hunt migratory game birds

With hunting season fast approaching, are you getting ready to hunt migratory game birds? Read on for our tips on the best way to prepare for it and how to increase your chances of success.

setting up your hunting hide

#1 Setting up your hide

To build a good hide, we recommend you use camouflage netting with the most realistic pattern possible that most closely matches the colours of the environment you'll be shooting in. Then, we recommend that you add some native vegetation so as to blend in with your surroundings even more.

If you use telescopic poles to place your nets, it would be a good idea to add telescopic rods and tension clamps to stop the nets moving around too much in the wind, which would look suspicious to birds. Think ahead about what size you will need so that you can successfully adapt the type of hide you are building (3 or 4 sides) to suit your needs.

Once the hide is up, we recommend that you check the structure from the outside to make sure it is properly set up, and that birds can't see into the hide.

Types of hide

Natural: free and has the best success rate. But a good hide of this type takes a very long time to get right, and how well it hides you will depend on the amount of vegetation.

Stakes + nets: inexpensive and can be set up anywhere. But can be bulky to transport. And they take a certain amount of time to put up and take down.

Pop-up hide tent: can be easily installed anywhere, while providing maximum concealment. Most portable hides are lightweight and are easy to transport. This type of hide should cost around €100. 

Lay-down hide (tent style): ensures maximum concealment so that you can get closer to the birds. This type of hide is more costly, around €200 and it is not very practical to transport.

hunt migratory game birds

#2 Hide placement

Pigeons are very cautious and have excellent eyesight, superior to that of humans. As such, we recommend that you camouflage your hide among vegetation, e.g. around a hedge, at the edge of a field or under a tree, to benefit from cover and shade.

It is also very important to avoid sudden movements inside your hide. They have very good peripheral and UV vision and are very sensitive to any movement.

Moreover, it is essential to take into account the wind and sun when planning a successful shoot: pointing the hide into the wind will allow you to predict the birds' flight lines. If you hunt with the sun behind you, you will be able to shoot without being disturbed by it, and if you position yourself in the shade hidden under a tree or hedge for example, you will be able to get the birds to come closer to you. Note that according to the wind speed, pigeons fly at a speed of 50 to almost 100 km/h.

migratory game bird hunting location

#3 Research your hunting location

If you have enough time to prepare, it is advisable to study the birds' behaviour beforehand to get to know their habits, flight paths, routes, etc. This will help you make the right decisions when positioning your hide for the best shot angles and to get as close as possible to flight lines.

This information is also of the utmost importance for the placement of your decoys. As such, it is key to find out about the regulations specific to the area you are hunting in, as you may or may not be able to use decoys. 

It is worth noting during your environment research that pigeons like to visit fields that have not been harvested or that have been recently harvested because they can easily find abundant food there. They will progress in their migration according to the wind, the abundance of food and changes in temperature.

#4 Using decoys

After you have inquired with your local federation, if you do not get the chance to study the real behaviour of pigeons in the fields, we recommend placing your decoys in a "V" formation facing into the wind and 20/30m away from your hide. Decoys must always be placed facing into the wind because it is the direction birds arrive from into a field.

The "V" formation is made up of 2 lines of decoys. Note that flying decoy shapes or moving mechanisms are recommended but not always permitted. They will make your set of decoys look more realistic and therefore more attractive to birds, who will fly within reach of your shotgun.

There are several types of pigeon decoys: 2D decoys (shells), or 3D decoys (with rotating wings, classic, velour or illusion).

Pigeon store

#5 Choose your hunting cartridges

We recommend that you adapt your cartridges to your shot distance (short distances or very long distances), to your type of hunting (from a hide or stalking, pigeon or thrush) as well as to the weather conditions (with or without wind). As a reminder, small pellet sizes will always give more grouped shots compared to larger pellets.

Special pigeon cartridges:

For shots between 20 and 40m, a cartridge with a shot load ideally between 34g and 50g should be used. Choose shot size No.6 or even larger for efficient shots (e.g. L100 36g Pigeon Lead 6, L100 34g Lead 6, L900 34g Comfort Lead 6, XL40 Lead 6 and 4, and XL50 Lead 6, 4 and 2).

For thrush, we tend to shoot at a shorter distance than for pigeon, and given the size of the bird, go for smaller diameters from 7.5 to 12. Cartridges with a shot load of between 28 and 36g will be perfect for thrush hunting (e.g. L100 32g Limited size 7.5 or 9, L100 30g size 9, L100 32g lead 7.5 to 12, L100 36G size 9).

migratory game bird hunting camouflage equipment

#6 100% camouflage equipment

We strongly recommend that you get yourself some camouflage clothing and accessories such as balaclavas, caps, gloves, etc. This will make you blend in better and increase your chances of success. This is important because birds have UV and 2D vision, and are able to spot us from very long distances.

On the subject of accessories, we especially recommend the use of calls adapted to the species you are hunting. If you are hunting thrush, choose the most widespread species in the region you are hunting, such as the song thrush in some parts of Europe. Used properly, they will increase your chances of drawing birds to you.

You should also try to synchronise your calls and avoid calling when the birds are in flight and/or close to you so as not to disturb their behaviour.

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