The super XV pigeon Shots

main_pigeonsPigeon shooting tips from the best in the business.

pigeons_wood

Alan Wood

Highly regarded Yorkshire-based pigeon Shot with a deadly reputation. Has been pigeon shooting since the age of 17 but still regards the woodie as the ultimate quarry species. 

Gun – Beretta three-shot auto with a hush power silencer, choked .

Cartridge – Hull 32g Special Pigeon. A pigeon is not a large bird so you need a quality cartridge that patterns well.

Most important accessory

A big brolly! In the last couple of years I have used a fishing brolly which, at an angle, keeps a cold wind off you and, more importantly, gives you cover. This allows you more movement than an open hide. It works especially well in an open situation (i.e. when there are no hedges).

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

I find a gentle wind in a decoying situation is better than a strong wind. Shooting over laid crops is my favourite.

Top tips

Change the saying ‘location, location, location' to ‘reconnaissance, reconnaissance, reconnaissance'. Watching and following flight lines will lead you to the right field.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

Birds coming from behind, either straight or at a slight angle. Do you shoot them as a going away shot, or wait for them to turn into the wind and decoy? 

Why woodies?

The pigeon is a wild bird and there are so many things you have to think about – wind direction, angle of the sun, where to set up in a field (not always where the pigeons are when you see them) – you really have to pit your wits against the pigeons and you don't always win!

pigeons_alboneJim Albone

Bedfordshire-based professional pigeon guide with over 20 years' experience. Has accounted for over 200,000 pigeons to his own gun. 

Gun – Miroku MK38 12 bore, 32" barrels choked ¾ and full.

Cartridge – Rio Royale 32g No. 5s and 6s. 

Most important accessory

Natural pigeons make the best decoys. Some days the magnet works – when it does it works really well – but you can't beat the natural thing. 

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

In February or March I love to shoot decoyed pigeons over maize. The nicest time, though, is in May and June over spring rape or laid barley.

Top tips

Learn how to shoot! If you can't shoot straight, you'll never shoot many pigeons. Every year I speak to loads of Clint Eastwoods and John Waynes on the phone, and when they get here, they turn out to be another bunch of Laurels and Hardys. In all honesty, there is a sliding scale for game Shots that ranges from useless to average. Very, very few fall into the ‘good' category.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

When you shut both eyes! I suppose the second retreating bird on a right-and-left can be tough. If you are on form, shoot the hard one first. But remember, by the time you get to the “easy” second one, it's no longer so easy!

Why woodies?

You get every shot in the book on a nice windy day. You don't want a 60mph wind, 25-35mph is better. People like Barry Simpson used to say that if you can shoot pigeons consistently, you can shoot anything. I'd agree with that. 

pigeons_fusselPhilip Fussell

A West Country pigeon fanatic who has shot literally hundreds of thousands of pigeons since the 1930s, and is still as keen as ever.

Gun – Browning A1 with 30" barrels choked full.

Cartridge – I like No. 7½s for pigeons. They kill well, out to 50 yards, and that's far enough. 

Most important accessory

My seat. I've always shot sitting down, so I'm a bit lost without it, especially now that my knees are going!

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

Spring drilling is still my favourite. I used to shoot thousands during February, March and April. I don't shoot during the summer months any more as I regard the woodie as a gamebird, and leave it to breed in peace.

Top tips

Experience, reconnaissance, and understanding the wind.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

An “easy” one! You tend to mentally switch off when your brain tells you it's an easy bird.

Why woodies?

It's my gamebird, and it's how I learned to shoot. In my youth, there was a good market for them – and I got my cartridges paid for by the Ministry of Agriculture. It's a different bird now, with all the shooting pressure, but it's still a wild, fascinating bird.

pigeons_clarkeStuart Clarke

Ex English, British and World Sporting Clay champion from Essex, who has been game shooting since the age of 10. On two occasions he has shot over 500 pigeons in a single session.

