For many shooters including myself you will be looking forward to some pigeon roost shooting now the pheasant shooting season is over and wooded areas become more accessible.
For anyone new to the sport, roost shooting is basically a gun getting himself into a position in a wood or copse late afternoon to early evening where pigeons and crows roost at night so they can be shot as they come in.
I really enjoy it as you don’t have to be carting lots of kit around with you and in just a couple of hours you can have quite a bag. I’m especially looking forward to it this year as my old dog Fern has not been fit enough to come out with me this season as the long days would have been too much for her. A couple of hours standing out in the wood and hopefully picking a few pigeons will be ideal for her.
Each year after the shooting season it is a great time to get out on a Saturday evening to roost shoot pigeons and crows. You can roost shoot any night but I say Saturday night as this is a popular day with groups such as the rotary club organizing an evening’s shooting for individuals in woods around the local area and with this in mind keen shots head to their local woods and spinneys too and by doing this it keeps the birds moving from wood to wood providing some fantastic sport.
Most people have a good knowledge of their local area and where birds like to roost.
For those of you who have been on local shoots beating and picking up through the season I’m sure like me you have been noticing all of the droppings through the woods and looking out for the highest concentrations for the best areas to stand.
Pigeon droppings showing a good roosting area.
You may have just been watching flight lines in an evening as a good recce of the wood will pay dividends. Either way you will have a good idea where the birds are roosting. Even with this knowledge the birds approach may vary each day depending on wind direction and strength.
A good recce pays dividends when looking for a good pigeon roosting area.
For the first part of an evening’s roosting I like to find myself a nice spot inside the wood near to where the birds have been roosting with a window in the tree canopy to help enable me to take a clear shot and with good camouflage gear on you will generally not be seen. As most of you will know birds like to land into the wind so I stand towards one side of this window with my back to the wind giving me the longest time possible to see the birds and mount my gun before taking the shot. It’s nice if there is at least a bit of wind as this helps keep the noise of the shot to a minimum.
A nice open window in the tree canopy.
Once birds start moving and coming into the area it soon becomes clear whether or not you need to move (this is definitely the point you’re glad you don’t have hides and decoy patterns to pack up and relocate).
As it gets later in the evening and the light starts to go I generally move towards the edge of the wood in the direction most of the pigeons have been coming from. It’s also a good idea as the crows will also now start to fly along the edge of the tree line giving a nice silhouette against the sky.
Whilst roost shooting in larger woods there will generally be more than one gun as you can guarantee if you were on your own all of the birds would be landing at the other end. If there are more than one of you shooting it is generally best to set some ground rules. For example, on a still evening you may find the pigeons will fly across the top of the wood at great height scouting out the area and if all is clear take a couple of further passes gradually getting lower until they are in a position to land. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting patiently for birds to tease you as they get tantalisingly closer with each pass only for the other gun to start shooting at birds up in orbit scaring everything in sight away.
Unfortunately, behaviour breeds behaviour and as you’re not getting any shooting it’s very tempting to start shooting at birds in orbit too. The only winners here are the pigeons.
Make sure you are all singing from the same page and let the birds do their thing and come within a reasonable range before taking the first shot. This way the first gun gets a shot and possibly the others too as the birds leave or on a good windy evening turn back in to have another go.
Fern enjoying a nice retrieve.