(VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM)
Tom Sykes had an enjoyable day out filming the legendary pigeon shot, Alan Wood and his good friend Rob.
Alan and Rob were protecting the crop from the vast number of pigeons that had been damaging standing wheat. As the film shows, there was no shortage of birds and it was amazing how severely they had damaged the crop in a short space of time. Pigeons cost farmers a lot of money throughout the year, and it's down to people like Alan to fight back to prevent this type of damage.
As you will see at the start of the video, Alan deployed his umbrella hide set up. This is a simple but effective hide for the task at hand. The umbrella is a large fishing basher which provided enough room for the two guns, the cameraman (me), equipment, slabs of ammunition, rations for the day and even Jazz (Alan's Labrador). However, the conditions were a little snug at times! Once the umbrella was up, Alan used a couple of vintage Realtree nets to further conceal our position from the incoming birds. Some of you may recognise the netting from the Red Letter Day VHS's that Alan starred in many moons ago, when I was a just a boy and first met him!
Alan and Rob both use fishing chairs to keep themselves comfortable throughout the day. They raised the seat with a few cushions to make it easier to stand up and shoot. Unfortunately, I was perched very precariously on a smaller fishing stool, which made it difficult to balance whilst trying to film!
Alan isn't one for plastic decoys, and like a lot of the top pigeon shots, he prefers to use the real thing. Fortunately for him, he has a good supply of pigeons for this job! That day, he deployed a decoy spread which I have seen him use a few times before. He used his two pigeon magnets that run off a car battery and a handful of dead birds on cradles.
He doesn't usually alter the decoy spread throughout the day, or tidy fallen birds. As you will see in the film, it doesn't seem to bother the birds in the slightest! Instead, Alan will normally stay in the hide throughout the day and only change things if there is an issue with the incoming birds. To be honest, having shot with Alan a few times now, I can say with first-hand experience that you don't get a chance to leave the hide as the pigeons are relentless!
Guns and Ammo
Alan and Rob were both using moderated shotguns to reduce the noise for incoming birds, which in turn helps to shoot a bigger bag. Although they were using silenced guns, both Alan and Rob were still using their tried and tested Hull Superfast Pigeon cartridges. Rob was using an over & under with the Hushpower barrel, and Alan used the black synthetic Beretta AL391 which I used in our previous video (search our video section to see the film).
Perfect day The glorious summer day was a perfect chance to join Alan and Rob in the hide to capture the incredible action and sport of pigeon shooting. The warm weather and slight breeze from the rear of the hide are the conditions you dream of when decoying. As you can see, the constant flightline gave plenty of opportunities for a shot, with most birds committing to the decoys nicely. There were a few occasions of a "Target Rich Environment," but that only increased the excitement of the action.
Just in the nick of time
After another successful day in the field, we packed up just as the combine arrived. Both Alan and Rob had protected the crop long enough for the farmer to salvage what was left. It is astonishing how much damage pigeons can do in those numbers. There were plenty of birds on the ground to be picked up and prepared for the table. Tidying up was a mammoth task in itself, and a lot of credit has to go to Alan's Labrador Jazz, as she worked her socks off to ensure that all the birds were picked. All the empty shells and rubbish were cleaned up, and we left the area as we found it.
Food for thought
Although we had plenty of sport from the birds, we were there for a purpose, one that Alan has become a master of. Pigeons are also a fantastic source of sustainable wild meat, one that we rank very highly. If you follow our blog, you will see that we are keen game eaters. Days like these let us keep the freezer stocked up and help share the joys of natural food with others. We started Charlie's Country Kitchen blog to share our passion for all things 'wild meat'. Charlie and I eat game nearly seven nights a week and love to share some of our tasty but easy recipes to encourage others to use this free range product.
Please give some of the cooking recipes a read and share them on social media to help our blog grow, but more importantly to help secure shooting in the minds of others as a valuable food resource. I know that the food industry could be the biggest saviour for our sport as long as we educate people and promote it!
Thank you for reading my first blog post and watching the new video. I hope you have taken something positive from it. Please subscribe and follow Sykes Media on all of our social media platforms to keep up-to-date with new content and to help us grow! Happy shooting!