Pigeons come home to roost

January 3, 2013 at 9:29 pm

With no rain for a few days and warm 10C temperature, I was hoping to find a few rabbits out and about on my permission at an 80 acre equestrian centre this afternoon. I’d only walked a few hundred yards to my first rabbit hot spot to realise that a change of plan was needed. A corner, where a bramble covered ditch runs along the side of a copse, was under six inches of water, the ditch resembling a canal. I usually expect to see several rabbits around this area, where had they gone? Not drowned? Continuing through the copse, I saw signs of fresh burrowing, so all was not lost.

As I made my slow progress through the copse, I saw several Canada Geese in the field to my right, but these are off limits, as were the pheasants trotting ahead of me along the path, the leaseholder trying to keep the centre as a nature reserve, it being bordered by housing estates on three sides. The copse was once parkland, part of a stately home, and had been planted up with a wide range of plants, now left untended, but in their season they add to the pleasure of having access to this private area, carpets of snow drops, giving way to daffodils and blue bells, while the scent of honeysuckles fill the summer air.

When I first visited, rabbits were in their hundreds, undermining trees, burrowing through paths and ruining the grassland, making it unsafe to walk, let alone ride a horse. Today there were none to be seen, so I made my way to the base of a tall pine, which gives cover from above, while providing a clear view of an equally tall oak ten yards away, both trees providing ideal roosts for my next quarry the wood pigeon. For pigeons I prefer to use my Career 707 PCP air rifle firing 21 grain Bisley Magnum pellets, as the pellets lose their momentum quickly and shots can be taken at targets low down in the trees, but equipped for rabbits today, I had my Magtech .22 semi auto rimfire. This means overhead shots only, as a 45 degree shot puts the houses half a mile away within range of the 40 grain bullet.

Once in position, it wasn’t long before a dozen pigeons glided over to take up their roosts, an ideal shot for a 12 bore, but for me with a rifle they have to perch first. They landed behind me, causing me to twist my body for a shot, only to hit the branch below my chosen bird. Off they clattered. I moved round the tree to shoot from the other side, before ten minutes later they returned, this time a clear shot supported by the tree trunk, had a fat pigeon spinning out of the branches fifty feet above. With the birds flown, I retrieved the pigeon and cut away the dark breast meat in time for the next flight. Cross hairs on, squeeze the trigger and another hit the ground. Ten minutes later another fat woodie was at my feet, it’s crop full of ivy peas and mistletoe berries. With the light going fast and a good walk ahead, back to the van, I called it a day with six tasty breast fillets in my bag.