The aerial acrobatics that a pigeon can perform are awe-inspiring in the world of wingshooting. The pigeon can only be rivaled in speed by a teal or a dove. A pigeon can turn on a dime. It can barrel roll or loop to loop with the best jet pilots. So it’s no wonder that when I ask well-traveled wingshooters “What’s your favorite bird to hunt?” more often than not they answer “pigeon.”
Why? It’s not as obvious as you might think. Aside from the sporting flight of a pigeon and the pure speed that leaves the shooter forever behind, it’s the pigeon’s readiness to decoy that most of my clients seem to enjoy most. A group of 5-15 pigeon turning into the decoys may be the most challenging decoyed bird on the planet. The only birds that I can think of that decoys as readily and still challenges the shooter are the various species of teal. Where the pigeon surpasses the teal is on a dramatic change of direction with deceptive movements and feints that can cause you to move out of position…and miss.
Some of the action from pigeon hunting in Uruguay.
Another great reason to entertain a pigeon shoot is the incredible volume of birds. The estimates here are in boxes of shells actually possible since we all know no two pigeon shooters are created equal. The Picazuro Pigeon of South America is the king of pigeon enthusiasts. Paraguay was once the THE place to hunt pigeons, and still has birds, it’s just not safe enough. In Argentina depending on the province, you’ll be able to shoot 20 boxes a day. In Salta Province, on Argentina’s northern border, the pigeons are more plentiful with 30-plus boxes per day. Uruguay is still a viable option with 10 boxes or on a good day. The reigning champ of pigeon destinations would have to be Bolivia. Depending on the time of year, shooting your way through 40 boxes of shells in a day ranks as one of the best wingshooting experiences on the planet.
Picazuros aren’t like the pigeons we see in North America; they’re bigger, wilder and migrate readily. The Picazuro flies in the ever changing “balled up” flock natural to most pigeons, but it’s the numbers that set the Bolivian, Paraguayan, and Northern Argentine Picazuro apart from just about any other species that decoys. Flocks of 100 - 200 landing in and strafing the decoys happens so fast it’s hard to pick out one bird to focus on. As soon as you’ve settled from your last opportunity another group ranging from 5 -100 is presented in the decoys. Truly non-stop action that is hard to find anywhere.
Here’s an example of pigeons that can be taken in Uruguay.
One of the best things about pigeons? It’s that you can shoot them all over the world. We’ve all seen the flocks around our local grain elevators, the feed lot, or circling the barn. We see them on the walk into the downtown office, and there are lots of them! There are several outfitters and companies in the U.S. who are starting to cater to the pigeon hunter. In Idaho is perhaps the best instance and in my opinion a North American trend setter with guided tours offered by Soar No More in Kuna has been offering pigeon decoys and high volume hunts since 2009. While we’re not affiliated with Soar No More I admire that they will be responsible for bringing true decoyed pigeons to the masses in the U.S. Credit where it’s due.
Pigeon decoys at work in Uruguay.
The same principles you use to be a consistent duck hunter will serve the pigeon hunter well. Knowing where the birds have been working, setting up on the “X”, movement in the decoys, concealment, are all solid practices on any decoyed pigeon hunt. A hunter can shoot year-round, and even bait pigeons when the other seasons are out. Giving the wingshooter practice on live birds in the off seasons will help to up your percentages during your fall duck hunts. Those early teal are in trouble if you’ve spent the summer gunning pigeons.
In the U.S. our pigeons are great, they decoy readily and give the shooter a distinct challenge. However, it’s the high-volume shooting of South America that we simply can’t compete with. A place in the U.S. that shoots 1,000 pigeons a gun won’t be shot again for another year or in some cases many more. But you can do that in South America day after day after day (not that you will).
Punta del Este is a beautiful luxury resort in Uruguay that offers great pigeon hunts.
Pigeons are the perfect opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and pass time while you wait for the waterfowl to show up. They are also the ideal trip for anyone wanting to shoot in South America. Whether you’re a duck hunter, a dove hunter, or just shoot on occasion; the humble pigeon will challenge your skills and make you an overall better wingshooter. This is why I love hunting pigeons, they force you to improve, and squab makes for a fine meal.
Until next month; if you’re going to miss…..miss in front.