Monday 1 November 2010

526 cartridges, 477 pigeons

Last week I was out again with ace pigeonshooter Andy Crow. As luck would have it, the weather was superb, and he had picked a great spot - a field of soya bean stubble with plenty of food laying on the ground. The birds piled in all day long, and by the end of the day the tally was an astonishing 477 birds for 526 cartridges - Andy's biggest day ever by a margin of 73. That kills-to-cartridges ratio is phenomenal, especially at pigeons, where every bird is different.

Those numbers may sound excessive, but you have to remember that this isn't sport, it's pest control - every one of those birds is pulling the farmers' seed out of the ground, day in day out (see photo below). Control is vital to prevent serious crop losses.

More on Andy and his techniques in forthcoming issues of the magazine.


Gary Thompson said...

That's magnificent! No need to apologize for the virtues of shooting pigeons. They're rats with wings and supremely damaging to the agricultural industry. Sign me up for an exterminators permit!

agrispack said...

While I am envious of the shooting you had, I must correct you on a couple of points. Firstly, soya beans are not grown in the UK. Secondly, pigeons gleaning spilt seed are doing no harm; in fact they are providing a valuable service to the farmer by reducing the incidence of weed beans in the following (winter wheat) crop. Thirdly, pigeons, unlike rooks for example, do not "dig seed out of the ground". Fourthly, the seed shown in the pigeon's crop in the picture is gleaned wheat seed, not beans, and we know it is gleaned rather than sown due to the lack of seed dressing (normally pink). Again, this pigeon was doing no harm. Pigeons are certainly NOT "rats with wings" as another ill-informed contributor put it. Unlike the grey rat, they were here before us and do not spread disease or affect other species.
While I am not knocking pigeon shooting, and enjoy the sport myself, it is important that we get our facts straight to protect our sport in the face of mounting, well informed, political and public opposition to field sports. We must not be seen to be unduly and unfairly prejudiced against this magnificent quarry. And let's keep the pest argument in context. God knows humankind is the planet's greatest scourge of all and is inexorably wiping out millions of species wholesale, worldwide, long before many of them have even been discovered.

James Marchington said...

@agrispack, the pigeons are in the area in huge numbers, and are pulling up recently sown wheat - as shown by the crop of the bird in the picture, full of wheat seed which has begun to chit (not gleaned, but picked out of a newly sown crop 2 fields away). All the birds we opened up had similar quantities of wheat in their crops - you don't 'glean' those sort of quantities, certainly not after the harvested fields have been ploughed in. As the winter goes on, those same pigeons will move on to the oilseed rape crops and do further damage. The bean stubble (I think you're probably right, and those are 'field' beans) provided the best opportunity on the day to decoy those birds and kill the sort of numbers that will make a difference to crop damage over the coming weeks. I'm not denying it was a great day's shooting, but the primary purpose was crop protection - it was not some weak excuse for a day's sport. Personally I'm not keen on disparaging any bird or animal, eg rats, for being what they are - they should all be treated with respect.

agrispack said...

Yes you are dead right, where pigeons are present in big numbers, any opportunity to get them down should be taken. I understand that pigeon numbers have increased over the years, doubtless due to milder winters and the huge increase in winter sown rape since its introduction in the late 1970's. I stand corrected on the wheat damage you carefully observed - maybe it was not all drilled deep enough, probably deliberately, if it was late sown - in which case the pigeons definitely needed sorting! Whereabouts in the country are you by the way? What are you getting for your birds? I hear £1 is possible!

Oh and I meant brown rat, not grey - I've obviously seen too many grey squirrels lately!!

James Marchington said...

Yes, I guessed you must be thinking of squirrels! Andy's the farmer, not me, so I'm sure he could answer your questions better. This field is just south of the M25, near the Kent/Surrey border, and the pigeon numbers are building up fast. Andy did comment to me that modern seed drills do a much neater job, but uneven soils and turning at headlands etc leaves some areas vulnerable. Not sure what the game dealers are paying just now - perhaps someone on here can enlighten us - but I hear the best approach is to sell direct to fancy restaurants etc if you can.