This year, guns are paying on average more than £30 per bird to shoot driven pheasant and partridge. Remarkably, however, most sporting men will take the greatest pleasure in downing the humble, free pigeon during a drive. Certainly, my most memorable shot ever was of a towering pigeon flashing across the sky.

Pigeons tend to leave the woods as soon as a drive starts, allowing other shots a grandstand view of your ability. Wary, fast-flying and acrobatic, they’re an exceptional quarry species and delicious to eat. They’re also beautiful (if overlooked) birds, with their almost blue head and glistening patches of white on their neck, together with iridescent violet and green feathers above their slate-grey body and black tail.

At this time of year, there may be as many as 10 million woodies in Britain they have a longer breeding season than almost any other bird, although numbers fall during the winter, largely due to food shortages. Often, they are a serious agricultural pest. In Hampshire, at present, there are as many as anyone I know can remember: not everything in the countryside had a bad summer this year.

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