Fishing and shooting: I spotted a stream of pigeons

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THE last couple of weeks the pigeons have been bunching up in great flocks which is what they do when the weather gets cold. And once they find a patch of green rape, neeps or unploughed stubble they will descend in huge numbers.

If you can get the decoys out and build a hide, much sport may be had, as they say in the old sporting manuals.

Happy and grateful as I am to be asked to shoot grouse (very occasionally) and pheasants, pigeons have to be the best homemade sport by a long Scots mile (1,976 yards, since you ask).

If, and it’s a moderately big if in my case, you can get yourself into the right place at the right time the shooting will be as good if not better than driven pheasants. The difference is that the birds are completely wild and could come from any direction at any time. So not for the dozy or impatient.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the temporary woodpile the other day. The woodpile is the remains of an ash tree that blew down on my neighbour’s hill.

Since he got a free boiler for being over 65 he has no need of logs. So I gave him a bottle of whisky, slabbed and split the ash and left it under sheets of plastic until I can get the tractor and bogie to bring it down.

We had a gale I suppose about a week ago and bits of plastic inevitably took off and then it snowed. So I went out with Crumpet, the cocker, to retrieve the plastic, including a big sheet that had ended up on the neighbour’s neeps. The next day I was looking out the window on the stairs with binoculars to try and work out what the other neighbour was doing with his digger when in the foreground I spotted a stream of pigeons descending from the wood on to the patch where the plastic sheet had been.

Everything else was, of course, covered in snow. But where the plastic had been was black earth and neeps with some of their green tops still attached, just what the pigeons were looking for in an otherwise white landscape.

This I considered to be a Eureka moment – lay out huge areas of plastic on neeps or rape, wait for it to snow and then whip the plastic away and down the pigeons will come on to the only patch of food for miles around.

As it happened the snow almost immediately disappeared so that was that.

I rang the ex-gamekeeper son to show off about my new method of luring in pigeons only to be told it wasn’t original as he’d heard it was a trick used by Katie Percy. Who she? The Duke of Northumberland’s daughter. Of course. Silly me.