Hunting with Eddie Jones: ‘The worst day out I could have hoped for’
- Credit: Archant
Eddie Jones reveals how hunting trips don’t always go according to plan!
This month, I headed back to where I had my magpie stakeout because I wanted to have a go at decoying some pigeons. Whilst I was waiting for the magpies last month, I noticed quite a few pigeons hitting the horse's drinking water and the owner wanted some removed because they were regularly dropping their faeces into it. If you are not aware of the diseases that the droppings carry, it would be a good tip to search the Internet and improve your knowledge on the subject. Pigeon droppings can be very harmful to animals and humans and this is one of the main reasons I get called to control their numbers.
The field I was shooting was grass because the crops nearby had still not been cut. I have a lot of success decoying on grass fields, so I was pretty confident in coaxing a few in. I got to my ground at around 5.30am; it was just breaking light so it gave me plenty of time to get the hide sorted before the pigeons started to move. When I got to there, though, I was faced with a very different hide to the one that I'd left - the resident cows had gone through the trees and had either eaten most of the lower branches or trampled them. Luckily, I was using the Enforcer decoys, which come in a nice bag, and when I used them last, I'd put my hide nets in the same bag. I planned to put the nets behind me and above; this would keep any movement I made undetected, due to the cover behind me from the net, and cover me if any pigeons landed in the trees around me.
Setting your decoys
By 6am, I was ready to put my decoys out. When setting your decoys there are many different patterns you can choose. Many shooters I know set them out in a horseshoe or L-shaped pattern and either of these patterns work well, as long as you leave a nice gap for the pigeon to land in. I don't use any pattern; I prefer to pair up some of the decoys and have a few single decoys just away from them. This time of year you will get a few pigeons that have not paired up for breeding, and although it is late, you will still get them wanting to breed. For this reason, I want my bachelor pigeon to fly over and see his next potential girlfriend sitting in the field waiting for him. How many decoys you use is up to you, but I use between five and 10, depending on the situation I am faced with.
So, decoys out and I was now ready and waiting for my first target to drop in.
It was a good half an hour before I saw a pigeon coming toward the decoys, but I had the Galahad in my shoulder, ready and waiting for it to land. The pigeon came in low, but decided to carry on over and land in a tree to my right, about 20 yards away. There is no way I can see the pigeon, because the cover is so thick around me, it's impossible, so I decided to stay in the hide rather than go looking for it, and hope that it would drop in when it was ready.
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The forecast was for a dry and windy morning, perfect for pigeon decoying, but it wasn't going to plan. I endured 10 minutes of light persistent rain, and when I looked through the Hawke Airmax, I could see big drops of water on the decoys that were shining in the sun. This is a definite 'no no' for decoying. As I was about to go out quickly and dry them, a pigeon skimmed the pattern and without hesitation, turned quickly and headed back to where it came from - it knew straight away that something wasn't right. I headed out and wiped the decoys down as quickly as I could, and then sat waiting again.
An hour and half passed and I could see more pigeons moving about on the edge of the field, so I was confident that my luck was about to change. As I was sitting looking through the gap in the hide, something caught my eye to the left, and as I looked up in the tree right next to me, I noticed a squirrel grooming itself - eight yards away and oblivious. I looked for my camera. I wanted to show just how close this squirrel was, but I had put it in my bag when the rain started so I chose not to waste a chance by trying to unbuckle the bag, and lifted the Galahad instead.
Just as I'd got the squirrel in my sights, I heard a great thump in the field in front of me. A buzzard had proper hit my decoy with its talons, and was standing right next to it. It was funny to see; the buzzard must have been thinking, 'what the hell is that!'! I was gutted, I would have loved to have taken a picture of that, too, but I had no camera to hand.
I turned back to the scope and took the squirrel, and it was one of the easiest shots to take - a half mil-dot of holdover, and smack! - the squirrel hit the floor. This was not what I'd expected - over two hours decoying, and just a squirrel to show for my patience.
Not long after taking the squirrel, the rain started again. It was non-stop for over 40 minutes. In all the time it was raining, I had five pigeons shy away from the decoys; the raindrops on the decoys were certainly putting them off. They were all confident until the last minute, and it was frustrating to see.
I had also had another bombardment from above, either the first buzzard hadn't learned after its first strike, or another had tried its luck. This was turning into a nightmare morning, but it was totally out of my hands - what can you do? I wasn't moving to another area because it would make no difference.
I continued through the session, going out drying the decoys, and fixing any that had been knocked over by a buzzard. To make matters worse, I was getting a few around me in the trees, but there was no way through to any of them. I had tried to go out of the hide on some occasions, and try to stalk up on one, but I was always seen first, even with the head net and gloves, I lost every time.
By 1pm, the decoys were nice and dry, the sun was shining and at last I had got a pigeon drop in on the decoys. I hadn't seen it fly in, but I knew it was there as soon as I looked, and it was right next to a single decoy. I had just lifted the Galahad to my shoulder when I heard a crash in the trees to my left, and as I looked round, I noticed that one of the resident cows had moved into the field right next to me. I had to be careful because it had a calf, and these cows do not like people around their young.
I decided enough was enough and to cut my losses, so I quickly packed up my gear and headed back toward the car. As I was halfway across the field, my worst enemy came into view, a nice, fat, angry-looking bull was staring right at me. I was taking no chances and got to the nearest fence and out of his way - not that I am scared of a little (it was enormous) 'cow', but I didn't want to spoil his peaceful stroll.
So that was that; the worst day out I could have hoped for. If it hadn't been for the squirrel, I would have had a blank. Still, at least I know now that if I want to get a squirrel, all I have to do is put some Enforcer decoys out.
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