It's not always easy, but follow Tom Payne's tips and you're on the right track
Permission for pigeon shooting can be hard to get. A lot of the time it’s about getting to know people before you’ll get anywhere. Think of it from the farmer’s point of view. He or she needs to have complete confidence in the person asking and won’t give a permission to shoot their land to anybody they don’t know reasonably well.
I always keep a sharp look out for pigeons when I’m driving around the countryside. I’m not looking for ground to get permission for shooting. Rather I am studying the pigeon and how it behaves. On the other hand it’s exactly what you need to be doing when you’re on the hunt for a permission.
- The best time to get a permission is in the winter, particularly in a year when the pigeons are going after the winter rape. 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.
- Don’t turn up at the farm or the village head to toe in camouflage. Dress smartly and wear a jacket and tie. You will look more approachable and less aggressive. First impressions count and you want to look as though you are modest and don’t expect special treatment.
- What time should you arrive? Don’t turn up on a Sunday, at lunchtime or during the evening. Farmers are busy people and do not like being interrupted. 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 this time of year 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.
- When asking for permission for pigeon shooting be confident and clear. Explain exactly who you are and where you are from. Have some id (like your driving licence to hand). 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.
- It’s a good idea to have your BASC or CPSA membership cards to hand, your shooting insurance certificate and a copy of your shotgun licence. All of which mark you out as a serious, responsible shooter.
- 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.