So you’re heading out pigeon shooting. Maybe your local farmer has asked you to shoot the pigeons on his land, or you’ve located some pigeon ‘hot spots’ and asked for the relevant permission to shoot there if it’s not your farm. The next thing you need to think about is your pigeon decoys and decoying patterns to make the day as successful as possible.

Before you start, think fieldcraft. As the famous Archie Coates said, “time spent on reconnaissance is rarely wasted”. Consider the flight lines that the pigeons would use, the location of hedges, woods, solitary trees and water. Also consider if there are houses or roads nearby, and make sure that you are in a position to shoot safely. Then assemble your decoys and think about the decoy patterns you will use in front of your hide.

Traditional decoying patterns

The horseshoe pattern is the one traditionally used. Position your decoys in a horseshoe shape, side on to your hide, with the opening of the horseshoe lined up with what you believe to be the flight lines of the pigeons and the closed part of the horseshoe facing into the wind.

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You can also create this same horseshoe pattern but with the closed part of the horseshoe facing your hide. In both cases the decoys are quite close to your hide which obviously helps, depending on how good your shooting is!

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You can adapt the horseshoe pattern into an elongated L so that you have a larger capture area for your pigeons and they won’t ‘leak’ out of the side of your area if they’re not funnelled into the horseshoe. See below.

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When you’re creating your horseshoe, don’t make the entrance to your horseshoe too narrow or you will obviously lose some pigeons flying either side of it.

Decoy positions

Make sure that most of the heads of your decoys face into the wind. That way their heads can bob in the wind and make them more realistic looking. You can have a few sideways looking too for a natural appearance. This is your chance to get creative.

Top decoy tips

Now you know the patterns to put your decoys in, here are a few additional tips from master pigeon decoyers to help you enjoy a good day shooting.

  1. The best decoys are always real birds, but you can make your plastic or shell decoys look a bit more real by sticking feathers onto the body and tail. Alternatively you can paint them in a model paint; humbrol matt 49 – available from craft shops – to stop them looking so unnaturally shiny.
  2. Once you have shot some real birds, add them to your decoys. You can use cheap kebab sticks from the supermarket, or forked twigs if you can find them, to prop their heads up and make them look real.
  3. If it’s a bright day, don’t put your sunglasses on as the birds will see the sun glinting off them. Shade your face with a wide brimmed hat instead.
  4. As you shoot the birds, add them to your pattern and if need be, replace the plastic decoys with real ones. However you may find that birds can sometimes see decoys better, it tends to draw more birds in, so use your own experience.
  5. Don’t forget to take a comfortable seat with you to sit on in the hide, as you don’t want a sore bum or knees at the end of the day. May be take a cushion too.