Pigeon shooter Geoff Garrod shares his skills and relates his first 100 plus pigeon day experience this season in what proved to be difficult circumstances
My first pigeon shooting outing was with my dad using a .410, but it very nearly didn’t happen. At the time I quickly found to my intense disappointment we didn’t have any cartridges. I was a very crestfallen young man, let me tell you, as my dad made ready to go. But with a stroke of luck when donning an old duffle coat, I found 17 .410 cartridges in the pockets and the event was back on. Dad set me up at the end of a belt of trees that the birds were flighting into. I spent the day there and managed to shoot 17 pigeons for my 17 shots by carefully picking my birds. The memory is still as vivid now as it was then and still ranks as one of the best days I’ve ever had. Pigeon shooting really is my number one passion. Ever since that fateful day as a lad, shooting 17 pigeons with as many shots, I’ve been chasing them as often as I possibly can.
“They can come at you like driven grouse one minute, and then unexpectedly dip a wing and swerve away like a partridge or accelerate skywards like a springing teal”
Most of the enjoyment with pigeon shooting is getting them to come to your position. They are truly a wild bird and outsmarting them is a real challenge. Yet, when things do come together and the grey hordes start to come to the decoys, the shooting really is some of the most sporting anyone could wish for. They can come at you like driven grouse one minute, and then unexpectedly dip a wing and swerve away like a partridge or accelerate skywards like a springing teal.
When it comes to fooling pigeons and getting them to do what you want them to do, I’m a traditionalist – it’s as simple as that. There is no substitute for good field-craft and time spent in the field studying flight lines. Choosing your position after a considered decision and building a substantial hide are the foundations for success. Never skip on hide building – due diligence during construction will reap dividends when the shooting starts. A good solid background is a necessity – a poor one will see the shooter silhouetted and the slightest of movement give him away. Nets and poles are a good base for a hide, but use as much of the surrounding natural covers as you can to help it blend in. Stand back often and look at your hide from all angles until you are totally satisfied.
I always use real but dead birds as decoys, keeping a few back in the freezer for the next excursion, starting with a few decoys and building up the pattern as I go. The decoy patterns I use are all dependant on the day’s conditions and crucially the wind direction, but the key thing always is to bring the birds to or across the hide in a way conducive to good shooting. Always be aware of the need to change the plan and alter the deeks accordingly if it isn’t working. My personal preference is to use spray marker canes to place the dead decoys. A flexible two-and-a-half foot cane passed through the dead bird’s vent and through into its skull is an effective way of securing the decoy, and when stabbed into the ground at the required angle the bounce of the cane gives the dead bird a bit of life-like action as it bobs in the wind.