Good practice and your hide
Setting up properly to shoot pigeons is essential if you want to enjoy yourself in safety. Follow a few basics and you will have a successful day, says Geoff Garrod
You may have the perfect day, pigeons keen to decoy and your gun loaded and ready to go but without good hide discipline it could count for nothing. Follow these simple, common sense tips and you’ll have a safer day and, most likely, a bigger bag.
When choosing the location for your hide, try to find level ground. Be prepared to do a little spadework to give yourself as flat and stable a platform to shoot from as possible. As part of my standard decoying kit I always carry a spade in the truck for this purpose. The reason flat ground is so important is not just to stop you tripping and being put off balance by obstacles such as stones or roots, it’s more fundamental than that. Footwork and foot placement are equally important when shooting pigeons as they are when shooting driven game. It’s very easy to limit your movement and you’ll end up missing shots because you’re simply set up wrongly. You need to be able to position your feet to take shots that present themselves in a 180° arc. Many shots are missed through poor balance or not being able to place your feet in the optimum position, causing you to run out of swing. A great deal of footwork is needed when pigeon shooting as you get “every shot in the book”, so be prepared to
be nimble. The bottom line is that you have a loaded gun in your hand and tripping or falling over could end badly. Missing birds is also hellishly frustrating.
Clear your arc of fire of obstructions that may catch your barrel when swinging through a bird. Most hides will be roughly a D shape and most birds will probably be shot over your decoys in front of the hide in a 90° quadrant, but always expect the unexpected and keep as wide an arc available to shoot in. Birds may and often do arrive from all directions. Try not to limit your options, if the terrain and location allow. It’s not just to help your shooting, it’s a matter of safety too. Banging into a branch could easily knock the gun out of your shoulder or cause you to pull the trigger when you don’t intend to. Take a saw or loppers to remove what you need to be able to shoot safely. Don’t go mad, just clear what’s needed.
I’ve had a gun and cartridge stand made to make sure that I can prop my gun up in the hide safely. Being able to pick the gun up and move freely makes life a whole lot easier. The stand makes sure that the muzzle of the gun isn’t right next to the camo-netting. I’ve seen it many times: a bird appears and in the rush to grab the gun and mount it, the barrel gets tangled in the top of the netting and the shooter ends up looking foolish and an opportunity is missed. Keeping the barrel just a few inches away mostly prevents this from happening.
Being comfortable will help your shooting. A problem shooters often create for themselves is either having the camo-netting too low and they get spotted by approaching birds, or they have the netting too high to comfortably shoot over and will get tangled or bang into the hide poles when tracking a crossing bird. It’s well worth taking time to get the hide right for you.
I set my netting to mid-chest height. Not only does this allow me to peek over the net to spot birds while I’m sitting down, but when I stand up to shoot, the gun easily swings over the top of the poles. Pigeons aren’t all that good at spotting colour, but they are extremely sharp when it comes to seeing any movement. I would always recommend wearing a hat and preferably not one that is a flat colour. The camo pattern on the Deerhunter kit I wear helps to disguise my outline and the same goes for the jacket. I’m not sure the colour matters too much,
“The reactions of a pigeon are rapid, equalled only by grouse for their agility in the air”
• Find a location on level ground • Take a spade with you • Remove obstacles such as branches • Make sure you stay still in the hide • Make everything comfortable