It's the height of summer and the early morning shoots begin in earnest. I arrive at the farmyard for 3am. The first task of the day is to set up the pop-up hide and make sure I am set up for the first action as daylight breaks, it is a simple task to position the hide, place the kit inside which includes a comfy chair, the rifle and a shooting rucksack with spares, shooting sticks, food and a drink once settled in I await the day's events. Today's hunt was going to be focused on a sitty tree that all manner of quarry frequent, a farmyard is a magnet for avian species with the spilt feed that is a welcome bounty to all manner of pests. I take up my position and notice the familiar blue of the sky starting to break up the dark formation in the heavens.
At this point I reach for my bag, pick out and load a magazine filled with 10 Daystate FT pellets .177 calibre into my trusty BSA R10 air rifle. The anticipation always excites me the same way it did when I first picked up an air rifle aged just 11 years' old, the plus-25 years since that day doesn't diminish the raw thrill of the chase.
The farmyard is now flooded with a haze of summer sunlight and two dark figures are silhouetted against the sky, I have to study the figures intently for a few minutes I have permission to shoot crows but the landowner likes the good work the rooks do out in the fields eating ticks, lice and all the other insects. I identify the bird to the right as a crow the short black beak confirms this to me compared to the rook whose beak is grey in colour and a good two inch longer, the crow is sat slightly lower on a branch I raise the rifle and position it between the v in the shooting sticks, I reach for the ATN Shot-trak, my recording device and with one turn to the right it's primed and ready to record. I flick the safety catch to fire, concentrate my breathing and take up aim, my trigger finger feels the blade of the trigger and I take up the first stage; I pause my breathing and release the shot, holding aim through the scope picture. I watch as the pellet hits home and follow as the crow tumbles through the branches coming to rest in a dyke full of nettles. The first shot of the day is always pleasing and instills confidence in your ability and the precision of a modern-made airgun. I know there is no way of retrieving the crow; and with it being hidden from view in the nettles there is no reason to break cover from the hide I cycle another pellet and flick on the safety, I was just thinking to myself it was time for a coffee when the tell tale flutter of a woodpigeon landing amongst the branches makes my ears prick up.
Sure enough there it was the sunlight catching the rosy red under belly and highlighting a perfectly conditioned bird sat in the upper branches, I place the crosshairs on the woodie I love the challenge of hitting a 1inch target at 30 yards I have a perfect view of the woodie's head with the optics of the MTC Viper 4-16x50 picking out the yellow that accompanies the eyes, the safety's off and the shot's released the crack as the 10.43 grain pellet meets the skull fills me with pleasure knowing my quarry never knew I was there or that the humane nature of its death was imminent.
A lull in procedings followed which is to be expected after a disturbance, and I noticed the lack of corvid activity around the farmyard maybe it's because it's prime nesting season and the birds are bringing up the young. Maybe 30 minutes had passed by and another unexpecting woodpigeon landed on the cow shed roof, this time my intended target was presenting a heart/lung shot I placed the crosshair and with a gentle squeeze the projectile was on route, on impact the woodie folded its wings and fell forward landing amongst the cows who took up a curious interest in the fallen bird. I watched intently for maybe five minutes as the cows gathered around and sniffed the woodie seemingly wondering how and why it had fallen from the sky and intruded their morning's breakfast. As the morning passed by my quiet times were filled by listening to the morning's chorus provided by the song birds and watching the sparrows flighting to and from the roof spaces in the cow shed rooves presumably fetching food for their young.
The next shot of the day caught me a little by surprise as a collard dove landed in a tree to my right, there is a flock of around twenty doves that visit the farmyard and I decided the numbers could do with trimming a little. The dove was maybe 35 yards away and with being a small bird in stature presenting quite a challenging shot. I repositioned myself slightly and took up aim. I decided on a centre-mass shot as the kinetic energy that is achieved on a small bird like a dove provides enough energy to dispatch the bird humanely. The crosshair settled and the pellet was on its way with a solid thwack the dove fell to the farmyard floor dead as soon as the pellet connected.
My morning's tally was increasing steadily and I was very satisfied with the shoot so far. I could hear the farm hands starting to move around in the other farmyard and I knew the mornings shoot was going to come to an end shortly when out of the corner of my eye a second dove landed in the same branches as its comrade. I did wonder for a few minutes if this dove was possibly the first's mate, nevertheless I was there to do a pest control job and the dove numbers were high in the area. Again I take up aim and repeat the process of the first shot on the collard dove, I aim centre mass and watch as the dove crashes to the floor in the manner of the first. As I'm contemplating finishing for the day George the farmer appears by my hide and my shoot is concluded. I have a chat with George and give him a woodpigeon for a breakfast snack always good practise to keep the landowner happy as it's a priviledge as a shooter to be allowed access to the land that we shoot.