Pigeon Hunting: Everything You Need To Know


pigeon hunting

Pigeon hunting has been practiced by humans for millennia.

Pigeon meat was a favorite food of the Ancient Romans and while we still eat pigeon meat, pigeon hunting is now for sport and pest control.

The Popularity of Pigeon Hunting

Pigeon hunting is great for beginners as it’s easy to find the birds and it’s a simple way to learn some of the techniques associated with bird hunting in general.

You don’t have to be a beginner though. Expert hunters can enjoy hunting for pigeons. In parts of the American Midwest, pigeon hunting is considered one of the fastest-growing shooting sports.

It’s also quite popular in the UK.

pigeon hunting

Because there are such a huge number of pigeons in many places, it’s usually pretty easy to find a good place to hunt for them.

Of course, pigeon hunting is a country pursuit, because even though there are millions of pigeons in our towns and cities, you can’t exactly let loose with a shotgun in an urban area.

There are a few differences between pigeon hunting in the United States and pigeon hunting in the UK, so being familiar with the rules and regulations is important.

The Fundamental Difference Between Pigeon Hunting in the United States vs. in the United Kingdom

In most parts of the United States, pigeon hunting falls under dove hunting guidelines.

The species you can hunt for varies throughout the season, with some being available for hunting year-round.

Some species are considered invasive, meaning you can hunt them anytime you want to.

In the UK, the public general views doves and pigeons quite differently.

Doves are thought of as beautifully symbolic birds often portrayed with olive branches in their mouths as symbols of peace, whereas pigeons are most often relegated to the status of vermin.

Brits will go out to intentionally hunt pigeons, but rarely doves.  

Hunting in Practice in USA and UK

Land access is the primary difference you will encounter when pigeon hunting in the United States compared to the United Kingdom.

If you’re pigeon hunting in the United States, it’s allowed on public land. In most parts of the US, it’s illegal to hunt on private land and there are penalties for being caught doing so.

hunting pigeons

If the pigeons are found on public land, they are considered public property, meaning anyone can hunt them.

On the other hand, in the UK, wildlife “belongs” to the landowner.

There isn’t much common land like there is in the US. Even land that might be considered public is owned by the government and subject to the rules therein.

That’s why you will find that middle and upper-class citizens make up the majority of pigeon hunters who do it for the sport in the UK.

It also means that UK hunters spend much more money on the sport than hunters in the US.

Despite the land considerations, the technique and equipment needed for pigeon hunting is universal.

It’s important to understand the sport and how it’s done before you decide if it’s something you want to try.

That ensures that each hunt is safe and successful.

Is There a Hunting Pigeon Season?

Unlike in the United States, there is no pigeon hunting season in the UK.

Hunters can shoot pigeons anytime, year-round. Also, while dove hunting is popular in the US, it’s not as much so in the UK. In fact, UK hunters typically shoot doves by misidentification, rather than setting out to do so.

In the UK, the official bird hunting season applies to larger birds, such as grouse, pheasants and partridges.

Pigeons are not considered game birds but instead are classed as pests.

shotgun for pigeon hunting

That means they can be hunted in the UK, anytime, under general license.

There is a lengthy list of regulations, rules and exceptions, so it’s very important to know exactly what you’re shooting at. Make sure you stay aware of any changes to the rules, especially as they pertain to pigeons.

In the United States, pigeons are lumped in with doves. The traditional dove (and thereby pigeon) hunting season starts on September 1st and extends into November.

It’s important to be sure that the pigeons you are hunting are legal at the time so check the regulations for the state in which you are hunting..

How to Hunt for Pigeons

Pigeon hunting is fairly simple. It’s a great introduction to hunting for beginners but is also enjoyed by many experienced hunters, in both the UK and the US.

One of the most important things you’ll need is decoys. Experts suggest using 6 to 8 decoy pigeons. Choose a field or open area to hunt, then line the decoys up in a V or U formation.

This tells pigeons flying over that there is food in the area. When they land, you can take aim and shoot them.

a pigeon hunting hideout

Pigeons have acute peripheral vision, so you will want to stay out of sight.

The birds can detect even slight movement and shadows. If you’re too visible, you may have a hard time getting the pigeons to land or fly close enough to hunt.

A shotgun is your best bet for pigeon hunting.

If you’ve never used one, it’s a good idea to practice at a shooting range before you go out into the field.

That way you’ll be familiar with the techniques and the safety regulations.

While your goal when hunting is to kill the pigeons, you want to gain some skills first. That way you don’t cause the birds any unnecessary suffering and can enjoy a successful hunt.

Knowing a few pigeon hunting tips goes a long way toward helping you achieve this.

Getting a License

There is no pigeon hunting license in the UK.

Hunting is covered by general licence issued by DEFRA.

