Page:The Passenger Pigeon - Mershon.djvu/29

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7
My Boyhood Among the Pigeons

ammunition to kill a big bag as we bang away at long range at the birds on their way to the morning feeding-ground. The flight is over by half-past six o'clock and I am home by seven o'clock ready for breakfast and then to scamper off to school.

"The pigeons in this particular locality have followed the same routine as long as I have known them. They only fly in the morning, always going in the same direction, and I can't recall seeing them coming back again, or flying later in the day. This habit holds until the young squabs are in the nests in June, after which we are likely to find pigeons almost anywhere, for their feeding grounds become scattered and local.

"One thing that annoys me in these brave days of youth and sport is the poacher, the low-down fellow who steals my birds. I am reckoned a pretty good shot, and I have a first-rate gun, but I am only a boy, so the pigeon thief thinks I am fair picking, and he saves his ammunition by claiming every bird that drops anywhere near him.

"Another smart dodge of his is to fire into a flock ahead or behind the one I am shooting at and then claim whatever birds fall as the quarry of both our guns. If he is not too big I try to lick him, but generally I have to submit to the rascality unless I can persuade a grown-up friend to take my part. Sometimes these villains hang around my shooting ground without any guns at all, and pick up as many birds as I do. Then I hunt around