Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Fieldcraft: First Wood Pigeon

Yesterday I was watching a group of wood pigeons feeding on the ground alongside a shifting community of rabbits; four birds and three or four rabbits all coming and going on the same patch of field beside a hedgerow in the sun. They were all about fifty yards away when I found my place, close beside a large tree in the abandoned orchard where I've taken to sitting of late. I sat and watched them for twenty minutes or so - just sitting quietly and looking; now through the scope; now just with the gun in my lap. It was a windy day and I'd walked to the field thinking that the weather might make shooting difficult - but I was so hugely fed up with sitting indoors that even a spell of fruitless time outside seemed vastly more attractive than spending any more of my day in a smoke-wreathed web-search for new work and housing opportunities.

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.


  1. Hubert

    I don't know how you usually eat your woodies but this one rocks.

    Cut out the breasts and wrap them in a slice of black forest ham from Lidil and roast or fry them until the outside is crispy and the breast still reasonably bloody.

    If you've got company - this takes a little longer- make a reduction of the rest of the bird and them cook beetroots in it, liquidize the lot and sieve, then add gelatin and pour out onto the serving plates, then leave to set. Serve the baconed breasts on top with the veg and carbs on a side plate. It looks amazing and is delicious.
    PS not sure if 'baconed' is a word - if not it is now!

  2. Nicely done!

    Perhaps a double is in order for the next, like with the rabbits!