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Pigeon Shooting Bloopers - When Decoying Goes Wrong

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So we all know what can go right with pigeon shooting. There's lots of experts out there who can tell you the best way to set up a pigeon hide, how to get a big bag, the best decoying kit to use or what gear to wear. I've written about those things myself. But what they don't always tell you, (a bit like nobody told me about the full reality and excruciating pain of childbirth), is what can go wrong on this most wonderful of country pursuits.

If you're new to pigeon shooting, I'm sure you'll come across some of these scrapes and mishaps soon if you haven't already...

What can go wrong with my hide?

The pigeon hide; for some, it's the foundation of pigeon decoying. Some will say if you don't have this set up correctly, nothing else matters. But even when you do have it set up right, there are many things that can still go wrong.

1 - Getting your gun stuck in the netting

Whether I'm using an over and under or a semi-automatic shotgun, this is a regular occurrence for me. Getting so excited about the pigeons I see incoming, the perfect bird floating into my pattern less than 30 yards away, I focus on staying still, quiet, slowly moving into my 'ready' position before releasing the barrels. I stand up eager to take the shot, only to find that my bead is caught in the netting. Sometimes I get lucky, and I haven't stood up fully before realising it's lodged. I'm then able to dislodge it before continuing with my shot. But more often than not, I stand up before realising the disaster, swearing loudly and scaring off the pigeons, or being so astounded by my own stupidity that I allow my frustration to result in poor shooting.

This is another reason why I always keep my safety on, whether in the hide on my own or with someone else, leaving no margin for error.

2 - Bugs!

Wasps, bees, daddy long legs - take your pick. They all love swirling around inside the hide, and they all seem to be too dumb to understand they only need to fly a few inches higher to escape the hide and leave me in peace. I have been stung twice in my life by a wasp, it hurt like hell and I don't relish the thought of it happening again. And when I was a kid, I could quite happily run around the playground grabbing daddy long legs; however I do have a humongous fear of spiders and somehow daddy long legs now remind me of them. So no thank you, I don't want you flapping around in my hide, fluttering around in my face, making me panic and lose focus from the task at hand.

3 - Gale force winds

One of my shooting permission spots is in the Fens. If you've been to the Fens, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't been, trust me you have no idea. Outer Hebrides, eat your heart out.

These Fen winds make my hide flap (making getting my gun caught in the netting even more likely!) or making my whole hide lean in the wind, meaning suddenly my face is half a foot higher than it was seconds before, and all the pigeons for miles around can see me.

Oh, and the same wind can also send your decoys to the other side of the Fens too.

4 - Hard ground

Yes, getting the hide up in the first place can also be a disaster. It doesn't matter where in the UK you are, there are bad patches of ground everywhere. When you go camping, you look for the best ground; where is the least rocky? Where is the flattest? Where is the least amount of thistles and nettles? IT's the same when you come to putting up your hide, and unfortunately no matter how long you search, you can't always find the best place to insert your hide poles. The ground is hard, dry and solid, and no amount of stamping, jumping up and down on or swearing at your hide poles will get them into the ground! This is when a pop up hide can come in handy, however if you're in the Fens with gale force winds, a pop up hide becomes like a sail....

What can go wrong with my gun?

I don't care how fancy your gun is - it can still break, which is why we have so many wonderful gunsmiths out there! But I'm sorry to say that there are other potential gun-related issues when it comes to pigeon shooting!

1 - Getting your gun stuck in the netting

I said it before, I'll say it again. Very annoying. If you're a beginner, pay heed!

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2 - Running out of cartridges

This has happened to me on several occasions. You'd think after more than a decade of shooting I'd be more prepared with the amount of cartridges I'll need for an outing!

When I get it right, I base it on my average shooting ratio, which is currently 3 to 1. So when roost shooting, knowing I'm only likely to shoot at around 25 birds, I'll take 75 cartridges. When decoying I will usually take a whole slab in the car and just take half with me to the hide. However, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I recently posted a video on my story of me and my dog sprinting back to the car to get more cartridges because I ran out whilst decoying. It was a 200 metre sprint. Safe to say on the return journey I crawled.

3 - Gun jamming/mis-firing

Even if you've looked after your gun well, these things can still happen. I don't understand why; ask a gunsmith.

Again, a recent Instagram video shows this happening to me and the frustration that ensues. Although I will hoping to upgrade to a Benelli M2 semi-automatic shotgun next month, it won't improve my shooting - this is down to the skill of the person, not the equipment. But with it's ultra modern design and zero gas components, it will certainly lessen the chances of any misfires. Hopefully it will mean I remember to take the safety off too...

