Could these methods be used in training so that the trainer could shoot the pigeon for the dogs to learn retrieving fresh game?
There are various methods for releasing pigeon to simulate a real flush, but the safest way (for the pigeon) is to use a purpose-built spring release trap that holds the pigeon gently and firmly in place.
When a dog has obviously winded the bird and is starting to home-in on it by scent, then the trap operator can release it so the bird is sprung several feet into the air and out of the reach of an over-keen dog.
These traps are released either manually by pull-cord, or by radio control.
For extra safety, pigeon used at The CLA Game Fair are surrounded by a wire mesh fence camouflaged with brashings to make the scene appear natural.
I would not advocate shooting birds released ? you might well fall foul of laws regarding cruelty ? and retrieving handled pigeon is no substitute for retrieving freshly shot wild game, which smells and behaves differently when flushed.
If the pigeon used are tame they will return to their loft unscathed, to be used again when required.
I have found that the best way of allowing young dogs to mark real game is walked-up shooting over open ground, such as sugar-beet or moorland, when the dog will always have a clear view of game that is flushed.