Tips & Hints for March 2013

Decoy Delights

Decoy Delights

29 March 2013

This was one of my features in Airgunner. Now the Hay has been cut and the crops are drawing pigeons in ready for the harvest I thought I would share this and hopefully it may help get you a few shots off. Even though I was decoying over clover on this occasion I am confident it will work for you over anything the pigeons are feeding on...

While I have been out lately I have noticed how quickly the trees have been covered in leaves. This makes shooting pigeons and squirrels even more challenging as no matter how hard you look you always see the quarry just as it is about to fly or run off. On a recent walk around one ground I noticed a few pigeons feeding on the grass fields and on inspection I could see the clover had grown quite a lot so it was easy pickings for them. The rape crops are high around the shoot as well so the clover must be their next preferred food source. I had shot a pigeon in the wood next to the field and decided to prop it up as a decoy and get under the hedge bordering the field and just take an hour to see if I could get anything interested. It didn't take long for a few pigeons to take interest in the decoy and in the next hour I had at least ten pigeons drop in. As there wasn't much cover under the hedge it was hard for me to stay hidden and I wasn't making a full hide set up it was just a teaser. I managed to get five pigeons out of the ten so that gave me confidence that with good cover maybe I could have a good session if I planned it well enough. 

I had kept the five pigeons that I shot as I would use these as decoys for my session, I can't stress enough that when you are decoying pigeons with an Air rifle you won't beat the real thing to draw them in. It is not only getting them into your kill zone that is hard, you want them to feel comfortable as well when they land. There is nothing worse than having pigeons drop into your pattern and then all they do is either take off straight away or they will flip up and down a few times then retreat. I hear all the time that hunters decoying pigeons will track the pigeon coming in then as soon as it hits the floor you get the cross on it and shoot as quickly as possible. I have done this myself in the past and it's not something I like doing, rushing doesn't make us better shots. I prefer to track them in and once they are on the ground wait a few seconds to see if it's comfortable with the decoys, there's nothing worse than trying to shoot a pigeon in the head that is alert and bobbing it's head around looking for danger. If we have everything set up right they will stay in your pattern feeding for a while before they realise something is wrong, especially if you are using shot pigeons as decoys. Plastic decoys whether full bodied or shell will put them on alert almost straight away and that is when the rush shots start.

The evening before my planned trip I was thinking on making a short blind that I could use under the hedge. I had some old camo netting in the shed but I was short of poles. A quick rummage around found me the kids dome tent. Now I know it's the kid's but I was sure there was a hole in it somewhere 'that is what I told the lovely wife' and I stole some of the poles. The fibre glass poles were a perfect size for what I needed so I planned the blind out and took a trip to a friends with a sewing machine. He had stitched it up in no time and an invite to come shooting and have a hundred acres of wood to walk around all day was the only payment he wanted. I also thought it would help me if he was keeping the pigeons moving about as well. The next morning I packed all my gear into the Jack Pyke rucksack that I needed and with the Rapid topped up I was off to pick my mate up.

We arrived just after day break and proceeded to where I wanted to set up. We were pushing pigeons out of the trees all the way to my chosen spot so the signs were looking good. I wasn't taking that for granted though, my planned visit with the jackdaws last month was a disaster even though there was plenty around to start with.

Now at the spot I had chosen to shoot from I started to clear a nice opening under the hedge, you want everything out the way that could obstruct the pellet once you fire the rifle. Next I set my blind up and pushed the rapid through the gap in the blind to make sure it fitted OK. I always use a Bi-Pod when decoying as it eliminates movement on your part and it makes for more comfortable shooting . The Bi-Pod is fitted to my Rapid with the well known Dr Bob clamp that you can't really see on the front of my bottle but it is there honest. Next it was time to set up my decoys, I always do this last as in past times I have had pigeons drop in while setting up up my hide when done the other way around and missed chances are not good. I paced out 28 paces and used that as my Kill Zone. I then set up the decoys in a Horse Shoe pattern, this is preferred by most shotgun shooters, so if any pigeons came in they would land bang in the middle of the pattern.

I faced them in the direction of the breeze that was coming across the field but I off-set them so they didn't look to regimental. It is important to have no feathers sticking out of them and make them look as neat as possible. I will usually only use about half a dozen decoys as I think the more you use the more the pigeons have to look around at for any sign of imperfections. I then stuck a stick in the ground near the front pigeon so I could take a couple of test shots at and gauge the wind coming across the field. Now all set up I was ready, the test shots showed I needed to aim half an inch to the right to hit zero so now it was up to the pigeons to come and hopefully be fooled by my pattern. I had told my mate where his boundaries for the day were and off he went and I settled down for the first shot of the day.

