Two small rabbits dashed through the orchard to my right; a minute passed and another one appeared in the same place - about five yards away - and sat quite still. It was a young rabbit and I watched it for a few moments without moving my head; it looked as though it had sensed that something was amiss in the woods around it - but not quite sure what to do about it. I couldn't have levelled my rifle without frightening it and even if I could have done the gun - with its scope set at twenty-five yards - would have been quite useless for a target so close. Presently, it scampered away and I went back to looking out at the field.
The rabbits had disappeared from the grazing group ahead of the me and the pigeons had made their way down the hedgerow towards me. Shall I try and shoot one, I wondered? Well, why not? They were now at about thirty yards, so I sighted on the closest of the group, waited until it had moved so as to present me with a clear shot at its chest - and fired.
When I got to it, it was lying on the grass with its wings spread out - still alive. I picked it up and quickly broke its neck. This was the first time I'd ever shot a Wood Pigeon and, while I carried it back to the orchard, I marvelled at the size and beauty of the bird as well as reckoning with my own slight shock at having just killed it.
Starting to pluck it, I was astonished at how easily and cleanly the feathers came out - stripping it took only a minute or two and there I was in the woods with what suddenly looked like a small, dark supermarket chicken in my hands. Not what I'd expected the afternoon to deliver at all and an altogether different experience to gutting a rabbit; clouds of grey-blue feathers were being whirled around on the ground at my feet by the still-blustery wind.
Later, I watched a video about preparing Wood-Pigeon and then pan-fried the breasts and legs - eating them with just salt and a tumbler of ultra-cheap Tesco wine as an accompaniment. Not a lot of meat on one bird, really, but good eating nonetheless: a rich, game flavour like a combination of both steak and kidney. I licked the platter clean.