Gun – Beretta semi auto 12 bore, 30" barrel choked full.

Cartridge – Any good 32g No. 5s. I now shoot Nobel Sport Italia.

Most important accessory

Have the correct colour hide for the background and time of year. I've read it makes no difference, but it does. Pigeons may be colour blind but they know what wasn't there yesterday.

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

I love shooting over spring-drilled peas or beans, but I have shot good bags on spring barley too. It is also hard to beat a late bean stubble in autumn.

Top tips

Keep concealed and move very gently for the shot, without the bird seeing you.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

The most difficult shot is the second shot of a right-and-left when the wind is strong and directly against the birds coming straight towards the hide.

Why woodies?

Because they are wild, cautious, unpredictable and present every shot in the book.

pigeons_reynoldsMartin Reynolds

West Country farmer and vastly experienced game Shot who has been pigeon shooting since 1977.

Gun – Kemen 12 bore, 32" barrels choked ½ and ¾.  

Cartridge – Hull Special Pigeon 30g No. 5s or 6s.

Most important accessory

An old office swivel chair from which I have shot thousands of pigeons.

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

Roost shooting pigeons from a tower is the ultimate and can be every bit as challenging as a great grouse drive. Spring rape grown in the right area will often provide continual shooting, likewise peas and beans at different stages of growth, right through to harvest. And of course rape stubble can provide big bags.

Top tips

Reconnaissance is the key to deciding how long to let the pigeons build up before you start shooting, so always do your homework beforehand. Weather conditions too can either make or break your day.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

Roost shooting where the shot is taken in a gap in the wood. And flighting on a windy day can be challenging too.

Why woodies?

There are rarely two days alike and having to use your fieldcraft to succeed makes it challenging and very rewarding at the same time. But we must never forget this very special bird is not the farmer's friend and whilst we are enjoying ourselves we are carrying out crop protection. Long may it continue.

pigeons_lovellRichard Lovell

Wiltshire-based professional pigeon guide who has been targeting woodies for 43 years. Richard heads a renown syndicate of pigeon hot Shots who can be summoned at a moment's notice. 

Gun – For decoying, my ever faithful A1 Browning, 27½" barrels choked ¼ and ¾. For flighting birds, Browning B425 28 bore, 30" barrels choked ½ and ½. 

Cartridge – RC4s 28g No. 6s for the 12 bore, and Express 28g No. 5s for the 28. 

Most important accessory

My mobile phone enables me to talk to keepers, farmers and other Guns without having to drive miles and miles. And, although I have good eyesight, every good pigeon shooter should have a pair of binoculars for watching flighting and feeding pigeons.

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

Autumn on over-wintered stubbles on Salisbury plain in a good south-west wind, with my good friend Rupert Godfrey. 

Top tips

Know your ground and have patience, you will need it on many days.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

An ‘easy' one over the decoys. I have seen the best in the business miss these – that includes you Mr. Godfrey! Concentration is key.

Why woodies?

They are wild, great sport and you are providing much needed service to farmers in keeping the grey marauders under control!

pigeons_garfitWill Garfit

Highly respected game Shot and well-known sporting writer who has been shooting pigeons for over 50 years, and has averaged over 100 pigeons a day in more than 600 outings.

Gun – Kemen 12 bore, 32" barrels choked ¾ and ¾.

Cartridge – Gamebore Velocity, 28g No. 7½s.

Most important accessory

Ordinarily I would say the pigeon magnet but we lived without them for so long. Whilst all the equipment is useful, the point is that none of it is absolutely crucial. 

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

I like shooting over chopped maize strip at the end of the game season; drilled beans in the spring; peas, spring rape and rape stubble in the summer; and bean stubble in the autumn.

Top tips

Do not hurry setting up. Take time on reconnaissance to ensure that you are on the best field and have selected the optimum site for your hide. It is far better to be in the right place for two hours than the wrong one for six!