4 - Forgetting to reload

Simply put, I'm so caught up in the buzz of shooting that I forget how many cartridges are left in the chamber since the last shot, or I forget to reload completely! Yep, annoying.

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What can go wrong with my gun dog?

Being a responsible shooter, I try to take my dog with me whenever I can. Some of you will have seen Harry doing his thing on Instagram and the Fieldsports TV Channel, but what you won't see are the bloopers of Harry being a naughty boy. Because, at the time, I am generally too busy screaming at him to take a video of what is happening.

1 - Sneaking out of the hide

Harry likes to see what is going on and is also a dog that likes to pick up by marking using sight. He is also very head strong being half Chesapeake Bay Retriever and English Springer Spaniel, so he feels like he is the boss. And the boss wants to know what's going on. So, he'll start off lying next to me, good as gold, waiting for those pigeons to come in. A handful will drift nearby, then suddenly jink away. Hmm, maybe there's something in my pattern they don't like? Five minutes later, another curious group will come not quite close enough, and suddenly veer away. I turn around to see what they have obviously been scared off by and lo and behold, there is Harry sitting bolt upright outside the hide, giant white chest bib and white socks on display, wriggling around and fidgeting, tail wagging at 100 mph. This is when I remember that I didn't pack the peg to keep him next to me and under control. Yeah, I also need to train him better ; where's that e-collar...?

2 - Water retrieves

Being a Chesapeake, Harry loves the water and will do anything to get in it - and stay in it. He is trained to the whistle/voice/hand commands, but when he is retrieving for me, sometimes he decides he's just not going to come back. I don't mean, swimming off into the distance down river towards the open sea. Oh no, because then I'd feel fear, sadness, loss. Instead I just feel rage. Pure and unadulterated. Because he will retrieve my bird, and swim back and forth in front of me. Back and forth, back and forth. I swear he knows he's winding me up, but he does it anyway. To be fair to him (and to accept responsibility where it's needed), as I mentioned above it is also partly due to the fact that I need to do more training with him.

What else can go wrong when I'm pigeon shooting?

1 - Missed opportunities

Usually this is in the form of missing the chance to take the best shot of your life, or the only shot of the day. And this usually happens when you're looking at your phone. Or when you decide to take a bite of the sandwich you've brought with you. Or when you're so busy staring at the fox that's just popped out of the crop and you're wishing you had your rifle with you. Or when you're waiting for that bird of prey to fly closer so you can see its tail and figure out whether it's a buzzard or a red kite. Or when you're busy screaming at your dog to get their arse back in the hide...

2 - Car problems

A few weeks ago whilst out pigeon shooting in glorious Summer weather, I decided to park my car in one patch of the field where I had no flags, to deter the pigeons from landing there. As I said, it was a hot Summer's day so I decided to leave the windows open so that it wasn't baking when I got back in. Unfortunately, my brain went into auto pilot and locked the car. I practically skipped the 3,000 odd yards back to my hide, all smug because I had set up in under an hour, and settled down ready to shoot the myriads of pigeons that were bound to descend on me in 3,2,1.... What was that sound? Not the sound of hundreds of pigeon wings beating that's for sure. No, it was the sound of my car alarm going off on the other side of the field. Because those stupid daddy long legs that I mentioned earlier had decided to fill my car in their dozens. Back I went, cursing and sweaty, but definitely humbled by my own stupidity yet again.

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Another thing to be aware of is the land that you'll be shooting on. If you're shooting over crops or roost shooting, chances are you'll be parked up somewhere away from your hide, maybe even on the tarmacked farm yard. However, some times of year you may end up driving over stubble after a few very rainy days. Even if you have a 4x4 it can be a lot muddier than you thought, as I discovered whilst driving my old Honda CRV a few years ago. Took a few twigs, handfuls of straw and my standard fix - swearing - but I managed to get it out of the mud eventually. And by eventually, I mean after about an hour. An hour of precious daylight wasted on a roost shooting evening. Classic Nicole.


If you have any funny bloopers from either your time in the field or a mates story, please share them in the comments below - not only will you give us all a giggle but you never know how many newbies (and not-so-newbies) you might help to feel a little bit more adequate about ourselves!

Happy Shooting!


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I hope you're enjoying reading my blog! I'm not an expert, I only wish to share my personal experiences, of someone who did not grow up in the countryside nor enter the hunting world in the traditional way.

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