Pigeon shooting day – tips from Geoff Garrod on how to prepare
There is nothing wrong with being very organised and making a list for what you need for a day’s shooting, says Geoff Garrod
The adage has it that “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. It’s certainly true when it comes to a pigeon shooting day decoying woodpigeons. I’ve always emphasised the importance of doing reconnaissance, but all of that effort can easily be wasted if you don’t turn up prepared for the day or with the right kit.
Getting ready for a pigeon shooting day
- Have a list of the things that you need to think about and pack for your pigeon shooting day. It might also sound stupid, but when you’ve been shooting long enough you will either have done this yourself or, at the very least, have seen somebody do it – don’t forget your gun, ear defenders and cartridges.(Read our list of best ear defenders.)
- Ensure that you have the right cartridges with you. If you have a few guns and different calibres it’s an easy mistake to make to turn up with your 20-bore instead of your 12. (Read our tips on budget shotgun cartridges for pigeon shooting.)
- Packing the night before and ticking things off a list of kit you will need might save you frustration when you reach your chosen location.
- Another bit of administration that is worth sorting out before you set off is letting the police know when and where you’re going to be shooting. Not much fun, I know, but with what’s going on in the world, one mention of a gun from the public and you’ll have everything come down on you.
- Take a photo or photocopy of your licence with you as proof that you’re a legal shotgun owner. If you’re new to an area and/or shooting a new permission, a letter from the farmer wouldn’t go amiss, and could save you a lot of trouble. Some members of the public are either naive about what you’re up to or they just want to stop you shooting.
- The app what3words is something I’ve been using lately around the shoot. It marks your location on a map and if you share the three words for that location, anybody can easily look on their phone and find you. Tell somebody where you are going to be. It’s easy to become complacent and think nothing will happen, but if the worst did, at least somebody would be able to find you.
- I believe that everybody should have insurance for any live quarry shooting, so check it’s up to date and valid; good insurance costs less than a slab of cartridges these days. Probably the best way to get insured is to join a fieldsports body such as the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, BASC or the Countryside Alliance. Accidents happen and it’s another tick in the box to prove that you’ve done everything possible. (Read our piece on shooting insurance here.)
- Everybody’s kit will be different, but think carefully and pack what you find you use or have used in the past at the time of year you’re shooting. This might even be a good chance to review and ditch stuff you’ve been lugging around the fields and not using. Check the weather and prepare for it, as the right clothing for the conditions can make or break a day. A statement of the obvious, no doubt, but you will shoot better if you are not freezing your proverbials off. (Read our list of best lightweight jackets for shooting.)
- Ensure that you have enough food and drink to sustain you and your dog, if you take one. Your concentration will drop off if you’re hungry or thirsty, plus a hot drink and a few calories will help keep you warm on cold days.
- Sun cream. Your list will most likely be seasonal – one for cold-weather shooting and one for the summer months. Let’s face it, you’re unlikely to need sun cream in February. Perhaps save your list to your phone and add things as you go. It can be a work in progress, but you will eventually end up with a list that works for the way you shoot and where you shoot.
- Try to keep your bags for decoying as organised as possible. When you’ve used something like a saw, put it back in the same place and it’ll be where you expect it to be next time you need it. In a perfect world, we would all have a vehicle that we only used for decoying that could remain packed and ready to go. Sadly, that’s not a realistic option for the vast majority of us and we have to unpack at the end of the day.
- The items that I am most likely to forget are the aforementioned saw, along with loppers. I raid my decoying kit to do a garden job and it’s easy to forget the tools back into my decoying bag. This being so, I try to keep two sets of tools and don’t mix them up if at all possible.
- And do you need to bag off areas of a field? If so, make sure you have all of that ready to go the day before so that you’re not searching for feed bags or whatever it is you use for the job. I have a container in the yard and one corner of it is set aside for my decoying kit. As such, I know where I’ll be able to lay my hands on everything I need.
- If you do use whirlies and flappers, make sure you take batteries with you and after a day’s shooting put them on charge before you next shoot. A little time spent the day before your shoot day will make the whole experience so much more enjoyable and hopefully more successful. With as few distractions as possible, you will be able to focus all your attention on the shooting.