Advanced Decoying. Part I
I have entitled this article or series of articles advanced decoying, but really its just common sense decoying and much of what you can figure out for yourself, also its a natural follow on from my previous article Flight lines and Decoys. I am always being asked weather on face book or twitter or in by emails and letters to the Countryman’s Diary Magazine or in person at game fairs on our Pass It On Young Sports Stand my thoughts on ones decoying or on a persons day or set up etc or if they have problems and how I would over come them etc to make the day a success.
I will make it clear from the start I am not into the big bag days, although I have had some pretty amazing ones over the years. Also for me any day in the field is a success, it matters not weather the birds play ball or not, its all about just being there as my Pappy (grandfather) always said a bad day in the field (if there is such a thing) is a hundred times better than a good day at work. Well unless your work is in field sports that is then everyday is a good day, and people forget this simple thing in life if you love your sport its never work.
Also there is only so much you can fit into an article so that’s why I have called this part 1, as I intend on writing further different scenarios etc as time goes on and build up a picture for you. Also as time goes on and we travel this already well written road we may discover some new tactics etc, so please keep your emails and letters coming as myself and Greg read everyone and answer as many as we can…
Well were to start? As always it comes down to my three in one system, what I mean by this is three days recce to one days shooting. Now if you have lots of acreage to shoot on, this is imperative as you need to find what the birds are feeding on and were they are. It also helps if you have a good relationship with your farmer/s understand the crop rotation of said farm/s etc, and when they intend to harvest/drill etc you also need to understand the pigeon themselves, thus think like a pigeon we will go into this further in this article as well as future ones.
If you only have a small acreage this too is a very important process, as it will help you optimize your sport as well as protect your farmers crops at the optimum times, and also if you do a good job etc word will spread and you will get, what I call the ere you did a good job for Old George can you look after my crops too.
As word of mouth is by far the best way to get permissions to shoot, and will help you obtain permission after permission, I would also recommend you get insurance and join one of the shooting or organizations such as Ngo/Sacs/Basc/Nobs/CA etc, as this will also show the land owners you are a responsible shooter to have on their lands. We will go into getting permissions later, you know I have not actively looked for shooting permission in twenty years, as all mines comes by way of recommendation for a job well done from other farmers/landowners. And now I shoot well over 8000 acres so it speaks for itself don’t you think?
Now lets just say you have done all your recce you have found the birds and the flight lines, and you have found the place you think will be best to set your hide to have the optimum shooting advantage. On or very near the flight lines, what I will say first is don’t make your hide a grand affair, you have to be flexible and able to move in a drop of a hat. For you may be wrong, I am often wrong and have lost count how many times I have had to move hide/s to get back under the pigeons. I am often asked how the hell do I think like the birds themselves as I never come back empty handed? Well its simple field craft knowledge of my land and the birds and flexibility.
Right we have the optimum spot and get our decoys out in a rough horse shoe pattern, just for this exercise we will say we have our backs to a small wood a sparse hedge line to out the right, with some Ash Trees in it approx 40 yards away and a left to right crossing wind. Here is were you need to think like the bird you need to give them room to land and decoy in also as in my previous article, you need to only put your farthest decoy out to the range you yourself can shoot competently. As I have said before we are not all George Digweeds, I would say just for this exercise you are a competent shot out to 40 yards so my closest decoy will be approx 15 yards from the hide and my farthest 40 yards from the hide, so dead center of the killing ground is bang on 25 to 30 yards well withing your own shooting capabilities.
