It's the time of year when pigeons are beginning to flock in their search for food. February is the traditional month for roost shooting to help control their numbers.
Shooting as many pigeons as possible over the next few weeks is crucial as they’ll soon be in breeding mode, so every bird you shoot now means one less on the crops later in the year.
Pest control and sport
You’ll be doing every farmer in the country a favour and you’ll also have some decent sport.
Sharpen up your shooting skills
The sheer unpredictability of a pigeon’s flight pattern, coupled with its natural speed and ability to veer off like lightning will sharpen up your shooting skills no end.
Pigeons can be tricky targets at the best of times and as no one wants to prick live quarry if they can help it, is it possible to improve your pest control kill rate?
To help you improve we’re going to look at pigeon-type targets here; how to nail them when they’re coming in to roost, but also include a few snap shooting techniques needed for the typical second barrel bird.
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Roost shooting pigeon tips
Pigeons can be most elusive but their Achilles heel is when they commit themselves to land. That is when they’re feathering back. Their wings are in reverse thrust mode and they’re at the most vulnerable.
For brief moments they’re hanging in the air, almost crow-like, before they slide into the branches of the trees. It’s at this point when they’re most shootable, so here are a few pointers to improve your kill to cartridge ratio.
- Shoot them when they’re still under power, not as they start to drop.
- Adjust your stance according to the specific bird. Keep the weight on your front foot. Make sure the toe of your leading foot is pointing towards the kill zone.
- Have the gun muzzles ready on the flightline – or at least where you think the flightline will continue. Keep the gun moving. Watch the bird closely and be aware of any deviation in the bird’s flightpath because of any side winds
Practising on crow targets
Do your preparation at the clay ground by practising on typical crow type targets.
Try and make the situation as realistic as possible. Stay comfortable. Keep the stock just out of the pocket of your shoulder with the muzzles of the gun pointing at, or just in front of the expected pick up point.
You know roughly where the birds will appear, so keep the barrels just below the flight line – to make sure you don’t obscure your view of the bird – before you raise the gun to your shoulder.
When the target seems to be hovering quite nicely on the bead of the barrel pull the trigger.
Timing is crucial
Take the bird too soon – when it’s still a good distance away from the stand – and it might simply breeze through the shot pattern.
Trying to kill it too late will often mean the bird is no longer under power and it’s starting to drop very quickly indeed.
When your gun mounting technique is correct every time, effective snap shooting comes about predominately by timing. The more you practice, the more you’ll get a feel for a target and you’ll get to know instinctively the precise moment to pull the trigger.
What you must never do is hesitate. Whenever I see this happening it’s always because the shooter is trying extra hard to ‘make sure’ he hits the bird.
By trying to improve the shot he’s undoing everything that his instincts have told him.
In these situations as soon as you start thinking about what you’re doing (or trying to achieve) you’re almost certain to miss the bird.
Practising snap shooting
Here are a couple of fun exercises you can do on the clay ground to help you practise authentic snap shooting.
- Keep your wits about you and be ready to move as soon as you see the bird commit to land
- Don’t watch the presentation of the bird before you shoot.
- Simply get onto the stand, keep the gun down and call for the bird.
- You’ve then got to visually pick up the bird in the air, alter your stance if necessary and mount.
- All this while you’re mentally assessing the amount of lead required before you swing and fire. Incredibly all this has to be done in what seems like a blink of an eye.
- The end result though, is a typical snap shot. Sure, you might miss more than you hit at first, but simply persisting with this little exercise will make you a quicker and better shot in the long run.
- Alternatively, if you know how the bird’s going to be presented, make a conscious effort to simply delay your shot so you have to take it at the last moment.
- Keep your gun and head down, close your eyes or look at your feet if necessary.
- Call for the bird and count to three. When you raise your head the bird will be well on its way. Obviously you’re not going to have the time to worry about how you’re going to dust the clay, so instinct will take over.
The going away bird
The trickiest pigeon shot is often the second barrel, where the missed bird has veered away, or the second of a double has heard the bang and flown off.
This going away target often demands instinctive ‘snap shooting’ and one of the best ways to practice this is with a change of discipline.
Why not have a few rounds of automatic ball trap or universal trench?
The beauty of both these disciplines is that the birds are released at random trajectories – angles and heights – from any one of five traps in the case of universal trench.
It would be a real sharpener for your shooting skills.
To make it even more realistic try and keep the gun down before you call for the clay.
Importantly, don’t worry too much if you miss more than you hit in the beginning – it’s the experience that counts.
Handy hints for successful roost shooting
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Although sharpening your reflexes and utilising instinct can definitely improve your hit rate, no shooter can rely on this alone.
There’s never been a substitute for perfecting a decent shooting technique.
Ensure your stance – moving your feet if necessary – is correct for the target and your swing is smooth.
Then let instinct, coupled with your mental library of sight pictures take control when you pull the trigger.