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Cereal killer

There is one thing that I?ll never do ? trample around in a cornfield to collect shot pigeon. Even with a good dog you will do far more damage than the pigeon would have done. In all the years that I?ve been pigeon shooting, I have only once shot over a laid crop. This was on a field of bearded wheat. Around half had been completely flattened, and for some reason it was the only crop affected in the area. This is why so many birds were concentrating on this patch of approximately 15 acres. I shot it for two consecutive days, with good bags on both days.

I?m sure that the majority of keen and experienced pigeon shooters think the same as I do. I?m certainly not interested in dropping pigeon into a crop where they can?t be collected, especially if they are not killed outright.

On the other hand, you can?t just ignore the situation, especially when the farmer tells you there are thousands (more often, this turns out to be hundreds) of those pests dropping on to his wheat. So, what can we do to keep him happy?

Three options for attack

There are three possible ways to tackle the situation. The first possibility is to set up in an adjacent field after carrying out a thorough reconnaissance of the area (see Figure 1). Ideally, this will be a meadow for sheep (not cattle), or one that has been harvested for hay, silage or anything else that is low enough to the ground for your decoys to be visible. Set out your decoys in the normal way, and the pigeon may well decoy in as if they are feeding on that field. Failing that, they will usually come in to investigate and be within range. Directly behind the laid patches is where you should plan to be for the best results.

The next option is to find the flightline where the birds are following up a long-ish line of trees, such as a narrow copse between cereal crops (Figure 2). Find an ambush position where you can see them approaching clearly, and drop them into the treeline for your dog to retrieve; here he will not do any damage. However, make sure you are not disturbing pheasants in and around a release pen.

The ?motorway pattern?

The third option, if carried out correctly, will set you up for a fantastic day. This is what I call my ?motorway pattern? (Figure 3). It is ideal for situations where there are large areas of cereals with no woodland. In addition, it is especially useful if the birds are flying over your patch to feed on another field where you have no access, for whatever reason.

Find a field that they are flying over ? it could be a fair distance from the laid crop. Usually the birds will be quite high and the flightline wide. Select your hide position as close to the centre of this flightline as possible, with the pigeon flying towards and over you. This must be on a suitable field where you or your dog can retrieve without doing damage.

For the wide targets to your left and right, this is where the motorway can be put to work with outstanding results. Not only will you shoot bigger bags, but you will enjoy flighting at its best, with high and often fast targets. Woodies like to fly up lines of decoys. For some reason, they can?t resist a closer look as they pass on their way to their intended feeding spot.

Once in the hide, you will see the pigeon coming straight up the line, and others will close in from the left and right. Usually they will not land, but will drop and close in for a sporting shot.

Setting up the motorway pattern is fairly simple: starting at the front right-hand corner of the hide, take 20 paces to the right, and then take approximately 20-25 paces directly out to the front, continuing in a straight line, dropping a static decoy about every third pace until you have dropped half your decoys (I prefer at least 20 on each side). Set them up on their pegs as you return.

Repeat this on the left-hand side, giving you two straight lines. Next, take two floaters with decoys and position them 20 paces to the left and right of the lines, with the decoys facing the hide. Two more floaters can be placed further up the line, again facing the hide. Now set up two or three landers or gliders.

Next up are the flappers fitted with defrosted birds or, if you don?t have any of those, wait until you have a couple as soon as they hit the ground. Finally, set the rotary in front of the hide, about 15 paces out. You now have your layout, so return to your hide.

Watch the hot weather

At this time of year, in a normal summer, it is ideal to start in the early afternoon, and shoot until the birds stop coming over. Collect up the dead birds at regular intervals and store them under wet hessian sacks spread out in the shade, otherwise the gamedealer will not want them. There is no need to set up many with the recommended flock of static decoys. Aim to find a position in the shade that will keep you cool and comfortable, and allow you to sit looking over the netting instead of through it.