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Ahead of the game

When decoying pigeon, there are several factors that are important to remember, whatever method of shooting you are using.

For starters, your seat should be of a height from which you can shoot sitting down or easily stand up to fire the shot. Many shooters have their seats too low. I place mine so I can sit almost sideways. Having your feet on a good level footing is also vital, so cut an even base with a spade or half moon if necessary.

As you see the pigeon approaching, lock your eyes on to its head while keeping well down in the hide. Be sure to get up at the right time ? getting up too early is a common fault and causes misses as the birds flare out the back of the decoys. Shooting pigeon going away like this can be difficult, especially in a strong wind. Unless a bird is passing overhead or has turned away but is still in range, you shouldn?t mount the gun until the pigeon is descending on the decoys and is within the 25m killing zone. The importance of this timing cannot be stressed enough.

Experiment and improve

However long you have been pigeon shooting (40 years, in my case), it is always a good idea to go to a clay ground to practise your shooting method, in order to experiment and improve.

I recently went down to High Lodge, near Southwold in Suffolk, to meet former sporting world champion John Bidwell, who developed and promoted the maintained lead method, which he used to win several world championships. I was interested to find out how I could use this method for pigeon shooting and we spent a fascinating couple of hours in the ground?s café adjoining the gunshop, discussing his favoured technique.

Though John does not shoot woodpigeon himself, he convinced me of the merits of maintained lead, and I was keen to have a round of 50 to try it alongside head coach Roger Rackham.

Roger must be a good coach because, to my amazement, I shot 50 sporting clays in a row using the maintained lead technique. Since then, I have used it several times on pigeon and it works well.

One potential disadvantage of maintained lead is that it is coached with a low mount (bringing the gun up from well below the target line). With any method of shooting from the hide, the net forces you to cantilever the gun on the mount with your left hand (if you are right-handed).

This makes the low mount especially difficult, but it is possible to adapt the style to fit the confines of the hide.

Maintained lead also requires a slight delay before the shot, but I have adapted this by shooting as the gun hits my shoulder. That way, the mount does not stop and the gun runs in to the swing-through in one motion. It?s an efficient way to shoot. The longer shots need you to be a bit more deliberate and maintained lead does have the advantage of a longer killing zone.

For more information on maintained lead, read Move Mount Shoot by John Bidwell and Robin Scott, published by Crowood