Shooting Times & Country|May 20, 2020
Where’s the best place to go pigeon shooting, Tom?” is a question frequently asked of me down the pub or on gun buses throughout the season. It’s not an easy one to answer because there are so many factors at play and they constantly change. I’m fortunate enough to shoot pigeon in many different counties; by no means all — I’ve never tackled a Hebridean pigeon — but I shoot in most counties that suffer significant pigeon damage.
Instead of looking at this from a shooting point of view, for now I will first assess farming practices, habitat and urbanisation, which play a major role with regards to the woodpigeon populations of an area. Arable farming has played into the hands, figuratively speaking, of this most formidable agricultural enemy by offering a multitude of food sources all year round.
Everything from winter crops such as oilseed rape to the huge amount of grain grown in the summer, are not only good food sources but they are vital in terms of birds being able to produce pigeon milk for young in their peak breeding months.
Areas that feature vast amounts of peas will always become pigeon hotspots due to the all-round food source the crop provides, from drilling to harvest. This is great for the pigeon and the pigeon shooter — but not so much for the farmer.
The major arable areas of England are the south-east, East Anglia and the East Midlands. These parts of the country hold huge populations of woodpigeon and I would be happy to almost guarantee that the bulk of the English woodpigeon population will be found in these areas.
The aptly named woodpigeon would be found as the name suggests — in the woods of the UK. But this is changing. In ancient times, our woodies would have been found most frequently in forests. The change in management of these areas has meant a decrease in English woodlands, with some counties having been left with minimal forestry, meaning that their pigeon populations can be found in more open areas.
The ideal situation for pigeon is for them to have warm and sheltered conifer woods to roost in and broadleaved woods for food in the winter. Species such as oak, beech and ash are also popular as they provide a nutritious food source.
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May 20, 2020