Shooting Times – April 2014

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April 2014

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As I write this we have just had four days without rain, and for the first time in months my lawn is looking a little less like a swamp. I can walk on it without water squelching out underfoot, and make a bit of a start on tidying up the flower beds, in preparation for summer bedding plants. As well as being a keen game and pigeon shooter I am also quite keen on my garden.

I do not grow vegetables as I feel they are too time consuming, in terms of care and cultivation, and this eats into my shooting time. For me it is flowers – and I mean bedding plants. I love the constant display of colour and variety that they provide all summer long and, of course, once they are in and growing they need little care; just regular watering and a little feed now and then. This guarantees visual pleasure from April right through to October or the first frost.

With the spring now well and truly upon us pigeon shooting is taking up most of my spare time at present. This time of year always fills me with good cheer and anticipation every time I load the truck and set off on a decoying trip. Lately my pal, George and I have been shooting reasonable bags on both fresh drilling as well as chopped maize.

The chopped maize is the remnants of game cover planted last year, to provide shelter and feed for both pheasants and partridges. As soon as the season is over these are chopped down with a flail mower; this of course chops and spreads any maize cobs remaining, thereby providing a ready feast for the pigeons. This is one of their favourite foods and they will flock to it in huge numbers, giving us a chance to reduce their numbers a bit prior to the spring cultivations getting under way.

By now many of the spring crops will have been drilled, leaving just peas or perhaps spring rape to go in. Both of these crops will be attacked by pigeons at various stages of their growth, so it is imperative that we keep a close eye on things because pigeon damage in the early stages of emergence can devastate the yield later on.

By now I have had meetings with farmers and managers, to determine what crops are growing where in order that we can be ready when the pigeons start to take an interest. This might mean getting straw bales out onto fields for hides; or just making sure that access is readily available, with keys to gates, or having permission to go onto the field with a vehicle. This can be a contentious issue, as no farmer wants you driving all over his crop. In certain circumstances, however, it is vital that we are able to get to a particular spot under a flight line that might just be half a mile from the track.

The modern pigeon shooter now carries a lot of kit that enables him or her to shoot more birds. Gone are the days when a man with his gun and a pocketful of cartridges could stand under a tree and expect to control the hordes of pigeons that attack crops. Yes, he will always shoot a few but in order to be effective in crop protection we do need a bit of flexibility from the farmer. The best way is for us to use the tramlines made for the tractors and sprayers; these can get us to any part of the field without doing any damage. Many farmers allow me to do this but some feel it may do damage to the crop; but this is more than offset by stopping the damage done by the pigeons, and obviously we will not go on when it is wet. By being careful and working together we can both achieve our goals.

The pigeon is our most abundant bird and they do millions of pounds of damage every year to farm crops; this in turn affects the prices we pay in the shops, so the war goes on. With the warmer and longer days, many of you will be getting out into the countryside to take in the ambience and serenity that it has to offer. If you are taking your dogs with you, please do keep them under control at all times – this may mean keeping them on the lead – as most ground nesting birds will be sitting on eggs in the coming weeks and any disturbance can mean the success or failure of hatching; not just pheasants or partridges but lapwings, skylarks and many others will be affected too. Visit and enjoy our wonderful countryside but be responsible.

Auctioneers of fine modern and antique guns are now the largest Sporting Auction House in Europe, specialising in sporting items and militaria.

Did you realise it might affect its resale value? Holt’s sale on 20th March ably illustrated this. Lot 1323 was a pair of twelve-bore, single trigger, easy opening ejectors by Boss. They were ordered in 1912, for Her Royal Highness The Princess of Pless. This English Lady was, according to common parlance a ‘pin-up’. A debutante presented to Queen Victoria, who then married a wealthy German Aristocrat, she lived in Pless Castle, was a great socialite and noted beauty of the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

The fact that she ordered a pair of Boss guns in twelve-bore tells us something about how she lived. She counted Edward VII and Kaiser Wilhelm as friends, both of whom became increasingly bellicose during the early years of the twentieth century. Had Edward lived longer, things may have been different, as he was the senior family member.

Princess Mary was duty bound to spend the Great War in Germany and served as an auxiliary nurse on hospital trains running up to the front. She was a reformer. Sadly her husband divorced her in 1922 and her life ended in social isolation and relative poverty, helped only by the poor she chose to champion.

This pair of superb Bosses are a talisman for a Lady, the likes of whom we will not see again. They have been in the company of all those people we read about in our history books.

Price: £16–£18,000.

As ever, clients can call me on 07860 300055 for a free valuation or to consign.

Simon Grantham

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