Got milk? A dairy farmer’s work never ceases—and neither does the abysmal invasion of flying rodents: pigeons. Help out Old MacDonald and hone-in your shotgunning skills with a day of hunting pigeons over decoys.
Pay attention when you drive by any milking operation and you’ll almost always see circling flocks of pigeons. Contrary to popular opinion, I actually think pigeons are beautiful birds. Trouble is, they’re … well … crappy. They’ll soil every imaginable surface of a farm, and if left unchecked their plague can become downright disgusting and unsanitary. Luckily, for those of us who have a knack for busting birds out of the sky, pigeons decoy exceptionally well and make for quite a wild afternoon of wingshooting.
Todd Gifford (aka “CrowMan”) owns a business that specializes in pest control—most notably pests of the avian variety. Gifford is known mainly for his astonishing record of more than 15,000 logged crow kills, but he’s also a professional pigeon slayer.
Gifford uses Soar No More pigeon decoys. These lifelike, full-body plastic impostors are foolproof for sucking birds into range for waiting gunners. Everyone should keep a set on hand for those times when we’re eager to get outside and knock the dust off our scatterguns.
We arrived at the farm in the mid afternoon. No need to get up early or stay late for pigeons—they’ll fly, decoy and die all day. The key is finding a cattleman who has a pigeon problem, and then it’s a matter of building a relationship to gain access to the farm and become the well-armed solution to his problem. There’s a lot of trust and responsibility in this arrangement, as the best shooting will take place in the core of the farmyard amongst buildings, equipment and animals. Safe shooting lanes, careful shots and situational awareness need to be top of mind at all times. Get your game dialed in and you can expect consistent action.
Earlier in the day, our crew assembled at a backyard shooting range and warmed up our shoulders over a Champion WheelyBird. Busting clay pigeons then banging the real thing—there’s no better way to exercise your shotgunning instincts and prepare for a serious fall season of hunting game birds.
Our crew wasn’t even in position when the birds started circling the decoys and setting their wings. Within minutes, the first birds hit the dirt. Pigeons can turn on a dime and outmaneuver some of your best shooting, so you quickly learn to respect the challenge of these aerial adversaries.
We were shooting Federal Premium high-brass upland loads through the new line of Stevens S1200 autoloading shotguns. Shots ranged from in-your-face 10-yarders to a couple of 50-yard pokes with long leads over the roof of the cattle barn. At a very reasonable $571 (MSRP) price point, it was impressive to see the inertia-driven S1200s cycle hundreds of rounds with only two instances of feeding failure—nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a quick dose of Hoppe’s Gun Medic injected into the chambers.
For a stir-crazy sportsman, hunting pigeons is an excellent option when our summer “down time” is getting us down. With a cooler full of cold beverages, polarized sunglasses and a Thermacell to keep the bugs away, a session of dropping pigeons is better than a day at the beach.
Eating pigeons? It’s not out of the question. The red breast meat of a pigeon is much like that of a dove, which most educated carnivores would call a delicacy. Keep your eyes peeled on my Cast-Iron Chef blog at OutdoorLife.com, where my cohort Krissie Mason will soon be firing up a recipe with a few of the pigeons that starred in this photo essay.
We knocked about 60 birds out of the flock during our 2-hour shoot. Not too shabby. It was the first time I’d set my sights on these avian acrobats, but it certainly won’t be my last.