So thinking of the birds dropping in, they like to come in mostly head into the wind some may not but 99% will so you need to give them room to drop in. I have seen so many great days ruined by not thinking of this simple decoy placement. So for me I would place the decoys to my left so the pigeons have to decoy right passed me and the kill zone is no more than 30 yards passed me so well within my shot range, Now don’t forget I shoot much greater distances than this and people say how in the hell can you hit the birds out there it comes down to experience the gun chokes and the cartridges and oh so much more with years perfecting this art but we will get to this in further articles,
All is set you are back in your hide sat down and shooting over the hide from a sitting position for this exercise, I also stand but depends on were and what or how I have to shoot but again we will get to that in later articles so for now we are shooting sitting down, The first birds are starting to drop in and you can put a beer mat on the kill zone were you start to take the birds outstanding job done you got it right,
Then something happens all the birds start flaring at the pattern or start landing on the outside of the pattern? Hmmmmm what is it? are they seeing you? is there a bird/s on its back? has the wind changed? have the decoys come off their sticks etc? Immediately you need to consider what the birds themselves are telling you, for the well disciplined experienced pigeon shooter he/she will speak pigeon and think like one don’t just sit there like a limp lettuce get off your back side and get out there from a pigeons eye view of your decoys etc, I also don’t mean do this when only one bird does it I mean when several birds do it thus they are telling you something is wrong?
Look back at the hide is there something they are seeing? Are the decoys all on their sticks etc, none blown over clear your kill zone of shot birds, also feathers matter not, a pigeon could not care less of feathers some will tell you it matters, but it does not. I have shot almost 800 birds on a day and the field looked like a pigeon plucking contest and still the birds came with vigor so it matters not.
What is the wind doing has it changed? I have lost count how many times, I have had to change the pattern as the wind can change in a heart beat all this you must think off and listen when the birds speak don’t sit there thinking dumb bird bloody rubbish day, Pigeon shooting is a DIY day its down to you to make the best of what you have.
I will go briefly into decoy patterns in this article but will talk more in other articles about this, like they say Rome was not built in a day neither was decoying knowledge, and still well over 30 years later and learning from the old masters I still don’t know enough or consider myself an expert in any way what so ever.
There are a multitude of patterns lets use letter to show you the patterns such as a U W M N C U V L J F S I and so fourth all patterns I have used over the years and then some and like I say I will get to these in turn as well as many other things in later articles etc, But my Nike tick pattern for hard to decoy birds has to be one of the most successful I have used all over the country but cannot be used all the time as the birds will become accustom to it also bird decoy differently around the country ten miles can make all the difference flexibility is the key.
I will tell you of a day recently were I took a group of young sports out pigeon shooting with my shooting club The Famous Woodspring Pigeon Shooting & Wild-fowling Club, These young sports had been members of the shooting club since young boys and now all 18 years old or older with their own licenses and guns and dogs and decoys etc, I have taught them many traditional field sports pigeon shooting being one of them, You will hear of these young men many times through my writings and scribbles or my books or videos on you tube as I am very proud of each and every one of them and what they have become true ambassadors for all field sports and beyond and have learned my Pappies teaching or The Woodspring way as we call it.
I got a call from one of my farmer friends who said he had just cut the wheat and barley and the pigeons were smashing in on the stubble’s and could I pop up and ask them to vacate the farm as he wanted to drill some other crop or something, This also came at a brilliant time as another farmer friend was having a Birthday BBQ Bash and had asked me to get a pile of pigeons etc and make my pigeon burgers and kebabs etc to go with his own farms cider as well as some bunny burgers and kebabs from the rabbits we shot together that week on his farm so this call could not have come at a better time.
I put a call round the shooting club lads to see who was up for a spot of pigeon shooting on this hard to decoy farm well I had excuses from washing the car to walking the dog etc from the older boys but as always my Young Sports never let me down and are always there to come out and help The Ole Hedge Creeper, So Ryan would pick Josh up in his Land-rover and meet at my place and Tom (trainee mechanic) would meet us at the farm in the afternoon as its just across the road from his house and he had to work on a Land-rover in the morning.
Well the boys were at my place bright and early I had not even finished my 3rd cup of tea or my ginger nut bicky you know that’s just not cricket disturbing a mans morning cuppa or 3 but the excitement of the young countrymen was infectious and even I had those butterflies of a great days sport ahead of us, I had already been watching the farm and knew the place like the back of my hand and the birds were right were I had watched them the day before and were in two groups one huge flock out on long ground and one decent size flock on rooks field with a few corvids there for good measure too.
