I am new to pigeon shooting and I probably don't even know how much I don't know about the subject yet... but I want to learn and as such have been doing research and reading some great books on the subject from the likes of Will Garfitt and Archie Coates.
I have now had a couple of days out with the decoys in my hide and I wanted to share with those also looking to get in to pigeon shooting what kit you will need to get started. By this I mean the essential starter kit you will require to get you started. You can end up spending a fortune on equipment which, at this early stage you most likely do not need, let alone justify buying until you have had some experience under your belt.
With other financial commitments going on at home at the moment I was keen to find a pigeon decoy kit on a budget but I also believe that you buy well and buy once. So I wanted to find something economical to get me started but kit that would last me.
There are a number of companies that sell the required kit but prices vary widely so I wanted to look at where I found to offer the best compromise on price and quality. One thing I would mention is that if you are organised and patient you can actually get a lot of what you need for free. The shooting community is a supportive and close knit one with some very friendly and encouraging folk. If you haven't done so already it would be worth joining the pigeon watch forum (https://forums.pigeonwatch.co.uk/forums/). This is a great place to talk to others in the community, ask questions, get advice and find good deals.
I put a post on the forum stating I was interested in getting in to pigeon shooting but had limited funds available and I had many offers of free equipment. In the end I met with two local shooters who provided me with a lot of kit (free of charge) and also helped out with some advice on getting started, getting permissions and one even kindly took me out shooting on his permission a few weeks later to give me an introduction to decoy shooting. It took a couple of weeks but if you have some patience a good deal can be found, it only cost me a few beers for the kind gent that offered me the free gear but I now also have two new contacts in the community. I would like to thank those two chaps for helping out. One of them said they got their first shooting kit from someone who passed it along to them and hopefully I can pass on the favour to a new keen shooter in a few years time. It is great to see people encouraging and supporting new people to get in to the sport. So don't be afraid to ask for help.
Anyway, before I go completely off on a tangent. Let's look at the kit you need.
- Set of Decoys (x12)
- Camouflage net
- Hide poles
- Holdall Bag
That's it. That is really all you need to get started. You could even lose the seat if you are happy perching on tree stump or something for the day but I do find the seat is a huge benefit.
One thing I found surprising is the cost of pigeon decoys. They of course vary in price but I was still reluctant to pay the asking price on most online stores and this is why I resorted to pigeon watch to ask for help. I was kindly provided 36 decoys in the end by the two chaps mentioned earlier. This was well more than required and if bought new would have probably cost me around £70-80. In reality, to get started and to make yourself a half decent decoy pattern you need at least 12 decoys. To start with don't get too worried about whether you get full bodied, shell or FUDs. However, for ease of packing your kit and carrying about it is a good idea to go for shell decoys as these pack away very easily, are lightweight and compact.
The next essential piece of kit is your hide poles and camo netting so you can create a good hide for you to sit (or stand) in whilst you wait for the pigeons to arrive. These can be picked up online at a relatively good cost. If you are a true boy scout though you could do without the poles if you are able to make some with old branches etc. But be wary not to cause any damage to the farmers fields. I would advise it is best getting some purpose built poles. The camo netting can be bought new from a lot of places but a second hand, ex military net from a surplus store will also do the trick.
The Holdall is useful to ensure you can carry everything in one bag. A good holdall will hold your poles, nets, decoys, seat, jacket, gloves and packed lunch! Not to mention it will help getting any shot birds back to the car.
One of my favourite bits of equipment in my starter kit was my bucket swivel seat. They cost only around £24.99 and it does what it says on the tin. It provides comfortable seating whilst you are in the hide all day but it also acts as extra storage as it doubles as a bucket. This means I fit my shell decoys and any other bits and bobs in freeing up room in my holdall. This also keeps everything nicely secured in one place and compartmentalised.
You can add lots of different gadgets and gizmos to your kit bag but if you want to just get started and get out on the pigeons you should be absolutely fine with the above kit. You may have noticed two things that are missing that go without saying... don't forget a gun and your cartridges! It is always better to take more than enough cartridges just in case. I normally take a slab of 250 with me. The main thing I am conscious of is the more kit I take out the more kit I will need to carry back to my car plus the added weight of any shot birds. My preference is to go compact, lightweight and use the essentials.
You can find a great starter pigeon shooting kit on ebay and amazon for around £70-80 that will provide everything you need to get started like the one pictured here.
There are a number of specialist suppliers of decoying equipment but before you rush in to a purchase, take a little time to look around for a good deal. There are lots of older guys who are cleaning out their garage and giving a lot of this stuff away for free. Alternatively, you may pick up a bargain on ebay.
Once you have been out shooting a few times you will soon find if there are any other bits of kit you want or need but if like me, you are new and want to get out and learn this kit will enable you to get started and enjoy the great sport of pigeon shooting.
In a later blog we will look at getting that all important permission from the farmer so you can get out with you new kit to shoot some pigeons...