First it can be helpful to find a wheelbarrow to carry everything across fields. Then load up your camouflage gear to build the hide. Netting is good and easily obtainable. This has become more sophisticated over the last decade and now you can buy equipment to blend in with every season. It’s still best to use as much fresh vegetation as possible and lay this over your netting – especially if you’re in the middle of a field rather than in a hedge line. Fresh branches such as leylandii give great coverage.
Get a seat that you are going to be comfortable sitting on for several hours. If it can swivel, all the better so you can shift from side to side to take a shot.
Take a lunch bag if you’re out all day. Your dog could be good company if you’re shooting solo.
Think fieldcraft. As the famous Archie Coates said “you need to think like a pigeon” yourself. Think about how far the pigeons will come in to feed, how much food there is on the plot you are considering. What time they start moving and what time they’ll finish. Freshly sown or combined fields can be great spots.
Consider flight lines that the pigeons would use, hedges, woods, solitary trees and water. Think about setting your hide up into a hedge of the right height with no giant trees to obstruct your shooting and your swing. Low hedges are perfect, as pigeons won’t fly in from too big an arc and they’ll drop in at an ideal height.
It goes without saying that you need to ask the farmer’s permission, if it’s not your land, to set up a hide on your chosen ‘pigeon hot spot’. We shoot pigeons under the general license of crop protection, and it’s a very important job, as pigeons can cause a lot of damage to the crops at a great cost to the farmer.
The key is to be invisible. You need a door obviously, but make sure your netting can conceal this. Are you going to shoot over the top of your hide? You will be more visible if you do. A camouflage hat will help in that case at least. Are you going to shoot through a window? If so, you need to build this in.
A good tip is to take a carrier bag of straw with you and spread it on the floor to prevent getting a puddle of mud under your feet in the hide. It’s safe to leave and won’t get you in trouble with the farmer when you pack up at the end of the day too.
Pigeons have become more decoy shy, so so spend some time, making sure that you have made an attractive pattern for the pigeons to draw them in. Real birds make better decoys than the artificial ones, so mix them up. The more birds the merrier. It’s a good idea to keep a few birds from your last outing in the freezer, then thaw them out the day before you need to use them. Make sure that you make your decoy pattern within killing distance of your hide, say within 30 meters and wide enough for the pigeons to come in to it. Letting one or two of the first pigeons land in the pattern is also a good idea, as it gives it some movement. You can always shoot them when they take off again.
If you are using artificial devices, especially flappers and whirlies for pigeon decoying, put them upwind of the hide so that the pigeons don’t fly over them in getting to you. When they do come close enough for a good look, and realise the ‘birds’ aren’t real, it should be too late.
If you have built your hide in a good place, the pigeons will come to you and you will soon have plenty of dead birds on the ground to act as further decoys if you need them.
Hopefully the hide you have built will bring you a good bag. If you only shoot a few pigeons, it’s still a good day out, as you are keeping them off the crops by being there and you’ve enjoyed a great day in the countryside. One last important point is to make sure that you collect and take away your empty cartridge shells. Happy pigeon shooting!