You must follow the rules regarding where you can hunt and what kind of wildlife you can hunt but feral (common) pigeons are allowed to be shot all year round.

You must have a valid certificate for your shotgun.

With this certificate, you must follow the regulations regarding its use.

That means it cannot hold more than two rounds at one time and cannot be equipped with any kind of sighting mechanism.

dove hunt

If you are hunting in the US, you are required to have a hunting license, no matter what kind of wildlife you’re hunting for. That includes pigeons. It’s vital that you check to be sure the types of pigeons you are hunting are in season.

In the USA, you can hunt for Eurasian collared dove all year round as it is an invasive species

Hunting out of season can result in fines and could cause you to lose your license. Check the website for the local game and wildlife regulations in your area.

If you are hunting for doves or band-tailed pigeons in the US, you must also take part in the Harvest Information Program (HIP). This will require an additional permit stamp on your hunting license.

After the season, you’ll be asked to participate in a survey about your dove/pigeon hunting experience.

This enables local entities to set future hunting seasons for pigeons and other migratory birds.

Choosing the Right Shotgun

The right gun will make all the difference when you’re pigeon hunting, whether in the UK or the US. Fortunately, just about any shotgun will work.

However, there are some considerations to keep in mind as you make your choice.

Be sure you choose one you can comfortably handle.

Every hunter will have a preference when it comes to the perfect shotgun. Test out a few options to find what works best for you.

The most commonly used shotguns for pigeon hunting are 12-gauge and 20-gauge.

Keep in mind that in the United States, the gun can’t hold more than three rounds at one time.

Make sure you understand the rules about what accessories you can use in the area where you’ll be hunting.

Pigeon hunting is easy, as compared to hunting other wildlife, so don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the gun you choose. Just be sure it is comfortable to handle, and you know how to use it safely.

What to Wear for Pigeon Hunting

You won’t need any fancy clothes for pigeon hunting. A few basic items are all it takes to be ready.

Because pigeons have good eyesight, you will want clothing that blends with your surroundings. For this reason, camo is a good option. You can also use a camo blind to further blend with your hunting ground.

Earth colours, such as olive green, khaki and tan are other great choices. Whatever you choose to wear, make sure it’s comfortable and that you can move easily when you’re wearing it.

choosing hunting clothes

A hunting belt or vest is something else you’ll be happy to have. It gives you a place to keep extra ammunition and a water bottle.

You can also attach the pigeons you kill to the belt to make it easier to transport them home.

Since you’ll be doing a fair bit of walking while you hunt, a pair of sturdy and comfortable shoes is also vital. The right shoes will also protect your feet while you hunt.

A good pair of sneakers or hiking boots are your best choices.

Best Places to Hunt for Pigeons

The best place to find pigeons is in places where they tend to congregate.

This is usually an open field, farmland or open space. Wheatfields, ponds and cornfields are also great places to hunt for pigeons.

The more birds there are, the better the chances of getting one.

Make sure that wherever you choose to hunt is on permitted public land or that you’ve gotten permission from the landowner to hunt there.

pigeons sitting on a roof

In the United States, the best time to hunt for pigeons is during the winter. That means that southern and desert states are going to be prime places to find large groups of them.

Arizona and Texas are especially good choices.

In the United Kingdom, you must have permission to hunt on most land. For that reason, you might be happy finding a tour group going on a pigeon hunting expedition.

Sporting and gaming websites are the ideal places to find such tours.

Methods for Hunting Pigeons

While pigeon hunting is fairly simple, having some techniques at your disposal ensures a higher success rate.

Pass shooting is the most common method.

As the name implies, it involves sitting in one location and waiting for the pigeons to pass over and then shooting them.

Be sure they are in your range so that you don’t risk scaring the others away with the sound of your gun.

Decoys can be a helpful way to attract pigeons to your hunting ground.

You don’t have to use them to be successful, but if you choose to do so, consider using both fixed and moving decoys, which makes the process more realistic to the actual pigeons flying over.

Scout the area before you hunt to get a sense of how many pigeons might be around and to establish the best place to stand/sit.

Pigeons tend to congregate the corners or along the edges of a field or open area. Keep your eyes on this location for a higher success rate.

Wearing polarised glasses gives you a better view of the pigeons when you’re hunting at dawn or dusk. This allows for better aim and a higher chance of getting quite a few birds.

You also want to be well-supplied with food and water anytime you go hunting. Keep your eye on your food supplies so that other wildlife doesn’t get hold of it. Depending on when you go, bug spray and sunscreen will also come in handy.

What to do with Pigeons

Many people enjoy the taste of pigeon meat.

pigeon meat can be delicious

It’s easy to prepare and can be used as a replacement for chicken in just about any recipe.

Try it roasted, grilled, fried or baked. Marinate the meat for flavor or season it after cooking.

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