Pest control is very serious business, Team Wild TV expert Matt Dubber has been out in South Africa helping a farmer that has a major pigeon problem.
A few months ago I was given the opportunity to do a pest removal job on a farm in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. I took the opportunity without hesitation, having been to the farm before and seen the extent of the problem. However, this time the problem had escalated to a whole new level! Upon arrival I was blown away by the sheer number of Rock Pigeons and Pied Starlings which had totally taken over the area and had been eating from the cattle feed troughs (In their hundreds!). It may be a farmer’s nightmare, but it was a Hunter’s Paradise.
Most South African farmers have not yet been introduced to the world of accurate, powerful PCP air rifles. They are stuck between using cheap no-name-brand springers and using the .22 rimfire (a very popular caliber in this part of the world). The one is not accurate enough to provide good enough placement for a humane kill, and the other is expensive and impractical…I had been called in for that very reason – The farmer had seen me shooting with my Air Arms S510 Xtra FAC and had seen its potential for pest control.
The farmyard provided many perching spots on which the birds would sit before flying down to the feed, so I set up my rifle on a dam wall which overlooked the area and prepared for the time of my life. No sooner had I ranged each potential perching spot and taken wind measurements when a whole flock of pigeons came in and gave me my first opportunity. I took aim from about 30 meters and nailed the shot – a good start to the day!
If you really want to be a good hunter, you have to know your quarry. I know, for example, that Pigeons are firm believers of the “safety in numbers” rule, and will not hesitate to join a group, even if it’s clear that there is a threat nearby. They seem to trust the judgement of the bird that arrives there first, but unfortunately for them they are a bit too stupid to be able to differentiate between their dead friends and their alive ones! I used this knowledge to my advantage, setting out the birds I’d shot as decoys in an empty enclosure.
The tactic worked like a charm (proof that it helps to do your homework!) and my trusty S510 Xtra FAC made easy work of about 30 pigeons over the next hour or so as they landed on the nearby walls, in the trees, on the roof and on the ground next to the decoys themselves. Every 10 minutes I would collect all the birds I’d shot and set them out strategically to bring in more birds.
And they just kept coming! To make things more interesting, I decided to take some longer shots. Long-range shooting has become somewhat of an obsession of mine – The satisfaction of overcoming the challenges of physics and nailing a 100m shot cannot be described in words. At 100 meters, a .177 JSB Diabolo Exact 10.34gr pellet flying at 900fps (My preferred pellet and velocity for this particular rifle) drops 21 Minutes of Angle…The term may mean nothing to you, but when I tell you that a .308 Winchester requires the same adjustment at 900 Meters, that puts it into perspective doesn’t it? Us air rifle fanatics really make life hard for ourselves sometimes – But the challenge is part of the fun!
I spot a pigeon perching on a rooftop 90 meters away and take a quick look at the range card: 17 MOA (68 Clicks) Elevation, 6.5 MOA (26 Clicks) Windage. I line up the crosshairs on his upper body, aiming for the heart, lungs and spine, and pull the trigger. He collapses on the spot, and doesn’t even roll down the roof. As other pigeons begin to land in the same spot, I nail them one by one. This rifle never ceases to amaze me! The Air Arms TX585 External Moderator that I have fitted reduces the muzzle blast to a whisper and allows me to take shot after shot without the pigeons even knowing I’ve fired.
Once I had reduced the number of pigeons to a more manageable amount, I shifted my focus to the starlings. These birds are a lot smarter than the pigeons, and would not land anywhere near me. I took a deep breath and looked through the rangefinder at a starling I had spotted. 100 Meters on the dot. 30 seconds later I had made the adjustment, set up the cameras and settled down for the shot. I pulled the trigger, and after a short pause and the “fft” of the pellet slicing through the air, I see the starling fall on the spot from a perfect heart shot. A huge grin appears on my face as another starling comes and lands in the same tree, and its just a matter of lining up on the bird and dropping him! A headshot from 95 meters shortly afterwards brings one of my most productive days of hunting to a close. All the birds were collected up and given to the farm workers to eat – One happy farmer, four happy workers and an overjoyed hunter equal a successful shooting expedition!
I have been on various pigeon hunts many times in my life, sometimes bagging hundreds of birds at a time, but there’s something special about being able to drop a pest from 100m out and have a smiling farmer pat you on the back – I won’t forget this experience easily!