Whilst we do not condone shooting pigeons for sport, there are occasions when it is deemed necessary to eradicate pigeons with an air rifle due to the damage and destruction they cause. This is often the case out in the country, where crops are ruined, poultry disturbed, and water sources contaminated with pigeon faeces.
If you are shooting pigeons, then we’ll help you get the most out of your pigeon firing spree. We’ll provide you with top tips on how to shoot pigeons, what equipment you’ll need to take and recommend the best air rifles in order to get a clean shot.
Do you need a license to shoot pigeons?
Pigeon shooting is legal in the United States, as pigeons are not considered to be native America birds, which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 1918.
Generally, the only requirements you need to shoot pigeons is a basic hunting license – although you should always check the restrictions specific to your state of residence.
Pigeon shooting equipment
Whilst some people use shotguns, we prefer to use air rifles when shooting pigeons – but you’ll have to be agile and quick!
One of the first things you should invest in when it comes to pigeon shooting equipment are realistic decoys. These are fake, plastic pigeons, supposedly used to draw more pigeons to a specific area – although often as not they have the opposite effect and end up being great for discouraging them.
Best pellet gun for pigeons
A good air rifle / pellet gun is key. You need one with plenty of power but that’s not too loud. This is why we particularly like the GAMO Swarm Magnum air rifle and the .177 calibre airgun pellets.
Other air rifles that we recommend are the Gamo Varmint Air Rifle, Crosman Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle and the Crosman Fury NP Piston Pellet Gun. However, it generally comes down to personal preference, and what you feel most comfortable handling!
Use a camouflage screen
Aside from a good air rifle, you will need a good camouflage screen or nets that naturally blend in with your surroundings and some adjustable hide poles. We would also recommend using natural materials such as wood, leaves and bushes as added disguise.
Other items which are not essential but useful to have include a seat, as you may be sitting still for long periods of time, thermos flask, clicker count, binoculars and sacks for carrying dead birds back. Alternatively, if you have a good hunting dog, you can utilise them to carry the pigeons for you, but always ensure that they are sitting behind you whilst you shoot in order to prevent injury.
How to shoot pigeons with an air rifle
As with any form of pest control, you need to understand the behaviour of the pigeon before you launch an attack.
Spend time analysing their flight routes in and out of the area you are wanting to protect. Check where the pigeons are feeding from and what is attracting them to return. This will enable you to pick the perfect place for an ambush (generally directly beneath a pigeons flight path). We suggest setting up either high in a tree or by laying low in a well camouflaged crop field.
Pigeons are not the most intelligent of birds, but they are certainly not stupid and understand the need to keep a look out for signs of danger. This is why they tend to sit up high for a good view before swooping down to peck.
If you are shooting with an air rifle then you want to shoot pigeons whilst they are on the ground eating or on a perch resting, as here, they will be much more static. In the air, they become a constantly moving target.
Until you know how your pigeons are going to react to the pigeon decoys, we would suggest placing them in a u-shaped pattern facing the wind, to encourage pigeons to land in between.
You should then place your camouflage hide-out around 18-20 meters away from your decoys. This gives you a better chance of a shot at a pigeon without being spotted. Finally, don’t take too long to get the precise shot, as the slightest sniff of a human attack will send the whole flock flying.
Unlike shooting other pests, rather than aiming for the constantly bobbing head, we recommend that you aim right beside a wing at the front of the chest or in between the shoulders for the cleanest shot. This should hit the heart and lungs and provide an instantaneous death for the pigeon. Nobody likes an animal to suffer, so if you have not got the cleanest of shots on your first try, then it important that you try again.
As air rifles are quieter than shot guns, it does means that you’ll have more than one chance to shoot a pigeon. Pigeons aren’t daft, however, and once they have cottoned on to the fact it isn’t such a safe place to be, they will eventually fly off for good (or at least for a good few hours!).
You clicker counter can then let you know how many pigeons to pick up at the end of the shoot. It is up to you how you want to dispose of them, once their bodies have cooled.
Shooting pigeons is an art that takes time to perfect. If you are plagued by pigeons and have resorted to shooting them, then I suggest you implement other pigeon deterrents for maximum effect.