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

The second bird of a right-and-left can be challenging as it jinks away after the first shot.

Why woodies?

The ultimate challenge is to outwit a truly wild bird that can fly in ways that represent every shot in the book. The woodpigeon offers just that. 

pigeons_necciMichael Necci

Professional Kent-based pigeon guide with over 40 years of experience who has accounted for tens of thousands of pigeons to his own gun.

Gun – Beretta 391 semi-auto 12-bore, 28" barrel choked ½. 

Cartridge – 32g No. 6s with a plaswad, either Rio 20 or Lyalvale Express.

Most important accessory

My own homemade pigeon cradles. They raise the decoys above any crop by just extending the stick that they sit on. Obviously, a flask of tea and a slice of cake are also very important!

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

High birds, drifting over tall oaks in an autumnal wood, preferably with sufficiently large gaps between the trees to give tall birds enough lead. A bag-filling situation would be laid barley or wheat, or even rape stubble in summer, which can be very enjoyable too!

Top tips

Fieldcraft is essential. Always position your hide under flight lines, regardless of where the pigeons are feeding on the field. Or make the hide under a stand of trees where the pigeons might go before dropping into feed.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

A high bird in windy conditions. The wind tends to blow the shot off course, so a greater allowance for lead is necessary as the bird also tends to jink off line more easily.

Why woodies?

My love for pigeon shooting started when I was a very young boy, I have been making my living from pigeon shooting for over 40 years now and I still get very excited by the thought of a good day's shooting and have spent many sleepless nights thinking about the following day's shoot. And you can shoot all day and not take the same shot twice, which cannot be said of game shooting.

pigeons_godfreyRupert Godfrey

Has been shooting pigeons since the age of 15. Moved to the Wiltshire countryside in 1992 and has since shot nearly 70,000 pigeons.

Gun – Two Miroku 28 bores, both with 30" barrels, one choked improved cylinder, and one ¾. If the birds are decoying well, I use the lightly choked gun; if they're skirting around the pattern, I'll use ¾. 

Cartridge – Lyalvale Express 28g No. 5s with a plaswad. I can't find a 28 bore fibre cartridge that comes close to matching the performance of the Express shells. I find I have fewer runners with No. 5s than with smaller shot.

Most important accessory

My extendable hide poles are simple and practical, bought 20 years ago from a now defunct shooting shop in Birmingham. The other invaluable ‘accessory' is my cocker, Buffles.

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

I love roost shooting on a wind, mainly because I get so few chances to do it. Spring drillings are rare round here (Wiltshire), but I love shooting on beans or peas when the woodies are mad for them.

Top tips

Keep still and remember that your background is as important as what's in front of you.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

A quartering bird coming into the decoys, decelerating and jinking as it looks for a place to land. It's very easy to miss with the first barrel, but easy to kill as it flares away.

Why woodies?

They are wild and unpredictable. You can expect to shoot 150, and get 25 – or the opposite. When you make a decent bag, you've done a lot of things right.

pigeons_beasleyPhil Beasley

Vastly experienced Oxfordshire-based professional pigeon guide, former champion clay pigeon Shot and a pioneer of the modern pigeon magnet. 

Gun – Miroku MK3800 12 bore, 32" barrels choked ½ and ½, and an extra set of 34" barrels choked ¾ and full.

Cartridge – Hull High Pheasant Extreme, 32g No. 5s. 

Most important accessory

A comfortable seat! But it also needs to be high enough to shoot from, you don't want to be too low down.

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

A big strong wind and a big strong flight line makes for the best shooting in the world. The wind acts as a sound moderator and the birds find it hard to locate where the shots are coming from. On a still day, a pigeon will mark you to within a few feet. 

Top tips

Look for the flight lines, not birds in a field. Pigeons in a field can be local birds from a wood – one bang and they are gone. The best time for traffic is when food is restricted in the general area. Having a lot of fields cut at the same time is like having every restaurant open – they'll be spoilt for choice. You want to be shooting near the only open restaurant in the area!

