The season is in full swing. As weather gets colder or wetter, there could be times when farmers or keepers need a hand. Just offering to help shows willing, says Tom Payne
Permission to shoot pigeons is not easy to obtain and it can take time getting to know people before it is granted. Farmers must have complete confidence in the person asking for permission, and as a pigeon shooter you must not let them down. When I’m driving around the countryside I am always on the lookout for pigeons. This isn’t because I am always looking for ground to shoot, it is mainly because I am studying the bird and its behaviour, but this is how finding and getting permission for pigeon shooting will normally start.
- Winter is the best time to gain permission, especially in a year where pigeons are hitting winter rape hard. Farmers do not want their crop getting destroyed and in most cases will welcome a pigeon shooter if they approach the situation respectfully and carefully.
- Once you have found ground that you feel would benefit from the pigeons being shot, you will have to track down the farmer. I try to find out the name of the farm and farmer first. This does not mean driving into every farmyard and annoying the local farming community — a local pub, post office or shop will usually be able to help, and do be discreet. Once you have the name of the farmer and farm and location, you can then make your approach.
- Farmers are busy people and do not like being interrupted. Do not turn up at lunchtime or late in the evening and definitely not on a Sunday. I tend to do late mornings and will assess the situation to make sure it is a suitable time. Through your recon to find pigeons you must try to be clear about the location and make sure you get the crop right — it looks unprofessional if you get it wrong. This sort of mistake will not instil confidence in your experience nor ability.
- If you manage to obtain a phone number don’t just call on the off chance. A visit is always best.
- During your visits, find out the farmer’s plan of attack for the year ahead. I cover a lot of ground and it is important to stay on top of any pigeon problem that a farmer may have. The only way to do this is to know what is going on, when and where. Constantly driving around can get expensive and is not an effective use of your time.
- Communication with farmers is key, but this doesn’t mean pestering them on a daily basis. I will meet farmers now to speak with them about their spring drilling plans.
- Maps are vital and if you know the areas that are red-lined for drilling, and what is going in and roughly when, weather permitting, you can keep an eye on exactly what is going on. This makes reconnaissance easier and no opportunity is missed. I try to speak with farmers or gamekeepers over the phone or make a quick visit once every couple of weeks.
- I enjoy winter shooting because there is lots of variety of crop and food if you keep your eyes open. Pigeons feeding will be governed by the weather, and most importantly the night-time temperatures.
- Do not turn up on the day expecting to get out and shoot straight away.
- It is not polite to turn up with all your kit, covered head to toe in camouflage, looking like you are about to make a military raid on the farm. When making your visit dress smartly. You will be far more approachable and far less assuming. Being professional is key and first impressions count.
- When asking for permission to shoot be confident and clear. Explain exactly who you are and where you are from. If you have permission elsewhere in the area it may be of benefit, as most local farmers will know each other. A reference from other farmers whom you have permission from can also help.
- Explain exactly where you have seen the pigeon problem. There is every chance that the farmer will be fully aware of them.
- The decision that the farmer now makes must be fully respected. If he says no, politely ask if you could leave your details in case of any future problems and thank him for his time.
- Try to use the quiet times productively. You may not be pigeon shooting but it is always good to be ready, whether that is getting on top of your recon, permission, planning or kit.