Here's how to get to grips with shooting pigeon from a high tower - a less common method of bagging woodies that is well worth trying
Some of the most enjoyable afternoons’ sport shooting pigeon I have had has been from high towers. It brings an entirely different challenge. In the right conditions it can be fast and furious and it is great to be shooting among the treetops — it is the last place pigeon are expecting to see you.
Types of tower for shooting pigeon
I have shot from various types of tower: some safe and well built and others not so.
- The most common type you are likely to shoot from will be a scaffold.
If the scaffold tower is constructed properly and built into strong foundations with good supporting sections, it can be brilliant. However, it is amazing how much those towers move at 40ft on a windy night. This can be unnerving and make shooting tricky. The top platforms are always wooden and there should be good supporting rails. But if ever the opportunity arises to shoot from a tower and the shooter feels unsafe in any way — don’t shoot.
- The second — and my favourite — type of tower is a well-designed wooden one specifically built for the job. A wooden tower built correctly with good materials is hard to beat. As well as blending into the trees, it is the most stable and safest option. They can be expensive to build and need more manpower to erect but they last longer and, in my view, are worth every penny.
- The most expensive option is a portable cherry picker. It gives you flexibility to move to different locations if the ground suits and you are able to move into position easily. You will have to modify the platform and it is not advisable to shoot on your own or when it is at its full height. The majority of small towable cherry pickers will not extend to more than 12m (about 40ft). They are great to shoot from if you are in a sheltered spot but if the chosen area is open you will feel like you are shooting from a boat, even in a light breeze.
The majority of my tower shooting these days is from a superb wooden tower. If you have a suitable location in which to put a tower like this, it is well worth the effort. You will be hooked when it comes to the sport.
How to build a wooden tower
The materials you will need
- Poles: You will need four large telegraph poles or similar. Telegraph poles are perfect for the job and are easier to get hold of than you might think. The majority of the large poles are around 60ft but they are solid and the wood has been treated to prevent it from rotting. You will find quite a few such poles for sale on internet shopping sites, ranging in price from £1.50 to around £45 each. The most expensive element will be transporting them to the location.
- Supporting rails: Your cross-sections and supporting rails can be picked up from any sawmill or timber merchant. Again, make sure that all wood has been treated.
- Platform sections: All platforms are wooden and the size of your tower will dictate the amount of wood required. Most towers can comfortably accommodate four people as an ideal size. Be prepared to pay a total of between £300 and £500 for the supporting rails, cross-sections and platform. I would also recommend securing some chicken wire on the floor of your platform. The wood can become very slippery over time and chicken wire gives good grip.
- Trapdoor, plus screws, hinges, a bolt and a padlock: Once you have put in your trapdoor, it can be locked to deter trespassers. From a health and safety point of view, I would also recommend putting up signs warning people to keep away. You never know what might happen, and it is better to follow protocol.
- Ladder: I would recommend a metal ladder that can be securely fastened for safety. Wooden ladders are OK but over time the weather tends to get the better of them.
- Once you have all the materials, here comes the crucial part: where to build it? The key to any successful tower is its location. Get this part wrong and the tower will be useless.
- As with any pigeon shooting, reconnaissance is key. The difference with the recon for a tower position is that it will have taken place over a couple of years. You must have a complete understanding of your chosen roosting wood and the direction in which birds approach and favour the wood — this is critical to the tower’s location and its success. Remember that you are putting in a permanent structure — you don’t want to get it wrong so take your time before your final decision.
- Nearly all of the towers I have shot from have been in or on the fringes of fir woods. I feel fir (soft) woods are without doubt the best roosting woods and are lower in height than hard woods, allowing a tower to be built to the level with the tops of the trees. The problem with fir trees, though, is their rapid growth, so locating your tower within the centre of the wood could provide a few years of fantastic sport but at some stage those trees will grow higher than the tower, making it redundant.
- In a perfect situation I would choose the edge of a fir wood on a ride in between firs and a young hardwood. In a situation like this you have the best of both worlds.
Tom’s top five tower shooting tips
- Brash up the area around the platform and the top of the tower, making sure the camouflage comes to no higher than shoulder height, allowing you to shoot comfortably and maximise your angles. I use branches of leylandii.
- Be aware that birds aren’t expecting to see you up at their level. That, plus the increase in shooting angles and space which shooting from a tower affords you, does buy you time when it comes to making your bird selection. Nevertheless, it is imperative that you always move with control and don’t rush when it comes to taking your shot.
- Be prepared to take on your birds: in other words be ready and willing to take on all angles, speeds and distances within your ability. You will quickly find that you have a variety of different shots for the taking that you wouldn’t normally have in a roosting or flighting situation. Be ready!
- It is vital that you know your distances in order to kill cleanly and consistently. Being up a tower can make it difficult when it comes to working out distances so use lofting poles with decoys on to give you markers of distance, or measure out the distances to specific trees by walking it on the ground then use the tops of those trees as your markers.
- Some people find shooting from a tower disorientating at first; it can feel like you are floating in the air, so bear in mind that it may take time to shoot to the best of your ability. Don’t be too hard on yourself — be patient and persevere. It takes practice but it will happen.
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