Today was a slow-but-steady start to shooting in 2018.
I’d been lacking the motivation to do much in the way of anything this year, with tiredness and a light malaise from 2017 hanging over well into the new year. All that changed yesterday, when – for reasons that continue to elude me – I woke up, if not refreshed, then generally willing to conquer the ever-growing mountain of outstanding “jobs”.
Largely, my activities have been confined to the house, where tidying up loose ends and fixing – well – it feels like everything, have kept me busy for most of the weekend. I’ve discovered talents as a builder and plumber that I didn’t know I had, put it that way.
I managed, this afternoon, to get out to the fields for the first of my Sunday afternoon walks for the year. The first of the two farms I visited was devoid of avian life, probably not helped by a dog walker with Alsatian who seemed to have been using the track ways to exercise her mutt just before I arrived. It is, I suppose, nominally, a free country.
At the second farm, there seemed to be some movement, so I went for a longer walk but didn’t take my usual route. A few crows passed some distance away and likewise a few wood pigeons, but there wasn’t a lot going on.
That changed, very briefly, for about 30 seconds, just as I reached the halfway point of my walk. A large mixed flock, including wood pigeons, gulls and crows seemed to explode into being overhead and I managed to wound a crow (subsequently dispatched) and blow to bits a wood pigeon with the Browning 12 gauge I was carrying. Between jams (the semi-automatic does not like my reloads) and madly searching for some other cartridges, I managed to down a couple of birds, though there were probably opportunities and time for three or four if I’d had a pocket full of factory shells or a different gun.
Back to Basics
I’ve decided, since I get so little practice at shooting, to go back to basics in 2018. When I’m hunting, rather than patterning, I’ll make life as easy as I can to start with, using open chokes and small shot / close-range cartridges, then work back up to longer-range combinations when I’ve built up some (much-needed) confidence. That’s not to say I’m going to stop shooting the small bores or researching them, of course, but when I go out for the sake of hunting, I probably won’t be carrying the .410 – at least until later in the year.
I’m yet to get to the shop to buy a couple of boxes of something sensible (Goodness! Really!? – Ed.) so I used up some more odds and ends today, all shot through a ¼ choke. None of them were really “pigeon” cartridges, but the pigeon I took was a high-speed, 20-25 yard crosser and I was pleased with the shot – even if it felt a bit easy.
Then again, that was the point.
The crow, on the other hand, was probably a bit far out for a quarter choke and an under-performing cartridge (one of my “failed” 34g/#5 reloads initially intended for the Baikal), but I really can’t escape the feeling that all crows, whether 10, 30 or 50 yards away, are all just “a bit far out” and too much like hard work to shoot.
It’s not that I doubt my kit, but the number of times I hit but fail to cleanly kill crows is a lot greater than all of the other kinds of birds I shoot combined. I’ve never understood why this is.
Wood pigeons, I most often hit or miss. Yes, I’ve recorded some explosions of feathers, misses behind and other variations on the theme of wounding a bird on this blog over the last year or so, but the number of birds is never so high in the overall scheme of things that I’m concerned about it.
Jackdaws, to take another example, seem to be my “success” bird. My biggest bags have always included large numbers of jackdaws and I’ve always seemed to have a knack for decoying and shooting them – even when I haven’t been able to hit anything else. My first ever left-and-right was a pair of jackdaws and there have been times when I’ve had them raining out of the sky fast enough that you’d have to look twice to be sure that some kind of biblical plague wasn’t occurring.
Crows on the other hand. Irrespective of gun, cartridge or current form, I always seem to struggle with crows, to a degree which I can’t at this point explain.
I’ll keep working on it.