It has always been a tradition in the countryside to use each Saturday in February as a pigeon shooting day. There was a belief among most pot hunters that all woods were free to shoot on these days. Not strictly true of course but most owners of a small wood or copse, mostly farmers, turned a blind eye. Shooting estates were controlled by the gameleeper who would issue permits to a chosen few then direct each gun to a particular area. Pre-war, cartridges being a costly item, every shot was meant to count, as a result a lot of birds were allowed to perch before shooting to get the end result. This rather unsporting attitude was frowned upon by "the Gentry" but was a practical and quite legitimate course of action by the man looking for a potential meal. Decoys were used to attract the birds to a particular area . Hand carved and painted imitations would occasionally turn up and when placed in the topmost branches of a climbable tree usually brought a result. Nowadays one has only to visit the local sportsman's shop where a display of plastic and extremely realistic decoys can be obtained. Pigeon shooting has moved on from the lone gun to professional shooters who count their bag in several hundreds per day. The woodpigeon makes good eating with a plump and tasty breast. Casseroling is the favoured cooking method as they are all the same age after a few hours of slow cooking! Our bird table is host to a number of pigeons, they feed away completely ignoring us some five feet away. What a change from the old days when just one bird made a good meal.
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