How to train flyers in wood pigeon shooting?

When it comes to wood pigeon shooting, decoys and pigeons are the real stars of the show. What are the secrets to training them?

Wood pigeon shooting has a long tradition, and which is seeing more and more enthusiasts practicing it.

Game that’s fascinating and tough, the Columba Palumbus – or common wood pigeon – is a migratory bird found throughout Europe.

Generally, wood pigeon routes originate from the east, following the route coming from the north and north-east and crossing the continent diagonally.

When nature slips on its autumnal colors and the trees are tinged red and yellow, the October flight of the wood pigeons sets off the magic.

Every hunter repeats the mantra that a wood pigeon hunt is not mere hunting, but a true philosophy.

The hunting techniques to bag them are different, each with its own specific traits:

  • wood pigeon shooting from the ground, practiced as a still hunt on the ground with hides and the use of rods, 3D decoys, decoys and flyers;
  • migratory wood pigeon shooting, which provides for the positioning of hunters at mountain passes by which the routes of migrating pigeons pass;
  • tree stand wood pigeon shooting, conducted from raised hides from which begins the choreography of decoys and flyers.

In addition to preparing every aspect of the stand, which gets treated as a second home throughout the year, this last technique requires the training of pigeons.

Pigeons and decoys are the real stars of wood pigeon shooting.

Based on each’s characteristics, the selection process carried out during training will be fundamental to decide whether to use it as a decoy or as a flyer.

There are three main types of pigeons, split according to tasks and specializations.

Amelia is a pigeon very similar to the wood pigeon in flight, thanks to the patches that can be seen on its wings. In fact, its flight is one of the most appreciated features of this decoy, which has a strong, rhythmic and -above all – silent wing beat.

Intelligent and discreet, it lends itself to training and, due to this attitude and its aesthetic value, it is widely used by hunters for the perch, both as a plunger and as a roller.

The Terni pigeon is a great flyer, very similar to the Amelia from which it was obtained. Stouter and larger than its parent, it is perhaps even sharper. Very docile decoy, it is mainly used as a flyer. Thanks to the trajectories it traces in the air, it proves a real lure for wood pigeons.

The French pigeon is indisputably beautiful, however it is not an easily trained type. For this reason, its harmonious proportions make it an excellent specimen for improving the morphology and coloring of the plumage of other decoys.

It is important to stress that these are not breeds in the truest sense of the term, but rather types selected over the years by Umbrian hunters and breeders as well as, more generally, from all over central Italy.

What is certain is, for those who take up the fascinating training craft, the Amelia and Terni pigeons are versatile lures, well disposed to training and excellent flyers but can also be used as decoys.

Pigeon shooting is a deeply felt practice, with the little secrets that characterize it being handed down from generation to generation.

For a young person wanting to take up this art, it can be useful to obtain several couples, whether Terni or Amelia, and begin training them, establishing a genuine relationship with them. Sometimes, even by whistle alone, the pigeon recognizes the hunter by their voice.

To get good pigeons and kick off the winged ballet that so thrills every wood pigeon hunter, there are several steps to take.

With the advent of spring, generally during the month of May, young pigeons aged two months are brought into the blind, accompanied by two or three-year-old adult pigeons. Bringing them to the hunting site very early on allows natural acclimatization of decoys and facilitates training.

From that moment, the selection work begins, so that from 20 pigeons introduced in May, five or six pigeons may be obtained in September, ideal for becoming flyers.

For selecting the most suitable specimens, the traits to look out for are different. Good pigeons do not hesitate, and at the hunter’s signal should do a circuit, at most two, before returning to their perch.

All flyers must turn in the same direction, in choreography worthy of the most illustrious stages. And then, the perfect flyer should not be afraid to fly and push itself to the distance required of it.

It is not mere mechanical, ritual work – pigeons must know how to read the situation, be an active part of the “dance” and soar in harmonious flight, assessing when to broaden the radius of action according to different necessities.

In the central Italian regions, such as Le Marche, an ideal battery for wood pigeon shooting may range from six to 12 pigeons. This is especially useful for blinds located near the sea, because in addition to the morning takeoff, the large volume of passing traffic is created from noon until dusk.

Having access to rested flyers to use, so six in the morning and six in the afternoon, ensures that enjoyment is guaranteed.

According to a little trick handed down in these regions, in the mornings when the wood pigeon passes downstream in low flight, a pigeon with a lighter plumage should be preferred, because it will make the setting more visible, attracting wood pigeons.

For wood pigeon shooting, semi-automatic hunting shotguns, over and under shotguns or side by side shotguns are used.

Generally, given the deceptive flight of wood pigeons – due to a wary nature that sees them change trajectory in the blink of an eye –the third shot can prove decisive.

For longer shots, 12-gauge semi-automatic shotguns is recommended, with barrel lengths between 70cm/28” and 76cm/30”, which can support heavier weights, with one or maximum two-star choke */ ** (F/IM).

Alternatively, for closer shots up to 30m, a medium-light shotgun with 65-67cm/26-27” barrels and intermediate chokes/Cyl (***/M) and 33/35 grams cartridges suffices.

Affinity 3 Black Synt is one of the Franchi semi-automatic shotguns most popular with hunters. Available in numerous configurations, it is a semi-automatic gun with an ergonomic, manageable swing, which adapts perfectly to the shots required by wood pigeon shooting.

Becoming ever more aware, and ready to take on this incredibly exciting activity is the aim of every enthusiast – and the choice of the right shotgun is definitely fundamental.

In wood pigeon shooting with decoys, however, the work of the flyers is even more decisive, as well as being one of the most intense thrills it offers.

Watching their flight trace invisible trails in the air is something that every wood pigeon hunter carries within.

Because there is nothing more beautiful than getting lost in that dance of signs, full of hidden meanings.

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