Shooting in the UK is one of the safest activities you can participate in but it doesn’t mean it is free of all risks.
Anone can have an accident and anyone can be the subject of somebody elses accident.
If the worst happens you will be all on your own to deal with the consequences both legal and financial.
Landowners know this better than anyone and that is why they require shooters to hold their own insurance before coming on to their land. It is no good looking at your boots when asked about insurance and hoping you won’t be asked to show your insurance. That will get you barred from any shoot that finds out about it. Just do it, as the Nike ad says.
But why is it so important to get insurance and preferably insurance through a major body like BASC?
If somebody gets hurt and you played any part in the accident or everything that led up to the accident you could find yourself liable to a claim against you. It may sound unfair and you may not like it but that is not how things work. If someone is injured they make seek damages from you to compensate them for the injury and, more importantly, for the consequencs of any injury. If they can’t work or if they need assistance looking after themselves they will need finacial assistance and they will come looking for it from you.
Now, most of us aren’t worth millions of pounds so we couldn’t support a huge claim against us but we would struggle settling even a modest claim of a few thousand pounds plus the legal expenses for defending the claim. An important part of insurance is that if the injury is serious and the claim is huge then it may be settled from an insuance company from the thousands of policies it issues rather than from an unfortunate individual. Insurance helps you and it helps the injured party, it just works!
If you get your insurance though BASC you also get other huge benefits especially if you need advice on shooting related matters like Firearms Law or dealing with your landlord or FEO.
You can get some insurance cover though other bodies like the Gamekeepers Association, CLA, CA and other smaller trade associations. You may also feel you can get insured very cheaply though some other policies but make sure they are not insurers of last resort. Some insurance seem very cheap but when you call them they will try to find out you are covered, either fully or partially, under someother policy BEFORE they will help you! Not the response you want if you are worried and feeling under pressure.
BASC can offer you immediate cover if you apply online at so join now and support your sport as well as protect yourself and your shooting buddies.
If there was a single answer to this question it would be – What ever gets you results!
Seriously, there isn’t a magic answer to setting out decoys that always gets results but there are a few very fundamental things to consider.
Decoys will only draw pigeons in when they are already in the area. I know it sounds daft but some folks seem to think they can draw pigeon into an area because that is where they have permission to shoot. Wrong. Pigeons go where pigeons want to go not where you are allowed to shoot. It is against the General Licence to create a need to shoot pigeons because you have drawn them in to an area. The General Licence is an exclusion to the general ban on shooting birds and mammals based on the need to shoot pigeons as a last resort. Drawing pigeons into a shootable position in an adjacent field to where they are doing damage but where there isn’t a safe direction to shoot them would be fine.
So decoys should be set out where pigeons are already evident so you can get them into range or close enough to their flight line to get them to deviate and come to you for a look. If pigeon are hitting a part of a large field go to where they are if possible. They are choosing that part of the field for a reason they understand even if you don’t.
A large number of shell decoys on the ground will look like a huddle of happy pigeon so probably forget about rotaries and fancy bouncers. A dozen decoys isn’t a flock. Fifty decoys less than 1.5m apart looks more like it and weighs less than a pigeon magnet and a thumping big battery.
Clusters of pigeon within a large flock. typical group seems to be about 20-30 birds Click to enlarge
If you have to grab the attention of a passing pigeon then movement and flying decoys may well be needed but put them where they can be seen from a way off. Watch they aren’t blotted out by a high hedge or trees and that they contrast with their back ground. A few extra decoys on the top of a hedge or a small tree may attract pigeon that aren’t intested in ground feeding but are ready to lay up for a few hours.
Almost all pigeon on the ground face into the breeze otherwise they get cold and ruffled by the wind. Do the same with your decoys with just a few at odd angles. Most guides say to make a horseshoe shape so bird drop into the middle of the pattern but I’m not 100% sure about that, I haven’t seen pigeons in a horsehoes pattern ever.
The question is in the title isn’t it? What do we use pigeon decoys for?
Well the simple answer is to fool pigeons into thinking that there are already pigeons safely on the ground feeding and that it is alright for them to come down and join the throng.
Even if pigeon aren’t fooled enough to get them to land they can often be simply drawn off their course across a field enough to bring them within range of our guns.
So our decoys have to do something to get the pigeons attantion, to catch their eye, and then to hold their attention long enough to get them with in range before they discover the “decoy” is no real pigeon.
To do both these things decoys have added features to firstly, catch the attention and then to, keep up the deceipt. We add movement and bright colouration to decoys to achieve the attention grabbing bit. Wobbly spring sticks, motorised cradles, flappers, rotary whirly-gigs and even rotary wings all help along with long bendy “floaters” and even poles to loft our decoys into the trees. The various devices also try to make these attention grabbing movements vaguely realistic to so the pigeon thinks it has caught sight of a feeding group down on the ground and is missing out on a meal.
If the colour, movement and pattern of these decoys keeps up the illusion of safety completelely our pigeon will actually come in to land amongst the decoys. Most of the time he will probably realise something is wrong but not until it is too late and we get in a shot at close range. The best form of decoy is, of course, the real thing. Adding dead birds to our existing pattern of decoys can only increase the effectiveness of our set up provided they are posed reasonably naturally. Dead birds laying with their feet in the air in the middle of our pattern won’t help.
So in summary our decoys must get a pigeons attention and hold it as long as possible. We must maximise it’s attrations and minimise it’s alarm signals.
These are just the basics. We must also put our decoys in the right place, at the right time, in the right pattern and in the right numbers to suit the conditions we are in.