Geoff Garrod has four ‘go to’ decoy patterns for you to try, depending on wind direction and hide set-up…
Let’s talk about decoy patterns; it’s more important than ever now the weather is starting to stir up the fields that you know how to get the most from the wind directions across your chosen field. Here’s how to use the wind and the flightlines to the best advantage with four standard set-ups for your decoy patterns.
1. Left to right
You want to start with wind direction. We know pigeons need to land into the wind; if you are in a hide looking out over the field in front of you and the wind is blowing from right to left, the pigeons will be coming in left to right. I tend to start with a general pattern in front but as the day progresses I build up a line across the face of the hide, with the furthest decoys being no more than 20-25 yards out in front of me. While 25 yards is a good killing distance, 30 yards is the maximum you’d want to shoot at.
You should have a line coming from left to right into the wind, and on the right hand side of the pattern you should put a few pigeons out further, so you have a bit of an L-shape, the idea being if the pigeons come into the decoys, they must swing around. As they land on the right hand side of the pattern, you should get them as they are swinging across the face of the hide.
To improve matters, what I sometimes do is have a couple of holes in the decoys of the ‘L’ section, so the woodies have somewhere to land. If you have a big tight patch of decoys and there’s nowhere to land, they’ll go to the front of the decoys, which could be a bit too far away at 35-40 yards. You should leave holes here along the long part of the ‘L’, which cuts across in front of you in the hide, meets the short part that pushes out across the field. If you leave a couple of holes there, bigger than usual, you can get the pigeons to see that and they’ll drop in there to feed.
2. Coming from behind you
If the wind is directly behind you, blowing over the top of you in the hide as you look out on to the field, the pigeons will be coming in straight towards you. I tend to have a horseshoe pattern. The very middle of the shape needs to be right in front of you and it wants to be about 10 yards forward from your position in the hide. The legs of the horseshoe will be 25 yards away from the hide on the left and 25 yards away on the right, too.
You’ll notice a space in front of you; the pigeons can see that and they’ll land in the hole. To encourage them, if you’ve got the back of the horseshoe in front of you at 10 yards, it sometimes pays to have two holes either side of the central section. The pigeons will come down into that open space, as they always like to land in front of other pigeons.
If you have all your decoys right up close to the edge of the field, the pigeons will be brought in as close to you as possible. When you get up to shoot, the pigeons are coming in fast towards you, and even when they then see you, they have to do a U-turn. This will give you a really good opportunity to get up, pick your birds and shoot.
What I tend to do is let some birds land right in front of me, ignore them and shoot a bird that’s still flying in. The birds that have landed will lift, giving you that extra moment or two to pick and take a second bird. On very good days, if you’ve got a semi-auto with a three-shot, you can kill a bird at 25 yards coming in, then a bird that has landed at about 10 yards in front of you, and even a third flying away.
3. Coming towards you
The worst wind direction you can have is when it’s blowing straight into your hide. In that situation, the birds will be coming over behind your hide, over your head. You need your decoys as close as you can possibly get them, no more than 15-20 yards out. The difference when the wind is in this position is that you can’t see the birds’ flightline.
Usually, when see a pigeon coming over the field, you know it has set its wings to land among the decoys and you can watch it come all the way in, so you can get up when you want. When the wind is in the opposite direction, chances are you won’t see the birds coming in until they are on top of you.
There’s no point having your decoys beyond 20-25 yards out; the birds will be going to the edge of the decoy pattern, and then you’ll be shooting at pigeons going away. You need to bring you decoys in, closer to the hedge. Say your furthest decoy is 15-20 yards out: by the time you’ve seen them, they’re flying out to 25-30 yards – still a killable range for your shotgun.
If you’ve got your decoy pattern set as if they were coming into you from the front of your hide, by the time you’ve seen the pigeons, they’re going away from you. You’re shooting at pigeons from behind at 25-30 yards, which would be difficult. You need the pigeons to be landing as close as they can in the pattern, so you need the pattern to be a bit closer to you.
4. Middle of the field
These patterns that I have just described would be for when you are shooting from a hide against a hedge or a stretch of woodland. Sometimes, the flightline will dictate your building a hide in the centre of a field, for which you would need either a stand-alone net hide, well camouflaged, or a bale hide.
The one benefit of shooting from the centre of the field is that you can turn your hide around and have the wind direction whichever way you want, to get the wind direction in your favour.
With your pattern arranged all around the hide, your shooting field can extend up to 270 degrees, instead of just 180 when limited by a hedge. More chances to shoot pigeons? I’m up for that.