeon came right to the tree as I had hoped, but unfortunately, it landed in the tree. From where I was, I could have taken the shot because I still had about a foot of bank for a backstop, but you never know, do you?
I decided to leave the pigeon as a decoy and wait for another. It was a good call; I had two more come flying in with no hesitation at all and I had the rifle locked on in a second. The pigeon I was on was a little hard to see clearly because there were nettles in my way, but I watched it bobbing its head up and down for a couple of minutes and finally got my chance. It had walked right between my decoys; it must have wondered what was going on because it was just staring at one of them. I placed the AA Field right between its shoulders and the pigeon lay flat on its chest. The other two took flight at the sound of the pellet strike so I sat patiently once more. I waited another half an hour with no sign of pigeons returning, so I might have disturbed them just as they filled their crop – who knows? They were certainly in no mood to come back.
I decided to head back toward the cattle shed because the farmer’s daughter had said she was leaving soon, to set up a couple of decoys in the shed. I set up a crow and magpie decoy in view from the back of the shed – I’d noticed previously, that this is their preferred entry point. Whilst I was waiting for her to leave, I took a walk around some smaller sheds to see what was about. I can creep around and look into the paddocks without being seen. I had no luck for a while until I saw a pigeon through the shed in another paddock.
This was a little trickier to get to because if I went through the shed, I would get barked at by the dogs and it would no doubt scare the pigeon away. The only option was to try to creep along some gorse bushes that ran round the sheds. By taking my time and keeping low, I managed to get within range. It was a slow sluggish stalk, but it had my heart pumping. I miss this kind of shooting, using all the skills that I have learned over the years and putting it all into practice.
I was now trying to get high enough to see the pigeon through a small gorse bush in front of me and there were small gaps through which I could thread the pellet. I was watching the pigeon for ages, my arms were dropping off, and then finally, I got my chance. Something must have startled it because it stood still with neck stretched. Immediately, I took the shot, the pellet stuck its neck and the pigeon was down.
My last chance of the session came not long after. I had seen a couple of jackdaws drop in the cowshed. Usually, I sit up in the shade because it is hard to stalk these at all – you will always get seen by one of them. This time, I waited outside for them to come back out. They always fly to an old phone pole just outside the shed, and I was ready. Within a minute of me getting to the spot, out they came and I was resting on the wall for a nice steady shot.
On cue, one of the jackdaws landed exactly where I’d hoped, and it was down. It didn’t have a chance to see me – it was a quick heart/lung shot that dropped it like a stone. That was it, my time here had come to an end, and as I headed back to my decoys, I reflected on that perfect stalk. It is so satisfying when everything goes right, and this is why I hunt. I still get the buzz I had all those years ago when I first started. If you ever look at your rifle and think, ‘shall I just pop out for an hour or two?’ go for it. Life is too short and every opportunity is priceless.
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