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

A quartering away bird. A woodie looks big, but when you pluck it, there isn't a lot to it. On a quartering bird, you really do need to get them in the middle of the shot pattern to reach the vitals. 

Why woodies?

Every day is a different day, every shot is a different shot and it is the most natural shooting in the world. There are no beaters, it's you against the elements, it's your wits against theirs.

pigeons_digweedGeorge Digweed

George is the most successful sporting clay Shot in history. And unfortunately for woodpigeons, they happen to be his favourite quarry.

Gun – Perazzi MX2000 12 bore, 32" barrels choked full and full.

Cartridge – Gamebore Pigeon Extreme 34g No. 5s (which George helped to design).

Most important accessory

Anyone who has ever shot pigeons will know that apart from a gun and cartridges, the only thing you really need is fieldcraft.

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

I particularly love shooting in winter and early spring. My favourite is flighting them in a wood. It's always a lovely setting, you can sit with your back to a tree, your dogs can work underneath you and of course the pigeon always offers you a complete range of shots.

Top tips

Try and remain as still as you can and let them come as close to you as possible, that way you have more time to deal with them.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

The flaring second bird on a right-and-left is always tough. They tend to curl and do all sorts of things that would otherwise be unnatural. The best way to deal with this bird is to slow down and have the confidence to let it level out before using that second barrel. 

Why woodies?

For me, the simple fact that they are totally natural and wild makes the pigeon a very special quarry species.

pigeons_theobaldPeter Theobald

Honed his shooting skills on the skeet range in Essex, winning both the British and English Championships in the 1980s. Whilst the desire to break clays has diminished, his passion for pigeon shooting is as strong as ever.

Gun – Perazzi trap gun, 32" barrels choked ¼ and ¼.

Cartridge – RC Titano, 31g No. 6s. 

Most important accessory

Apart from gun and cartridges, nothing is essential, so I suppose fieldcraft and knowledge are the most important ingredients for success. No amount of gadgetry will work if you are set up on the wrong field, or at the wrong time.

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

In spring I like to shoot over sown rape because the big winter flocks have broken up and the birds tend to arrive in nice small bunches. My favourite summer crop is laid winter barley because it gives pigeons the first opportunity to get at the cereals, having spent the previous two months on nothing other than green stuff. 

In autumn I like bean stubble as food left on the ground usually lasts longer as they swell after rainfall, making them even more palatable. Because of this, I have often had three or more big shoots on the same field of beans. Winter is the trickiest time of year, as we are heading into the dreaded rape season, which normally signals the end of any hope of decent bags. I always look out for late drillings which can take place right through December and into January.

Top tips

One word: reconnaissance. For every day's shooting I will have done at least three days' checking the field and trying to pick the best day, weather-wise, to shoot. What decoys you use, or the shape of the pattern will count for nought if they are not set up on the right field at the right time.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

The second bird of a pair, the one that jinks straight away from the decoys, low and fast.

Why woodies?

Apart from woodpigeon offering the severest test of my shooting abilities, there is always the sense that any success I may enjoy is purely down to me. I cannot complain that I drew a poor peg or that the farmer put me on the wrong field. The satisfaction of working out the innumerable possibilities of a pigeon's behaviour is unsurpassed.

pigeons_schwerdtPeter Schwerdt

Renowned Wiltshire game Shot and avid pigeon shooter with an impressive average of 200 birds per outing.

Gun – Miroku MK3800 12 bore, 30” barrels choked full and ¾.

Cartridge – Gamebore Clear Pigeon, 30g, No 6s in the summer, and for winter pigeons I use Hull Sterling Game 32g No. 5s. If I am flighting high pigeons, I will use 30-36g No. 4s.

Most important accessory

Pigeon magnets. Two are better than one!

