THE HUNTER’S WAY
Eddie Jones is after pigeons with some new kit and his good lady
Eddie Jones tells us how to get the best from a pigeon shooting day in high summer
“Finding the pigeons’ flight lines will give you the biggest advantage”
Since writing the features about the most common species that we control on our rounds, I have been asked how much kit I would take for a typical decoying session. When I first started out, I would just take a few decoys, some small sticks with a sharp end for the decoys to be pegged into the ground, and a bit of old army camo net. This was all I wanted to carry on a warm summer’s afternoon. It did get me a few shots, and that’s okay if you are just having a nice chilled session, but I later found out that it was not enough if I wanted a big bag of pigeons.
When shooting over stubble, you can get some great bags, and there are guys out there who have shot near on 100 pigeons in one session with an air rifle. I have not been so lucky, though. I think my biggest bag was around 50- 60, but you need the pigeons in your area to get this kind of day to start with.
In the early spring, you will have clover as the main diet, so any paddocks or grass fields on your shoot will produce good numbers at times, but once the crops are cut, you really need to go out and find those large flocks and be ready for them.
Finding the pigeons’ flight lines will give you the biggest advantage of getting in amongst them from the off. If the pigeons can feed without disturbance, they will usually come in for as long as the stubble is around. These days, you need to be on your game because farmers soon plough the fields over and re- sow them, so it will be good to have a chat with the farmer and ask when they will be cutting and re- seeding.
Knowing where the pigeons usually come in regarding the wind direction onto the fields is also a big advantage. If you can catch their eye with the few decoys that you have taken, then you should also be able to use the shot pigeons that you get early on, to build up a good realistic pattern to keep them coming for as long as possible.
For this session I wasn’t shooting over crops. I had noticed a few pigeons dropping onto a cut grass field whilst I was walking around on a
rabbit session, and I thought it would be a great chance to try out some new kit that I had been given to test, Also my partner has taken an interest in my hobby and wanted to come to see how decoying worked. She has been doing rather well recently on targets, and also on a recent rabbit shoot, so I couldn’t say no. Having Carina with me would also give me a true test on how good the new Ghost camo net from Jack Pyke would cope with the girly colours she insists on wearing.
The net consist of two layers; one is full mesh and the other is mesh cut to show a more broken up pattern, and holes to aid seeing through, and I must admit, I was well impressed on how good it is to look through from the inside out.
When setting up the hide, you need to find a nice background behind you so that it hides any movement you make as the pigeon comes in. The more shade the better, if possible, but make sure you can see what is coming in from both sides. Don’t be tempted to make the hide too big, or too high – you need to be able to shoot over it comfortably and see what is coming in. For this test, though, I pulled the hide further forward from the trees, just to let more light inside it.
TOUGH ON THE NET
I wanted to do this test without any help from the surrounding fauna. I would never just use a net in front of the hide on its own in real sessions, but this was a test so I had to use it raw. From the pictures, you will see that the girly pink really could be seen through the net, and in real situations I would not dream of letting the missus wear that – no matter how big the bottom lip gets, but once she switches to the Quick Wick T-shirt you definitely see the difference. When I was in the hide wearing the darker bottoms and camo colours, it certainly helped to blend me in well. I know you’ll say that you can see the bags that came with the decoys on the floor, but that was purposely set up. I would make sure in a real situation that these were all put in one darker bag, or covered over; I just want to be tough on the net.
There had been no specific flight-line that the pigeons were taking on this field when I was watching them, so I set
up the decoys in a horseshoe-shape pattern around 30 yards from the hide. There was hardly any breeze, and I could face the decoys in any direction I wanted so that they didn’t look regimental. I then set up a bouncer slightly behind the decoys, but just a little. This will give the impression of a pigeon coming into land, but also give room for a pigeon to pass the flapper and come into the pattern.
The kind of decoys you use will depend on you, and what you can afford, but the Enforcer decoys that I have been testing really take some beating now, and you can get them at a great price. They are the most realistic plastic decoys I have seen and they have definitely pulled in more pigeons doing this type of decoying than any others I have used.
It was now time to see if anything would come into the pattern. It was mid- afternoon and baking hot, not the time I like to be out decoying, but I had to try. Well, I started off letting Carina wear her girly pink top, just to show her how important it is to be hidden from pigeons. We had four come in close to landing, only for them to flick their wings and head on to the trees to our left. Every time Carina lifted the rifle, she was seen. Biting my nails and keeping calm, I finally persuaded her to ditch the pink, and straight away she had one present itself just a little further forward of the decoys. I insisted on a head shot because she was still in her infancy shooting off sticks. I wouldn’t want an injured pigeon, so I knew it would be a kill or miss. She did manage to miss this one, but I was being impatient and telling her to get a move on before it got sunstroke, so it was my fault. I had hoped it would fly off quickly, just so she could see how fast you have to be when shooting with an air rifle – this pigeon was either dumb or the net was doing exactly what it was made for.
Anyway, we did manage to get a couple more come straight in and, yes, she did get her prize. I was over the moon that she stayed calm and got a nice 30-yard shot perfect. I decided to pull the plug on the session because I had been called to attend a farm to do some fox control that evening, and I didn’t want to be rushing around. The short session had proved that the Ghost net and decoys worked faultlessly – whether the bouncer was pulling them in, or the whole pattern was right. I know that whatever pigeon arrived in the area, it came to the pattern. I know I am going to get some stick off the guys for taking the other half shooting, but I don’t care. It is great that I can share my hobby with her, and I have my own personal caddy!
“From the pictures, you will see that the girly pink really could be seen through the net”
ABOVE: By keeping the hide low I could shoot over it comfortably
BELOW: The ‘floater’ adds movement to the pattern
ABOVE: I kept the pattern simple to begin
BELOW LEFT: Carina can comfortably carry my decoying kit
BELOW RIGHT: This neat bag stops the Enforcer decoys from getting damaged
ABOVE: Pink ... really?