So it was decided Ryan and Josh would set up on long ground and I would set up on rooks field I was happy to let these fine young men take the lead on the main flock and it was agreed they would share a hide and take it in turns to shoot, Josh had his new gun a 12b over and under Spanish thing he bought himself for his 18th birthday present and Ryan had his new 20b semi auto he to got himself for his 19th birthday, These boys did not need telling but I did anyway and remind them about keeping the cartridges separate and only one gun out of a slip at a time, I will say one thing about my boys safety is a paramount and they have been taught never to compromise, I have recently on a club shoot had to pull a guest gun up about gun safety and even though I may have offended them deeply and upset the apple cart safety is one thing I will not compromise on for anyone and I don’t care if you are a prince or a poorer you will get the sharp side of my tongue.
I set up on rooks ground with a rough hide right on the corner of the small wood and got the decoys out in no time at all even good ole Brook my darling of a black lab had a confident look on her face you know she is a real sweetie but by god she is a moody mare when other dogs come near me, As I sat down I decided right I think I will use my trusty old side by side Kestrel 20b that was my 12th birthday present from my Dad/Uncle Dave and Pappy all those years ago it will be thirty years I have had that gun this year and she is still as sweet as the day she came to me brand new and shining.
As I sat back on my stool I could see the boys had got in to their hide their decoys out in a rough horse shoe pattern with a couple of home made floaters placed at a strategic point and blow me over I could also see the stop decoys they had put out just how I had taught them as young boys on farms not too far from this one, By Stop decoys I mean any birds outside those stop decoys left or right were in what we call the safe zone so even though they may be in range they will not get shot at, What had they seen that I had not the day before whilst on recce? I got my field glasses out ( binoculars) and looked in detail ahhhhhhh now I see since yesterday a horse had appeared in the paddock to their right and although a safe shot distance away the boys were doing as their teacher had taught them and keep disturbance of the live stock etc to a minimum and think about were their shot fall out will land, I must admit I had a massive amount of pride fill me at that moment saying to myself they be proper Woodspring boys so much so I did not even see the pigeon sat in my decoys until it took off.
Ahhhhh well another will be along soon enough as the dog looked at me as if to say what was wrong with that one boss but a pat on the head and a bite of my apple core soon kept her happy, I could see the birds dropping into the lads decoys and the distinct sound of a 20b going off as I saw one bird drop in a puff of white feathers but the other flying away being saluted twice but not a feather out of place I knew that was Ryan so he was shooting the first half hour then as he won the toss of the coin then vice versa in half hour segments taking it in turns to shoot good hide discipline as they had been taught from a young age.
No time to sit and ponder as there were a fine pair of Wood pigeon turning on the wind and dropping right in sweet as a nut as I clicked my safety off the old dog was on full alert and if I say so myself as I dropped the first bird clean in the pattern as the second tried to flare for the safety of the wood I downed that one too ahhhh proper job a perfect right and left the old boy still has it, Brook had already marked the long bird so I sent her on and she retrieved it to hand with a mouth as soft as velvet and as safe as the crown jewels as I sent her out to retrieve the one from the kill zone.
I looked over at the sound of the distinct bangs of the 20b and bugger me as I watched 3 birds drop in to the boys decoy pattern I heard 3 shots and in slow motion I saw 3 birds drop in big puffs of feathers as I sat there watching them with my field glasses and saw Ryan take those birds like a pro I thought that’s my boy a chip off the ole Collins Block, Oh by the way Ryan is my no1 son and I will telle boys he aint much of a shot with a rifle or air rifle but put a shotgun in his hands and he will surgically remove bird or beast like a well oiled machine, Those that have ever shot with Ryan will confirm his outstanding talent with any shot gun I telle boys he just don’t know how to miss when he gets his eye in.
