An Interview with Will Beasley

What made you start Thames Valley Pigeon Shooting?

The idea of selling Pigeon Shooting days came about from when I was sixteen and coming up to the time when I needed to earn some money to pay for my driving lessons. My father knew a couple of London solicitors who expressed a real keenness to try decoying woodpigeon but had neither the equipment nor land to do so. So I stepped in at a daily rate of £30 per day and the business (excuse the pun) shot off from there.

How many years have you been going?

Nearly 20 now……its taught me a lot in that time!

Do you have any Celebrity clients?

Quite a few actually! We’ve had the likes of Vinny Jones and Guy Ritchie, British Royalty (I’m not allowed to say who), Phil Spencer from the TV show Location Location, The Al Sabah family ( Rulers of Kuwait), The Royal Mahtoum family from United Arab Emirates, Pascal Proyart ( head Chef @101 Restaurant and Masterchef guest chef ), Richard Dunwoody the Jockey, plus lots of celebrities from within the shooting world such as George Digweed, Richard Faulds, Andy Castle, Mike Yardley ( writes for every shooting magazine there is ), Diggory Hadoke ( Sporting Shooter Magazine ), Will Garfitt ( The Field Magazine ).

Have you written for any sporting magazines or been involved in any TV programme that shows your knowledge of the sport?

I wrote the Pigeon Shooting Column for Shooting Times magazine for a year, I’ve done probably over 20 other articles for magazine features in The Telegraph Newspaper, Sporting Gun, Sporting Shooter, The Field, and Shooting Gazette. I’ve also done internet TV (Fieldsports Channel) and a few cheeky home made videos with the Mrs (ha ha Kate’ll kill me!)

Whats been one of your biggest achievements in your career?

The business was responsible for organising George Digweeds world record day of 661 woodpigeons to his own gun. I Suppose that’s probably the biggest accolade. Other than that being able to consistently juggle 3 complete variables (the weather, the birds and you lot!) on a daily basis to keep people amused!

Being the son of a very well-known Shooting Legend ( Phil Beasley -The Field Magazines top 50 shots for over a decade and inventor of the Pigeon Magnet machine ), did you have pressure to carry on a business in the world of shoting?

Not really…it was a true natural progression from father to son. He taught me everything I know!

What’s been your most amusing moment during your time as a professional pigeon guide?

Ha! The best one was when I took a middle-eastern pilot out who flew for Emirates airlines. He had some time to kill while he was over here and it was a cold winter day. He turned up in blue Adidas shell suit and brand new white Nike trainers when everyone else was in wellies and thermals! Upon asking if he had any more suitable attire he replied in thick Arab voice.. “nooooo I’m real man – reeeeal Hunter”. So without further ado I loaded him up on the quad bike and took him out and built the hide and left him to it. I got the rest of the guns out and could here gunfire coming from our Arab friends hide like downtown Basra. “All good” I thought…. About an hour later I noticed he’d stopped shooting totally. I put the binoculars up on his hide and there was thick grey and black smoke coming out of the top of his hide. Naturally concerned, I rang him and he immediately SCREAMED ( cue thick Arabic voice again ) “Meestah Willyam Meestah Willyam…..come get me queeekly…..QUEEEEKLY”.

Thinking the worst I flew down on the quad bike preparing myself to dial 999. Upon arrival the Arab was on his seat, legs outstretched, trainers and socks off warming his feet on a bonfire made from Empty cartridge boxes, spent cartridges and just about any other combustibles he could find! What the hell happened? He had gone out into the field to retrieve a wounded pigeon and as the ground had recently flooded then frozen over he’d gone through the ice on the surface and sunken straight into the icy muddy mush underneath. In panic he had ran forward a step leaving one shiny white trainer stuck in the mud and as that happened the same thing happened to the other foot. I had to go and retrieve the trainers embedded in the freezing mud whilst trying to keep a straight face. Utterly hilarious! My only wish was to have seen the poor bloke running back barefooted in freezing conditions like a demented monkey. The words “take me back to the car IMMMMEEEEEEDIATELEY” still give me so much joy!!

Do you do any other shooting in your line or work.

We can offer a bit of Goose flighting in Winter. I also have some Roe, Muntjac and Fallow Deer stalking when I’m not busy with the Pigeons. Deer Management Qualifications Level 2 assessments too! I actually trained as a Deer Manager for a year full time at Sparsholt College Hampshire whilst still doing Pigeons at weekends and have an Advanced National Diploma in Deer Management. I also run an introductory Deer Stalking and Firearms Training course on behalf of Thames Valley Police which is regarded as a satisfactory Pre-Requisite for obtaining a deer-legal calibre Firearm.

Why do farmers give you priority over others to protect their land from Pigeon damage?

As we are normally very well booked each day then if a famer notices a build-up in numbers of Pigeon on a field then, in general, they can call me and I can be there the next day with a team of guns. With this “team effort” it means that we are able to cover not just one field but any others nearby that Pigeons may escape to once shooting starts and kill as many as possible. The fact that we are able to cover many fields prevents the birds from feeding, keeps them moving and thus the chances of the birds encountering someone hiding in a hedge pointing a shotgun at them is much higher! This of course may seem to some that I’m lording it over the “hobbyist” Pigeon Shooter. That’s not intentional at all, however the service we can provide for a landowner is highly organised, strategic and provides excellent results, with no cash outlay to the farmer on bangers/scarecrows and wasted time. Put that together with the fact that we leave no mess or litter behind at the end of the day and we always notify Police forces, Gamekeepers and local residents of our activity means that our courteous reputation has spread far and wide. Many of our Farmers have also become increasingly proud of the fact that the land is able to provide an opportunity for people to experience this kind of shooting who circumstantially may not normally be able to do so.

How much for a day shooting do you charge?

We start for as little as £70 for people who like to go it alone and go up to £250 for clients who want the absolute best setup. Price is reflective of how much service and preparation is needed for each particular clients requirements which, in some cases, can mean a couple of days work prior to the shoot date and several hundred miles driving and numerous phone calls to farms in order to find the best locations.

Do you have international clients?

Yes. A good percentage of our clients are French, and as I speak nearly fluent French it’s pretty easy for them to take a day without worrying about language barriers. We also have a lot of people from the rest of Europe (Danish, Dutch, Spaniards, Belgians, Cypriots, Maltese in particular) and the also the rest of the world (Americans, South Africans, Canadians and even a couple of guys have come from Australia and New Zealand). The international guys are all of a very good standard too as they have to go through much more rigorous Hunting examinations than we in the UK do to obtain a Gun licence.

Do you think the Pigeons are becoming wiser due to increased hunting pressure?

Without a doubt! It’s called survival! The Woodpigeon has adapted and survived incredibly well and that’s why we have such huge numbers of them here in the UK. What was once a relatively simple job 20 years ago has now turned into a full scale strategic assault on some days which means we have to work a LOT harder to get the results for which we are known. We employ lots of different tactics now to keep the birds off other un-manned fields from scarecrows to rockets, timed explosives….I even fly my large high speed remote control helicopter to fetch them back to the guns if it’s a really big field and they don’t want to get up…they HATE that thing !!