A WAY WITH PIGEONS

 

On last Friday the game season ended for wigeon, teal, mallard and other ducks also more serious for the devoted shooting man, the woodcock. Snipe, too, though they hardly count for eating. Of course, poulterers may still have birds on sale for a few days more. In theory the season is also over for woodpigeon (June 1st to January 31st), but there are various exceptions to this rule. For, according to the regulations of the Wildlife Service "landowners and their agents may shoot crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws and pigeons".

if they are causing damage to agriculture." That's wide open enough for most people who enjoy pigeon shooting eating.

Richard Plantagenet - resounding name - writing in Country Life tells us how he admires pigeons, and how he shoots them and how he cooks them. Whenever several are feeding together, one bird has its head up watching for approaching danger. Standard pigeon defence tactics which work well. They are good food, he tells us, low on cholesterol and high on flavour. It's not such an easy quarry, to him. If you approach a roost quietly and unobtrusively, while a friend marches boldly from the other side, you'll see how clever the pigeon is. It can fall off a branch almost soundlessly and, when it is concealed by the foliage, the wings will clap noisily and it scoots across the grass at ground level before climbing steeply and away. Not so easy in winter.

There are a lot of woodpigeons in Ireland: 970,000 pairs according to David Cobot's Collins Irish Birds. And more come in from Britain and the Continent in winter. Many people, having shot their bird, do what the writer of this article does, just concentrate on tearing out or cutting out the breast. You can make two fillets of it. with a freezer full of pigeon breasts, he tells us, you can make wonderful meals.

New to many will be this - the meat minced and then with minced onion, garlic, spices and egg, flattened into a sort of ham burger, dipped into egg and breadcrumbs and probably grilled. He suggests other methods. Mrs Beeton gives us roast pigeon, pigeon pie (including one and a half pounds of rump steak and three slices of ham!).

Our friend lists the damage to crops that pigeons can do, even from January on. Later: "A good decoy and hide and a field full of peas can net you 200 pigeons in a day." Beat that.