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

Winter pigeons on maize crops when they spend most of their time flighting rather than decoying, and then the last hour decoying because you get every shot in the book. 

Top tips

Close both eyes and hope for the best! On a serious note, have someone with you to keep the birds moving. And don't shoot at big flocks – you will chase them away. Walk out and wave them off until they've broken up into smaller groups. 

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

Long, raking, quartering shot at 60 yards, with vegetation in the background. And it's not because they're necessarily fast. In fact, the slower they are the harder they seem to be!

Why woodies?

They are the ultimate quarry – they twist, turn, pull more Gs than a Tornado, have amazing eyesight, they're wild and they can match grouse, partridge, pheasant and teal in difficulty. And you can shoot them for £3 a bird! 

pigeons_wardSimon Ward

Full-time Hampshire-based professional shooting instructor, gunfitter and game Shot extraordinaire.

Gun – Perazzi MX2000S 12 bore , 32” barrels choked full and full.

Cartridge – Gamebore Black Gold, 12 bore 32g No. 5s and 6s (fibre wad).

Most important accessory

A swivel seat and small spade to level the ground for the seat and for my feet if I need to stand up to shoot. 

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

Winter or late summer flight lines, flailed maize in February and March, spring drillings, late summer wheat stubbles... the list goes on! As you can see I love all forms of pigeon shooting!

Top tips

Reconnaissance is key. Firstly, get yourself in the right position under a good flight line. Next, build a good hide so you can still see through but you are hidden from the pigeon's remarkable eyesight. You must keep still until the bird commits and comes in range of your gun and cartridge combination.

For best results, shoot instinctively. Pigeons don't tend to fly in a straight line and, certainly once they have seen you, they are masters of evading your pattern of shot if you make the fatal mistake of hesitating and trying to make sure. Trust your eyes to read the line of the bird and place your pattern of shot so the bird flies into it. Take the shot without hesitation.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

The next one after the one I've just killed... you're only as good as your last shot!

Why woodies?

Though an agricultural pest, without a doubt the woodie can offer some of the most challenging and varied shooting you will ever experience. The first shot I fired with my grandfather's 12 bore was at a woodpigeon sat in an ash tree when I was 12 years old. The pigeon fell and from that moment onwards I was hooked! I love the solitude of being sat in the hide when you are able to collect your thoughts. The wily woodpigeon was definitely my first love.

pigeons_payneTom Payne

Highly respected Oxfordshire game shooting instructor and passionate pigeon Shot. One to watch.

Gun – Perazzi MX12 12 bore, 32” barrels choked 5/8 and 5/8.

Cartridge – Hull Imperial Game 28g No. 5s. 

Most important accessory

This may sound obvious but you don't need loads of kit to go out and shoot pigeons. Getting yourself into the right place is key. So apart from a gun and cartridges, all you really need is fieldcraft.

Favourite form of pigeon shooting?

In winter, I love roost shooting, particularly from pigeon towers. Topped maize game strips can provide great sport too. In spring, drilled peas and beans or a warm afternoon on clover are hard to beat, and in summer, all the stubbles, particularly from a bale hide. Finally, in autumn, a late bean stubble or old stubbles as the weather turns and volunteer crops start to come through. 

Top tips

Understanding the bird and its habits is the first and most important skill in pigeon shooting. Next comes fieldcraft and the ability to build a good hide in the right location. The last is shooting ability. Once you have honed your skills on the first two, then you can work on your shooting. If you get the first two wrong the last does not happen.

Most difficult shot in pigeon shooting

A flaring bird turning back with a strong wind behind it. But if you don't concentrate, every shot in pigeon shooting becomes a challenge.

Why woodies?

My obsession with the woodpigeon started at the age of eight. I remember doing a project at school on my sporting hero, Archie Coats. I then had the privilege of meeting him and I've never looked back. I strongly believe that the woodie is our country's finest sporting bird. Its only Achille's heel is its greed which allows us to decoy them. 

 

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