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“You should’ve been here yesterday!”

Seeing as there have been a few rare days of sunshine recently, I thought that I would venture out pigeon shooting on my local estate. Reports of bulging bags filled me with anticipation and I could not wait to get out onto the stubble.

My lamping friend Nathan and the gamekeeper’s 12-year old son Jamie (or ‘Flash’ as he is known locally), were my fellow guns for the day. We meticulously set up two-dozen decoys, a ‘whirler’ and two hides behind bales of freshly cut straw.

A pigeon on the whirler

Earlier this week, Nathan described to me how he had shot nearly 200 pigeon in approximately 5 hours. Apparently the day had been non-stop and exhilarating. Now this is the kind of shooting I like, so many times before I have been out and not seen anything, but Nathan’s reassuring tone filled me with confidence. I had a picture in my mind’s eye of a neat square of woodies in the bag at the end of a successful day.

Nathan sets up the whirler

With ease, Nathan shot two woodies and put them on the whirler to act as further decoys. Once inside our snug hide, we patiently waited for twenty minutes before any birds came over us. The chaps kindly allowed me the first few shots, but the birds were not fooled, and kept changing direction making it impossible to bring them down. About half an hour later, Flash shot a couple of prime specimens which lifted the mood somewhat. I then downed a couple more before we cracked open the pork pies and sausage rolls. Evidently, the pigeons were not playing ball today as this was certainly not ‘fast and furious’. But we stayed hopeful that the afternoon would bring more sport.

After lunch, Nathan left Flash and I for the other hide. Now, on a day-to-day basis I do not come into contact with children, nor am I regarded as someone who clicks particularly well with them, so I was initially a little tentative about being left on my own with Flash. Especially as 12-year old boys hate all girls. I wondered what on earth we would talk about, or if indeed we would even speak at all? Would he just grunt in response to my idiotic attempts to converse with the Playstation generation? My fears were soon dispelled however, when I realised Flash is no ordinary boy. He is the single most knowledgeable youngster I have encountered on anything to do with the countryside. He hurriedly and proudly told me of all the different types of quarry he shoots and all about the records he keeps. His two siblings are not interested in country pursuits, but Flash clearly idolises his gamekeeper father and intends to follow in his footsteps as soon as possible.

Flash in the hide

In the dry periods without any birds, two Fallow bucks in velvet in the adjoining field entertained us by wandering around in the wheat. Unusually one of the bucks was melanistic which made it contrast wonderfully against the beige crop. Nathan and I even crept up on them to get a few pictures when the lull became too much to bear.

Two bucks in the wheat

After seven hours in the hide, and with no sign of the birds picking up, we called it a day. The farmer had cut the rape in the field behind the hill just two days ago, so we figured the woodies were favouring something a little different for lunch.

On the way home, Nathan and I hypothesised on the day’s bag of ten. We actually realised it is days like this that makes us love the sport so much. If every time we went out shooting we came back with pockets and bags bursting at the seams, we would no doubt become complacent. The work, effort and preparation that goes into a day’s shooting often far outweighs the final bag count. But we realised it doesn’t matter. We are going out again this weekend, with equal fervour and optimism – but this time on the rape. Nathan explained this is why the phrase ‘you should’ve been here yesterday!’ is always associated with pigeon shooting!

Me with one of the woodies