The humble pigeon, and why we should respect it.
A pigeon can only be rivaled in speed by a teal or a dove, a pigeon can turn on a dime, barrel roll or loop to loop with the best pilots out there. The aerial acrobatics that a pigeon can perform are unrivaled in the world of wing shooting. When I talk to well-traveled wingshooters, I often ask, “What’s your favorite?”. More often than not; it’s the humble pigeon they enjoy the most.
Why? It’s not as obvious as one might think. Aside from the sporting flight of a pigeon and the pure speed that leaves the shooter forever behind. It’s the pigeons’ readiness to decoy that most of my clients seem to enjoy, myself included. A group of 5-15 pigeon turning into the decoys may be the most challenging decoyed bird on the planet. The only bird that I can think of that decoys as readily and still challenges the shooter are the various species of teal. Where the pigeon surpasses the teal is on the change of direction. Most hunters have had the privilege of watching dragon fly zip and dart through the sky, pigeon are not too far off this level of agility. In and out of the dekes before you know it.
Another great reason to entertain a pigeon shoot, is the volume of shooting. Paraguay was once the THE place to hunt pigeons, and still has birds, it’s just not safe enough. In Argentina depending on the province, you’ll be able to shoot 200 + birds a day. In Salta Province, on Argentina’s northern border, the pigeons are more plentiful with 500 – 1000 pigeons per day that readily decoy. Uruguay, is still a viable option with 100 or so being a good shoot. The reigning champ of pigeon destinations would have to be Bolivia. Depending on the time of year, 1000 Picazuro pigeons a day can be achieved regularly.
Picazuros’ aren’t like the pigeons we see in North America, they’re bigger, they’re “wild” and they migrate more readily. The Picazuro flies in the ever changing “balled up” flock natural to most pigeons, it’s the numbers that set the Bolivian, Paraguayan, and Northern Argentine Picazuro, apart from just about any other species that decoys. Flocks of 100 – 200 landing in and strafing the decoys happens so fast it’s hard to pick out one bird to focus on. As soon as you’ve settled from your last opportunity another group of ranging from 5 to 100 is presented in the decoy’s. Truly non-stop action that is hard to find any-where.
One of the best things about pigeons? Is that you can shoot them all over the world. We’ve all seen the flocks around our local Grain Elevators, the feed lot, or circling the barn. We see them on the walk into the downtown office, and there are lots of them! There are several outfitters and companies in the U.S. who are starting to cater to the pigeon hunter. In Idaho is perhaps the best instance and in my opinion a north American trend setter…. Soar no More, has been offering pigeon decoys and high volume hunts since 2009. While not affiliated with Soar no More, I admire that they will be responsible for bringing true decoyed pigeons to the masses in the U.S. Credit where it’s due.
The same principles one uses to be a consistent duck hunter, will serve the pigeon hunter well. Knowing where the birds have been working. Setting up on the “X”, movement in the decoys, and concealment, are all solid practices on any decoyed bird. A hunter can shoot year around, and even bait pigeons when the other seasons are out. Giving the wingshooter practice on live birds in the off seasons, will help to up your percentages during your fall duck hunts. Those early teal are in trouble if you’ve spent the summer gunning pigeons.
In the US. Our pigeons are great, they decoy readily and give the shooter a distinct challenge. It’s the high volume shooting of South America that we just can’t compete with. A shooting grounds in the US that shoots 1000 pigeons a gun won’t be shot again for another year or in some cases many more. In S. America you can go to the same blind the next day, not that you will, just that you could. Pigeons are the perfect opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and pass time while you wait for the waterfowl to show up. They are also the ideal trip for anyone wanting to shoot in South America. Whether you’re a duck hunter, a dove hunter, or just shoot on occasion; the humble pigeon will challenge your skills and make you an overall better wingshooter. This is why I love hunting pigeons, they force you to improve, and squab makes for a fine meal.
Until next month; if you’re going to miss…..miss in front.