A comprehensive collection of the right tools for decoying will improve your chances of success in the field. Tom Payne draws up your perfect kit list
Pigeon shooting often involves an extraordinary amount of kit. This essential pigeon shooting kit, I hasten to add, does not guarantee a good day, nor do you need it to shoot a bag, but if used correctly it can help to make the art of decoying pigeon easier. The staple kit includes hide poles and net, seat, decoys and some mechanics, such as a magnet. However, there is a huge amount of additional kit that is important and often gets overlooked.
I can’t believe the amount of equipment that I’ve accumulated; so much so that I have a shed dedicated to it, which I’ve nicknamed Fifty Sheds of Grey. On every outing I take kit that I know I will need on the day, but I also take additional kit with me just in case. This kit can aid my ability to do the best job I can shooting pigeon, as well as improving my comfort for the day’s sport.
But I also take extra kit with me because, through experience, I have learned that you never know what situation you could end up in. The weather could make shooting difficult or hide-building a problem. The location for your hide could be overgrown, or the birds themselves may not play ball quite as you had hoped. So extra accessories can really help and, in many cases, will save the day.
Before you even begin shooting you need binoculars, a map and compass. A good pair of binoculars is essential to any pigeon shooter — without binoculars you can’t carry out reconnaissance properly. I keep mine in the car at all times. It is worth getting hold of the best pair that you can afford.
In many cases you will be watching pigeon from a distance as they arrive at their chosen field, and to assess exactly what’s going on you need to be able to watch closely without disturbing them so you can make the right call about where you will be setting up.You also need a map and compass. I know this makes it sound like you’re preparing for an orienteering trip, but a map helps you understand the ground and gives you a better picture of the surrounding locations.
I’ve started to use a compass more and more, too. The one on my phone is brilliant and, if you know the direction from which your birds are approaching and you’ve studied the weather forecast for wind, you can make accurate calls on where to be for best hide placement so that the wind works in your favour. It also aids back-up plans if the wind direction changes.
Hide building comes with the biggest extras list. It is vital that you can put your hide where it needs to be. To be beaten by the undergrowth is annoying, and to be in a situation where a net is not good enough and you stick out like a sore thumb, with birds flaring off your too-obvious hide, ruins the day. That’s not to mention those windy days when your hide blows around like a sail, falling down or catching everything in the hide. The following kit should help:
There are various cutting tools that should always be a part of your kit list. They all have their uses in different situations and different undergrowth. A machete is fantastic if you have to deal with heavy floor-level undergrowth such as nettles, bracken and low-level shrubs. A machete comes into its own when dealing with brambles, especially the thick kind. This a good tool to take roost shooting, because it can be used to get you into good spots in thick woodland.
Saws and pruners
Saws can be used to deal with heavy hedgerows and larger branches. A hand-held folding saw is ideal, as it is easy to fit into the kit bag and takes up little space. Long-handled pruners are brilliant for reaching higher overhanging branches. Both saw and pruners make cutting hide-building materials easy and they cut branches cleanly (unlike a machete, which hacks rather can cuts) so you won’t make a mess. Make sure you have permission from the landowner if you need to cut any form of hedgerow, tree or undergrowth. It is your responsibility to make sure that you respect the landowner’s wishes and make a tidy job if you do cut any material.
Years ago I would never take a spade, but now I wouldn’t leave home without my little collapsible version in the back of the car. A spade allows you to create a shooting position that is clear and level. There is nothing worse than having your shooting position on unlevel ground. There are many types of spade but ex-army shops all have these small military folding spades. They really can make a difference. Remember that you want to be in a comfortable position to shoot.
String, cable ties, bungees
These are ideal when you need to tie up the corners of your hide net to your backdrop to make the hide more stable and secure, especially in windy conditions. Large cable ties are brilliant for securing lofting poles to trees and come in useful for securing rope bangers when you are unable to hang them from branches.
These are a must for holding the bottom of the hide to the floor — much better than using cut branches in an emergency situation. Tent pegs are easy to get into the ground and will hold the net firm, which is superb in windy conditions
Mallet and iron bar
In my area the ground can be very hard. I always travel with a mallet and a small iron bar in the car to that, if the ground is too hard, I can make good holes to drive the hide poles in. Whether it’s summer, when the ground can be like concrete, or just ground that is very stony, this kit has got me out of some frustrating situations. These tools are also good for getting magnets into the ground.
Decoying kit you need
With decoying it is important that you have all bases covered. You don’t want to get caught out and not make the most of a day out, so a few extras in the kit bag can help change a tricky day into a successful one in terms of the bag. Here’s what you need:
Wire neck spikes
These are excellent for propping heads up on dead birds. It’s a cheap way of getting neck props — 3mm wire is strong and can be moved into different positions, allowing you to present realistic feeding birds. However, be careful if you are working a dog pickingup. The length should be around 9in.
These will give birds height in your pattern. They can give realistic bouncing movement when dead birds are placed on top of them. Because they are hollow, cradles can be placed in them to give extra height and I even use them to raise up flappers. A varied height of bamboo cane is always advisable. Long canes can help loft birds in hedgerows and shorter, thinner canes make good makeshift floaters.
Flags and rope bangers
Birds don’t always play ball and it is frustrating when you can’t control them on a particular day. Sometimes you might be in large fields, where controlling them can be difficult. Flags really come into their own in helping to keep birds on certain parts of a field but also funnelling a line. Large, white bedsheets cable-tied to hide poles do the trick and are easy to store in the back of a 4×4. Rope bangers are also vital and, if placed correctly, can help keep birds moving through the day and hopefully off any other possible feeding option.
Great for keeping count of what you need to pick, especially on a busy day.
If you’re shooting with a friend in a different location, whether roosting or decoying, a radio allows you to keep in touch with progress and movement of birds.
Bag for dead birds/ crates for car
Sometimes you can’t get the car to the hide so good mesh bags for carrying birds off the field are important and can save many trips. Make sure you get the dead birds into crates at the car so that they don’t overheat.