Ten minutes had passed and I noticed a pigeon coming in from the left. I shouldered the rapid and watched it land exactly as planned in the middle of the pattern. The pigeon looked around for a second then proceeded to walk over to one of the decoys. As it stood looking at the decoy I lined the cross hairs just above it's beak and the pigeon dropped forward as the pellet hit it bang on the mark behind its eye. 'What a perfect start' I thought. As it had slumped forward I decided to leave it where it was just in case there was anything else about, it was a right move as two more came straight into where the shot one was. The Rapid was already in my shoulder and I got the cross hairs onto the closest one. Again with the Rapid set up on the Bi-Pod it was a formality and number two joined the pattern. It's mate had flown off but had landed right above me. It had obviously not heard the rapid go off and was wondering why it's mate was still there. I couldn't see the pigeon above me clear enough to get a shot at it so I just lay still and hoped it would either come in again or just let it settle and use it as a decoy in the tree. It didn't settle long and flew off over the decoys to the far end of the field. This gave me a chance to retrieve the two pigeons and keep my pattern looking neat. In the next thirty minutes another two came into the pattern and fell the same way as the two before.

It was a good hour before I had my next sign of activity. I was just about to have a drink when I heard the wings of pigeons overhead. I had six pigeons drop into the pattern at once. I shouldered the rapid and as I was lining on up two pigeons decided to take flight but the four others were quite happy to be around my decoys. The closest one was facing away from me so I decided on a shot between the shoulders.

This is a shot that will drop a pigeon stone dead without any flapping 99% of the time and as the script went perfectly only one of the other pigeons flew off. The Nutshot silencer that I have on my Rapid is so quiet all the pigeons heard was a thud from the pigeon as the pellet hit. I quickly loaded the Rapid again and lined up the next pigeon. It was very alert but steady so another head shot was easy and it joined the other one. The other one flew off as expected but everything was going perfect for a change. In the next two hours another six came in and all ended up in the bag stone dead with either a head shot or a spine shot. Today was going brilliant, it's one of those times that everything was perfect, the pattern was obviously to their liking as nothing that came near them flew of in panic, they just dropped in around them and felt comfortable and that makes shooting them so much easier. By now my mate had joined me and he had been lucky taking two rabbits whilst sniping a warren. We were having a cuppa when another pigeon dropped into the pattern. This time I had no head net on so I had to slowly move to the Rapid behind the blind and hope it didn't see me. It must have been a minute before I finally shot the pigeon, my mate was surprised at how comfortable the pigeon was as he usually has to shoot them as soon as they hit the floor. He also said he uses plastic decoys and that is the difference in my eyes. He stayed with me for the next two hours just to see how they came in to the pattern and he was amazed how good it was.

He also pointed out it was his expert sewing on the blind that made the day as they couldn't see us behind it. I was just about to go out and retrieve a couple more pigeons when a hare started to come towards us. I reached for my camera and pointed it through the gap in the blind. It is amazing when you get so close to these creatures in the wild and how close it came to us was also spectacular. It was looking straight at us but didn't have a clue as it couldn't see us through the blind so I managed to get a good pose from him.

It's things like this that make a day out shooting all the more worth while. After that encounter it wouldn't have bothered me if I hadn't shot anything at all that day. Well back to the pigeons, as I have probably gone over my word count I had better finish with the total for the day. I had managed nineteen pigeons for the same amount of shots, it was a red letter day and I am sure it was helped by the fact my mate was walking around the wood and keeping the birds on the move. I did manage to get a squirrel as well from where I was shooting the pigeons. I had heard it clawing a tree behind me as it was climbing up, it was not a hard shot, some 25 yards and in the clear looking side on. The Rapid makes light work of them as well. Who says .177 is a lady calibre? - You know who you are...LOL.

 Notes.

  • Before going decoying, try and watch where the pigeons are feeding the day before as they will usually be happy to go back the next day.

  • Make sure you do test shots before you shoot at a pigeon as a steady breeze will send a pellet sideways more than you think.

  • Always go for head shots if possible to ensure a clean kill. A shot between the shoulder blades is equally as effective.

  • Concealment is really important, you will be on the same eye level as the pigeon so it will see you a lot easier if you don't cover up.

  • When setting the decoys up make sure they are as neat as possible and clean up any loose feathers on the floor amongst the decoys.

  • If pigeons keep turning away from your decoys don't be afraid to change the pattern, what works one day might not work the next.

  • If possible use dead pigeons for decoys, if you have none full bodied decoys work better than shells and you can swap them as soon as you shoot one.

  • Check out more of my trips out and much more on Air rifle shooting and kit in Airgunner Magazine on sale every month.