Could a once-in-a-lifetime day’s shooting have been influenced by the creativity of Syd Barrett? By Will Garfit.

There are two difficulties for me in writing this story. Firstly, while readers love tales of everything going wrong, this happens to be an unashamed success. Secondly, while it is immodest to write about one’s own performance, this was so extreme that, like an out-of-body experience, it was not me but someone in my dreams shooting in my hide on the day in question.

Babbling with excitement

In late October my pigeon shooting colleague A.C. had arrived early to check if there were pigeons on two large barley stubbles near to him. A phone call at 8.30am had him babbling with excitement about a lot of birds and asking how soon I could get there. I hurriedly loaded the pigeon kit into the car and drove along country lanes to arrive an hour later. The situation consisted of two large fields either side of a main road. A.C. suggested I should shoot the larger one to the south, which was about 100 acres in size, while he would set up on one of about 60 acres to the north. There was a westerly breeze and birds would be expected to arrive on lines from the suburbs to the east. Having made our plan, A.C. set off in a cloud of dust to build his hide.

Sat for an hour watching

I needed to be patient and watch my enormous field to see where the flight lines might develop and identify the area in which the birds would choose to feed. I sat there for an hour watching, but hardly a bird crossed the field. By then A.C. was having a few shots and soon came on the radio to enquire where I had set up. When I told him I was still watching, he said sarcastically: “Are we shooting today or tomorrow”?

My response was that when I saw birds move I would hopefully set up in the right place for two hours rather than in the wrong one for four.

At last birds started to come on a line diagonally towards the road while others came on the same line from the opposite direction. It was time to jump into action with fl ags and rope bangers to keep pigeons off other areas of the field. I made my hide 150 yards out from the road, angled to shoot away from the highway, and left my car 300 yards away in the middle of the field. I was soon in action on absolutely the right line for birds passing either way and they decoyed well. A.C.’s shots could be heard from the other side of the road.

Then things really started to happen, with pigeons confidently dropping in from all angles and making many chances of doubles. Things were going very well and every pigeon was flying into the shot. Unbelievably 50 were recorded on my clicker after the first two boxes of 28gram 7½ shot cartridges. To go straight without a miss from one box was occasionally lucky but two boxes was a one-off. Then birds arrived in flurries and I was up to 100 with only four misses.

Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett

At the Syd Barrett memorial concert

Somehow my focus and reactions were at a heightened level that day. Having been out the previous evening to my old art school friend Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd memorial concert, I wondered if some drug that had fuelled his creativity had leaked from his music and into my shooting? Euphoria continued at a steady 24 per box of cartridges, and then two dropped dead for one shot as luck continued. Sport was fast and furious but eased at about 2.30pm. By the time we finished half an hour later my tally was 207 with 10 misses, but having twice shot another two with one shot, the arithmetic meant a total of 214 shots. This was not me but someone I would love to be… yet it happened. That focus and intensity stayed with me all day, taking on all-comers with consistent rights and lefts at birds wide, high or jinking over the decoys. Never will it happen again but I hope you too will have one day of a lifetime like that.