Constant challenge of a decoyer
The pigeon’s strange behaviour teaches us to continue learning about this fascinating bird and to keep adapting, even if it’s contrary to what we’ve done in the past
’m sure you have all had days where, no matter what you do, the pigeons simply will not commit to your decoys. Of course, you go through all the likely causes: birds on their backs; the hide’s in the wrong place; whirly is scaring them away, and so on. But, still, the birds just slide past out of range to land, frustratingly, 200 yards further on.
For the past four or five outings, Paul and I have experienced a distinct reluctance for the birds to decoy confidently, even though we have still ended the sessions with better than average bags in the 250 to 300 bracket. Talking to other decoyers, they are saying the same thing. So, it got me thinking, what is causing this phenomenon?
The fact that birds continue to visit the field we are set up on suggests we have got the number one criteria for a successful day correct – we have chosen the field the pigeons want to feed on. We also spend a lot of time watching the chosen field to make sure the spot where we set up is the one pigeons naturally head for. So far, so good. But at this juncture, there are a multitude of factors that could influence the outcome of the day.
The hide needs to be built in such a way that you have a commanding view of approaching pigeons, but they do not have a commanding view of you. They need to be able to get into the pattern comfortably, and quickly get out again if they spot danger. Using the wind, you must try to make sure your shooting does not blow up the flightline, or, indeed, that you have set up under a true line, rather than one coming from a nearby spinney – one that will immediately terminate after the first shot. Your decoys must be set in such a way that previous reconnaissance suggests the pigeons expect to see. Whirlies and flappers must also allow free passage for the birds to commit. With close on 50 years experience, I can assure you I do all these things with meticulous care, and yet, lately, nothing seems to work. So, what conclusion can we reach?
As always with wild creatures, there will be a good reason for their behaviour, usually the result of a mixture of circumstances. In our case, most of our big bags have been taken from large acreages of the chosen crop – situations where, once the shooting starts, the birds can quickly divert to another part of the huge fields and feed in peace. Also, once the harvest started, pigeons had a wide choice of restaurants and it wasn’t unusual to shoot birds going home in the late afternoon with three different types of seed in their crops.
So, while we shot some truly huge bags from these fields, we never actually kept them off while we were shooting, resulting in the survivors turning up to feed on the same fields the next day, as if