Blinded by Sunshine

I returned today to the cattle farm I visited a fortnight ago, where I shot my first bag of thirty-plus. Today’s bag wasn’t even close to double figures – two jackdaws, a crow and a wood pigeon – but it did afford some pleasant company and, after a poor start, some cracking shots.

I’d arranged to meet a couple of the other association members to try and make another dent in the numbers of crows infesting the barns. The three of us arrived early-ish and set up a line of hides across the end of the yard which allowed us to cover a lot more ground than we otherwise would have done individually. The arrangement of hides seemed unorthodox but was – apparently – initially effective.

There were fewer birds around this morning and although the others had managed to bag six or seven between them before I arrived, we only managed five more in the remainder of the morning, of which four were mine.

With hindsight, I should have constructed my hide in a different place. Although the location of the hide was good – directly under a known flight line – the orientation was unfortunate and on the first four attempts to shoot, I stood up and immediately blinded myself in the blazing sunshine, wasting cartridges and missing the bird, each time rendered invisible by the massive green and purple blotches in my vision, where the sun had burned its impression into my retina.

Eventually, as you can imagine, I got bored of this, and migrated over to the larger of the other two hides. Over a cup of coffee and a chat, we then watched and waited and took most of the (few) opportunities presented to us. I opened my account with a straightforward jackdaw, brought down with the second barrel and left the next opportunity to my colleague.

After that, at long intervals, followed three more birds. Once again, I “clicked” with the 16 gauge and didn’t miss for the rest of the day. I dropped a 40-yard jackdaw at the feet of my other colleague in the other hide (the shot was upward and perfectly safe), much to his surprise and my amusement and later, from the other hide, a short but extremely fast wood pigeon.

When all hope that we might see other birds was exhausted, I started to pack up my kit, but kept the gun handy. My foresight was rewarded with a maximum-range shot at a crow, which folded beautifully and invited enthusiastic congratulations from my compatriots and many favourable comments on my ability, which I received graciously, even if I felt that my real ability didn’t quite justify the kind words.

Once again, I’m left with a confirmation that 28g of #6 will kill cleanly some spectacular birds (when it’s fired from a tightly-choked 16 gauge, at least) and a nagging feeling that it might just be simpler to buy a slab of factory ammunition and save all the time spent reloading (although three of today’s birds were shot with reloads).

The .410 will, I’m sure, at some point, get another outing. The acquisition of new cartridges to test remains difficult, however.