Tips & Hints for October 2012

Eddie Jones' Tips on Pigeon Shooting

Eddie Jones' Tips on Pigeon Shooting

01 October 2012

Pigeon shooting is a hugely popular shooting activity that is appealing to all types of shooting people and presents challenging shooting combined with the need for careful field craft. The end result is a table bird with fantastic flavour very low in fat, great eating. The wood pigeon is a huge agricultural pest to crops such as wheat and oil seed rape, and shooters offer a method of free pest control for farmers. Wood pigeons can be shot all year round and offer fantastic sport.There are three common methods by which people shoot wood pigeons.

 

Decoying

This is the most common form of shooting pigeons and is often the most exciting. The key to success is using observation in advance of setting up to identify a spot that is attractive to the birds. Once such a spot is identified, the usual approach is for the shooter to set up in or near cover close by and place pigeon decoys out in the crop to attract the pigeons in close to the gun. The shooter is normally concealed within a 'hide' which can be made from camouflage netting, natural materials or straw bales. The key for a hide is to blend in with the natural setting as best as possible and to be large enough to allow unrestricted and safe movement with the gun.

In recent years many types of decoy have appeared on the market, shells (half a plastic pigeon) or full bodied, flock coated, fabric, UV painted etc. Each of these have their advantages - shell decoys are easier to stack together and therefore take up less room in your kit bag, full bodied add that extra bit of realism to your decoys from all angles, flocking reduces shine, UV paint increases their visibility to the pigeon. With wild animals though, one day all the tricks in the book will work and not the next.

Other developments have also given the shooter the chance to use Pigeon Magnets, Flappers and Bouncers. The pigeon magnet is a device which holds either two dead pigeons or two flying decoys on arms which rotate around and simulate pigeons landing in your decoy pattern. The Flapper, decoy or dead bird in a cradle that moves the wings, gives your pattern added movement and is a great visual aid in attracting pigeons to your pattern. Bouncer is simply away to mount a winged decoy or dead bird off the ground on a sprung rod. The key aim of all these items of equipment is to add movement to your decoys and thus increase the realism.

The most important concept of decoying pigeons is the positioning of the decoys to for a natural looking pattern. Pigeons feed as flock birds, and it is important to consider this when arranging your decoy pattern. When arranging your pattern you need to make sure that there is an area for incoming birds to aim to land in. Try to arrange the decoys so they are roughly facing into the wind, as this is often seen in wild birds, but do not do it so they look like soldiers lined up for a parade, have a few offset decoys.

This is known as the basic horseshoe pattern. It creates an area for the incoming pigeons to aim for. As pigeon decoying is not an exact science, what works on one day may not work the next, vary the pattern to see what works best for you but always allow for a landing zone within the pattern. For example you can often elongate one of the arms of the horseshoe so that is looks more like an L shape, this can often stop problems such as pigeons diverting away from where you want them to land.

 

Roost Shooting

This method of pigeon shooting involves setting up in woodland where pigeons are known to go home to roost. The birds are then shot when they are coming into the roost in the wood. This obviously takes place at dusk and can offer very exciting, yet testing shooting. As it takes place just before it turns dark, taking a dog to retrieve shot birds is extremely useful. Roost shooting traditionally is at it's best in winter months, Feb to March being the most active months. The sudden dusk at this time of year helps condense the shooting into very active periods.

  

Flightlining

This method of pigeon shooting involves carrying out reconnaissance to find out common flightlines that pigeons are using. These flightlines can often be along certain hedgerows, rivers, telephone lines or tracks and the shooting that can be achieved by setting up under a flightline can be excellent. This is most commonly done without decoys and the shooter is often hid in hedgerows or cover under the flightline.


Basic Equipment and Advice

A shotgun is favourable, although air rifles are often used for decoying and roost shooting, the use of shotguns is a much more common practice as it gives the shooter the option of shooting on the wing.

For decoying it is best to start with approx 12 decoys, you can create a big enough pattern which you can add to or replace with dead birds. Arranging dead birds in your pattern can be done in different ways, there are cradles on the market which birds can be sat in or forked supports to hold the neck of the bird up whilst it is placed straight on the floor. It is also a good idea to freeze some entire birds from a previous outing to use as decoys, dead birds are by far the best decoy you can use for obvious reasons.

If you can afford it it is also a good idea to invest in a flapper, bouncer or a pigeon magnet. These are invaluable in attracting birds to your pattern and can often turn around otherwise slow days. Bouncers are the cheapest and you can save money on a magnet if you build your own, all that is needed is an old wiper motor from a car, a battery and some metal work.

Hide poles and camouflage netting are the makings of a decent hide to begin with but it is also advantageous to add local vegetative material to the netting to further blend it in. If cutting material check with the landowner that they are happy for you to do so first.

A well made hide blends in with it's surrounds:


Clothing

There are all kinds of camouflage clothing on the market today, Realtree being by far the most popular. But you need not spend a huge amount of money on specialist clothing, dull natural colours will be fine and the secret is keeping movement to a minimum whilst in the hide. However one item is a must and that is some way to shield your face. Veils and peaked hats are ideal as if you face is left uncovered it will shine like a beacon to any bids approaching.

One thing that you cannot go without is a comfortable seat. When out pigeon shooting you may be in the hide for hours on end and having a comfortable seat is a must. Many pigeon shooters choose to use a fishing stool or a shooting stick. There are also purpose-made decoying seats that are based upon a barrel with a padded seat added. These also double as a means of transporting some of your equipment

Final piece of advice is to respect the land you are on. Do not damage crops by trampling over them to place decoys or when retrieving shot birds, instead try to use the tram lines created by the tractor. Do not take any chances with the gun, or fire at game or vermin you do not have permission to shoot.

Many thanks to the shooting community for use of the tips and pictures.