Andy Crow offers advice on what to do if your canine shooting companion is out of action but you still need to protect the crops!

Q: The pigeons have been hammering a local barley field and the farmer has asked me to shoot it. My dog is currently having a litter and I won't be able to use her. I hate not being able to retrieve birds from standing crops, but don't want to let the landowner down while he is suffering crop damage.

Andy Crow replies: Depending on the crop and the location, there are a couple of options - though neither is ideal. If there is a large flattened area, you could base yourself there and only shoot to drop birds as they come into your pattern.

Alternatively, you could focus on the strongest flightlines in and out of the crops and shoot to drop the birds either before they enter the standing crop or as they exit - maybe onto surrounding pasture land, for example.

Either option is less than perfect, obviously - but even if you aren't able to get a monster bag, your presence will provide a real deterrent. If you do a lot of shooting, it might be worth considering an extra dog to give you options if ever one is out of action? If not, it's always useful to have a shooting pal with a trained dog who could assist. Just make sure you aren't causing unnecessary damage to the crop yourself!