After half a year of being hidden in its cabinet, my trusty shotgun was brought out this week and I headed north to do some shooting. The quarry wasn’t grouse, but the humbler woodpigeon and the destination Norfolk as opposed to Yorkshire.
The pigeon is, however, a much-underrated challenge. Like grouse, it is entirely wild. It is a fantastic, acrobatic flyer, and to persuade a pigeon to come to a set of decoys on newly cut oil-seed rape requires a level of fieldcraft that’s unknown in other forms of shooting, with the possible exception of wildfowling. Pigeon shooting represents, perhaps, the ultimate challenge for a sportsman.
Hopefully, by now, I’ve given you an idea of the reasons why I missed so many. Happily, Harry, my son, was performing brilliantly. His advice to his father was brusque and it became hard to tell whether he was taking more satisfaction over his performance or mine. To cap it all, we watched a peregrine stoop and take one of the birds I missed. Harry’s joy knew no bounds. I’ll be a very old man before he lets me forget it. I’ll be an even older man before I forget the happiness of sitting together in a hide, chatting and sharing a sport we love.