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Guided Pigeon Shooting

Guided Pigeon Shooting

Andrew Johnson, who writes for Shooting Sports, also runs a hunting agency that offers deer stalking, game bird shooting and simulated hunting clay pigeon days. He has now added another string to his bow, with his new venture; guided pigeon shooting (corvids also allowed). Without doubt, this is a very popular past time for sport shooters and an essential pest control job for the farmer too, as this prolific pest species eats a lot and you can imagine what sort of damage even a small flock will do to a field of crops!

Have a go

I confess to being a generally less than average shotgunner, but in the last few years I’ve been doing simulated game shoots and also general clays and regardless of my performance, which is improving, I find the whole thing both enjoyable and satisfying. So, when Andrew asked me if I would like to cover his new guided pigeon enterprise, I jumped at the chance.

The days are aimed at both experienced and novice shooters; in the latter case, you are accompanied, which I found very useful, as Andrew is constantly giving tips and technique critique, plus the all-important hide discipline. He told me that the biggest mistake made by many is to sit in the hide thinking they are invisible and talk and bob up and down too much, which these canny birds will spot instantly and react to by avoiding the area.

Andrew also had an experienced pigeon shooter on the day too, who he set up the other side of the farm in a hide. So, let’s get started, I rolled up at 08.00 with my gun, a Winchester SX4 on test, ammo (250-rounds) and some lunch. Shotgun, shells and scoff can also be provided but that is extra. I asked if I needed full camo and face veil etc and was surprised when he said not really, a decent jacket and hat with a peak or full brim and gloves maybe, would be adequate! He went on to say that he used to do the whole camo thing but with correct hide discipline he reckoned it made little difference!

Hide & seek

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  • Guided Pigeon Shooting - image {image:count}

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  • Guided Pigeon Shooting - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Guided Pigeon Shooting - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

First, building the hide, which uses hay bales and takes about 15-minutes, which is then covered with camo netting, with two more bales for the seats, as you can spend a lot of time waiting. The biggest trick is where to position it, which is usually determined by previous recon and its potential location. A few days before, Andrew will reconnoitre the area, looking for flock activity. Then, by use of bangers (strings of bangers that are lit and detonate at intermittent intervals) and flags will move the birds on and in the latter case, stop them landing where they want to. Sometimes they don’t cooperate, as happened to us, and we had to re-position the hide half way through the day due to this problem. After all, they are wild animals and do what they feel.

With the firing position sorted, it was time for the decoys (deeks). Andrew uses shell-types on the ground in patterns that should simulate birds down in the field eating, the pigeon magnet is a rotary device that you place dead birds on in realistic positions that when turning look like they are circling to land. Also bobbers – a sprung metal pole with a bird on the end that reacts to the wind and simulates them coming in. As a flocking animal, they are always looking for food and seeing what looks like pigeons already down can attract them. We also lofted a couple of full body deeks into the overhead trees too.

Bug out

We started around 09.00, with not a lot of activity going on and shot a few, these were added to the deek pattern, but typically some landed upside down and have to be repositioned immediately. Andrew said nothing puts the live one off more than seeing one of their own dead on its back. Though sitting down, the idea is to look through the net rather than bobbing up, as that will spook them. Also, plan your shot, as there will be a prime moment to take them, whether it’s as they flare in to land or simply let them get as close as they can. All this was good stuff and stored away in my pigeon memory! And remember, each shot is each shot; so, pick a target and give it your best attention and don’t be distracted!

I reckon we dropped about 12 birds by 11.30 and Andrew said he was surprised that there were not more. He told me to stay in the hide and shoot what came over as he had to pop out and get something. He came back quickly, saying we needed to shift as the pigeon movement he had expected had not occurred and they were flocking elsewhere. So, like in the army, ‘de-cam and bug out’, it did not take us long and inside 30 minutes we were next to a wood about 500 yards away and set up.

In the bag

He was right, as the overhead traffic increased significantly and we were soon dropping birds regularly, well I missed some but that was down to me! At the end of the day we got a bag of 40, not huge but very enjoyable and if we’d had luck in the morning I reckon that would have easily doubled. The other shooter came back with 35 and eight corvids and like me had a great time. Overall, I had a superb day and also learned a lot and barely had time to eat my lunch and I reckon for the price these guided pigeon days are an absolute bargain!

Start around 08.30 and finish about 16.30, time of year depending. Andrew is there to help novices or just set you up and let you go it alone. Cost is a very reasonable £150, with food, gun and cartridge hire on top if required.


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