In last month’s magazine the thorny subject of whether we, as pigeon shooters, should publicise and print pictures of large bags of pigeons reared its ugly head once again.
Robin, our editor, stated his case, saying we have nothing to hide by letting anyone who may be interested know what number of birds we shoot.
So, for what it is worth, I thought I would add my two pennyworths.
Despite the sanitising of modern human nature, man is still basically a competitive hunter; whether that manifests itself through sport or competition, matters not, but it’s important that we are seen to be a strong provider.
The fact that in our society we no longer have to hunt to survive does not mean the primitive urge should not remain.
Once you remove the emotional aspect of whether we should kill anything at all, it really comes down to two important criteria in justifying killing large numbers of pigeons.
They are, protecting farmer’s crops (and therefore their livelihoods) and ensuring the dead birds end up on someone’s dinner plate.
It’s unfortunate for the pigeon that in fulfilling these two objectives, fantastic sport can be had. These critera can only be questioned if the numbers being killed are not sustainable, ie pigeon populations are diminishing.
I think most observers will conclude this clearly is not the case, with most serious decoyers making larger bags on a more regular basis nowadays.
PIGEONS ARE PESTS
I know it’s easy to hide behind the fact that pigeons are officially classed as vermin to justify killing large numbers of them, whereas we really only do it for the sport, but the fact remains that not so long ago, the Ministry of Agriculture were trying to develop a poison to reduce the pigeon population.
The only thing that stopped the trials was the discovery that other, non-target birds such as pheasants, were taking the bait.
The days are gone where people were self-sufficient – keeping a few hens in the back garden for their eggs, and wringing the neck of one when fresh meat was required.
Nowadays, a relatively small number of producers supply the masses with meat.
If this were not so, the entire game shooting industry would disappear overnight, as most people would never get the chance to shoot their own dinner.
I think this is where we reach the dividing line between the two gentlemen who wrote the original letter and pigeon shooters like myself.
They are clearly quite happy to potter about taking a few birds for their own consumption – though I am not convinced they wouldn’t shoot themselves to a standstill given the opportunity.
But as I have said before, the only reason we get to shoot on farmers’ land free of charge is to kill pigeons and protect crops.
These lads are enjoying quite a luxury if they can keep their farmers happy without killing many birds.
Certainly most of the farmers whose land I shoot would have a fit if I said I was only going to shoot a dozen birds for the freezer and leave the other 1,000 to carry on destroying his crops!
Likewise, the pundits who attempt to occupy the high moral ground by saying we should have a closed season to prevent pigeons being killed during the summer months.
Again, my farmers would not be impressed if I told them I don’t shoot pigeons while they are breeding, because I want even more of them about in the winter to eat their oilseed rape.
CONTROL NOT MINDLESS SLAUGHTER
For me, it comes down to respect for the quarry and responsibility to the farmer to keep pigeon numbers within manageable limits.
To these ends, I will endeavour to treat all shot birds as potential food, getting them to the game-dealer as quickly and in as best condition as possible.
I will do my best to pick up as many of the slain that I can, ensuring wounded birds are despatched immediately. I have no time for the people who treat pigeons as feathered clay targets, or leave them where they lay, or toss them into the nearest ditch.
As far as promoting the sport of pigeon shooting, I see no problem in publishing pictures of large bags.
It illustrates, by it’s very nature the need for control of the farmers’ number one pest.
Anyone who is au fait with decoying knows how difficult it is to constantly make these bags, hence the interest among other pigeon shooters when these photos are printed.
If you are an anti, the killing of one bird is a heinous crime, so they don’t think any worse of us for killing hundreds.
The fact is there is room in our sport for the occasional decoyer, the man who just wants a tasty meal, and the serious pest controller.
There is even room for the professional guides who give the opportunity to shooters who have no land to shoot over, to sample what I believe to be the finest wing shooting sport in the country.
We should not be squabbling among ourselves, but should be proud of the way we manage pigeon numbers and keep damage to crops within acceptable limits.