No rest for the wicked though as more birds were coming my way and a couple of quick snap shots at crosser’s put more birds in my bag as I look over and see the boys swap now it was Josh’s turn, I sent brook out to retrieve my birds as I watched Josh through my field glasses and almost on cue he was on birds coming into his decoys I saw him fire 6 shots and not a feather ruffled I knew this would not faze him but I gave him a call anyway and told him to take his time no rush take the birds at leisure how I had taught him all those years ago.
That did the trick I saw him drop a cracking right and left then a couple of crosser’s then a cracking high bird I heard his cheer from the other end of the farm, It was good were I was as I was elevated above the boys on the hill so could watch as each episode unfolded on mother natures TV screen as it were, I have alot of pride in my young sports as I have trained them since childhood and now these fine young men are the future of my club I telle its so enlightening knowing the club will be in safe hands when I get the calling from the great spirit to look after the farms in the sky with my Pappy.
No time to sit and stare I had more birds coming well what can I say I am only human and missed a couple of almost sitters right over the decoys so nothing else for it a cup of tea from the flask was needed oh bugger I left the flask at home, Hmmmmm drop Tom a text bring flask asap emergency tea ration for The Ole Hedge Creeper needed it read, The response came as read OK DADDIO uh??? Cheeky little bugger but did make me laugh and got me shooting straight again after a cracking right and left if I say so myself,
Now the birds changed their approach and kept landing outside my pattern? Or every bird went straight over to the lads? What were they trying to tell me??? Ahhhh the wind had changed now to get them in I would need my Nike tick pattern as the topography of the land was too out stretching for any other pattern and I needed to draw them down the leg and funnel them in to get them into a good range,
By the legs of a pattern I mean the sides leading into the kill zone and as the birds were crossing either over my wood or outside my pattern I needed to open up a long landing strip to guide them into the kill zone, This is were the long leg of the Nike tick comes in handy and use the wood as the other leg with a couple of home made floaters this would get the birds right were I wanted them, Also you will notice I don’t often mention whirly machines I am not a big fan and prefer a traditional approach but they do have their place in standing crop etc I will get to that in further articles, Oh also before I forget I made up some scare crows as the birds were dropping into the other end of long ground Josh helped me put them up all they were was a hide pole a garden cane about 4ft long and a jacket this kept the birds moving to both hides brilliantly,
All set and for the last hour the lads had all the shooting now it was my turn as I drew the birds away from the lads even them putting a couple of flappers out we got from my ole muckers at AA Decoys didn’t do it for the boys I had the birds right were I wanted them, You know I could have put a beer mat on the spot I would take them and if I were a betting man I would be a rich fella right now, Ryan gets on the phone Dad why are all the birds suddenly going to your pattern and ignoring ours? Ahhhhh son I said remember what you have been taught I said and never forget I may have taught you all you know but not all I know, Ahhhhhhh Dad come on give us a chance? So I said tie up your laces on your trainers in future? Ohhhhh you crafty old bugger your using the Nike tick arnt you? I just giggled and said geed on boy dont just sit there now do what you have been taught I have to go son I have a glut of more birds dropping in.
Tom arrived not long after and I let him take the shooting for the last hour and I telle with my ole sweet little 20b he shot about fifteen cracking woodies as I sat back enjoyed the tea from the flask and watched my young sports shoot like pro’s with a pride that makes my very sole smile, Until my next article when you are out decoying or what ever learn to think like your quarry don’t just sit there if things are not working get off your back side and change things be flexible or you can just sit there like a limp lettuce and bird watch for the day.
We are here for advice or to share knowledge so put pen to paper as it were let us know what you like about our Magazine and if you need our help or advice drop us a line and we will try to help were we can, But for now and until the next article on advanced decoying part 2 keep it fun keep it safe and teach a young sport how to shoot properly its a pride you cant buy you have to earn.
ADVANCED DECOYING Part1
By The Ole Hedge Creeper
Aka Rob Collins
Regards Rob Collins(Chairman)