Pigeon shooting has changed significantly in the last 60 years. I have heard tales of young lads heading out into the field using strips of torn up newspapers as decoys, bringing in hundreds of birds.
Now there is a simply bewildering array of pigeon shooting accessories available on the market.
It is not without reason – pigeon shooting is a time-consuming and difficult sport; getting the birds to come to you is difficult and the birds themselves are fast and unpredictable.
Indeed, many serious shots credit pigeon shooting as the very best type of shooting available, speaking of the vast challenge of attracting these wily birds to just the right spot for a clean, satisfying kill.
Gone are the days when 10 grey plastic drain pipes cut in half and into the rough shape of a pigeon placed in the middle of a field would be enough to attract the pigeons.
However, proper preparation is just as essential as ever, and a couple of days spent watching movement patterns in the field will pay dividends.
Look out for regular flight lines and a good spot for building your hide in particular.
Just as choosing the right equipment and deploying it appropriately is essential to bringing the pigeons in, using the proper technique and selecting the right gun is paramount.
STEADY AND SMOOTH
In order to stand, mount the gun and swing through on a bird for a successful kill simultaneously, you will need a gun which you are comfortable with.
For regular, consistent kills, therefore, proper gun fit is absolutely essential.
I have selected two side-by-sides and an over-under, but the most obvious choice might be a semi-auto.
Guns of this type are often used for pigeon shooting, and there is a vast array of them on the market.
There are excellent semi-autos available from Beretta, Benelli and Browning for around £1,000-£1,500, but for if you?re looking for a reliable semi-auto which handles well, you won?t go far wrong with an Escort from Hatsan.
These Turkish guns are only £450, and are a good buy.
Think like a pigeon In the past when I have gone pigeon shooting with a semi-auto, the only difference I found was my contribution to the cartridge manufacturer?s turnover increased somewhat.
However, I have seen one or two more professional pigeon shooters consistently get three birds dead in the air.
The old masters such as Archie Coats implored us to ?think like a pigeon?, a maxim carried forward by the modern greats such as Shooting Gazette?s own Will Garfit.
But with the modernising of pigeon shooting equipment, from moving decoys to high-tech layered camouflage nets, the whole affair can be quite overwhelming.
However, on the days when the birds do throw caution to the wind and commit themselves to the decoys well, or when roost shooting in early February when they take to the woods, there is no more satisfying type of shooting.
AYA Yeoman shotgun
My first selection this month is an old favourite. During the 1970s and early 1980s we quite simply could not get enough of the AYA Yeoman – it was a wildly popular gun, perfect for pigeon shooting.
A side-by-side boxlock, this 12-bore gun has always been extremely good value.
It is well made and uncomplicated, generally being a non-ejector with 28″ barrels and a file cut rib.
As a non-ejector you will not be best set for dealing with great flurries of birds, however as most pigeon shooting is a patient affair this may not be too much of a problem.
To look at this gun is nothing particularly special, as you would expect for the price, generally coming with a straight-hand stock and a plain colour hardened action.
You might see these guns choked at half and full, but we would always advise customers this would be better at quarter and three quarter.
When used with the more modern cartridges I would personally say quarter and half is best.
These guns weigh 7lbs, but are always balanced very well, which is essential for a day?s pigeon shooting.
Importantly, their reliability was second to none, and I remember my grandfather used to tell me they were very useful in the field.
These guns can be found quite easily today, and one in good order will be worth between £100-£250.
This represents remarkable value for a reliable gun for all-weather shooting.
Lanber Field Deluxe shotgun
This budget over-under from Lanber is a good gun, and is usefully available with multi-choke barrels.
I would recommend buying one with 28″ barrels for the best possible balance.
These guns are shortly to be getting a revamp and upgrade from the manufacturers in Spain. They are imported by GMK, and their style and feel are very similar to the more commonly-known over-unders from the Italian manufacturers.
There is a sporting version of this gun available, however I have chosen the field variant as it is built with a game rib. I find, particularly for pigeon shooting, this gives a better field of vision and enables you to shoot more positively.
These guns have beaver tail fore-ends and full pistol grip stocks, with a recoil pad fitted to the butt.
This is particularly welcome as it will absorb some of the recoil and also allows you to place the gun down without fear of damaging the butt plate.
These guns also come with automatic safety, which I feel in a hide is very important. This is particularly useful for your peace of mind if you are shooting with someone else, as the gun is always safe once the lever has been opened.
This is a good, well-balanced gun weighing in at about 7½lbs, meaning there is plenty of weight for a good swing through and to absorb the recoil.
Purdey pigeon gun shotgun
The selection of a Purdey live pigeon gun could be seen as over egging the pudding somewhat, but these best English guns are perfect for pigeon shooting.
They were made for competition shooting before the advent of clays, when live pigeons were placed into a container and then released.
The competitor had to shoot the pigeon to drop within a semi-circle within a certain distance for it to be classed as a kill.
Though this might seem a little barbaric now, these unusual guns remain perfect for pigeon shooting.
They are always very tightly choked and heavy, the forerunner of the modern sporting gun.
We currently have a 1910 gun in stock with sideclips and 30″ barrels. This gun has had modern Teague multi-chokes fitted and weighs 7¼lbs.
This gun would be ideal for use in a hide where the pigeons aren?t playing the game, and skirting outside the decoy path.
A good shot using an appropriate load would find it ideal for clean kills 50-60 yards out.
You might also find some success with the gun when roost shooting.
Although heavy, these guns are generally superbly balanced and also good-looking, as you would expect of a best London gun.
When shooting with slightly bigger loads it would be the ultimate pigeon gun – fun, a little extravagant but very effective.