This week we shall be looking at hide construction and safety once we’re inside. The main point of any hide building exercise is to put a barrier between ourselves and the pigeons that will be approaching, the humble woodpigeon knows every inch of its domain and has exceptionally good vision, and if they see any part of you or your equipment they will give the landing zone a wide birth, so bearing this in mind we need to ensure that we are hidden from view.
The word hide conjures up all types of mental images and they can range from standing behind a bush to being perched up in the tree tops on a raised platform awaiting birds coming back to the roost wood but whichever type of hide we are looking to construct one principle must apply, they must blend in to their surroundings and look as natural as possible. Let’s look at the most common hide, one we use for decoying, the placement of this hide will likely be determined by where we’ve noticed pigeons feeding whilst out on reconnaissance, after all its no good having large numbers of birds at one end of the field and we set up at the other just because there’s a lovely bush in which to conceal ourselves. Pigeons sometimes like to sit up on a wire or in a large tree and survey what’s in front of them before dropping down to join the already feeding flock, if you notice such features in your field of choice these would be a great place to put your hide, as you will have constant pigeon traffic all day thus aiding your search for a good bag of pigeons, if however this isn’t the case and the birds are simply flying in and landing wherever they see feeding pigeons this would be the ideal scenario, so let’s now look at another factor when contemplating hide positions.
As we know pigeons land facing into the wind so once in your hide we would ideally want the wind to be blowing straight at our backs, which will ensure birds are flying straight towards us approaching the pattern, due to vegetation, infrastructure and a whole host of other obstacles this isn’t always possible so we need to weigh up the situation when we enter the field, one last thing to bare in mind is where our spent shot and any injured birds will be landing, we as responsible shooters should never compromise the safety of the public, any road users or agricultural animals, so this needs to be thought about carefully. Right, now we have chosen a safe place to position our hide let’s move on to its construction. A small kit of tools will help you achieve a tidy, safe and most of all comfortable hide, my kit contains a good pair of secateurs, a sharp knife and a pruning saw, aswell as a small foldaway shovel, all of which are invaluable to the hide builder, before we go chopping into hedgerows, bushes or any other plant life explain to the landowner your intentions and check this is ok as most landowners won’t appreciate large holes appearing in their ancient hedgerow without prior notice, so we are now stood looking at the hedge, the size of your hide should be suited to your needs, you should have ample room to store items safely with no chance of getting a foot caught in a bag strap or stumbling over the dog, so bare this in mind when beginning to cut, I always prefer depth in a hide over length, so now your cutting the hide using secateurs, trim away any growth that could snag the gun whilst mounting or swinging.
Next take the pruning saw and cut away any thick branches that will hinder your movement once inside, so now you should have your space cleared, next if the ground is uneven or has visible roots take your shovel and dig over a small patch so you have a good solid level footing on which to stand. Now we should look at concealing the opening we have cut, this can be done with either natural vegetation but more commonly a set of hide poles and a camoflage net, when setting my net I always leave a gap of about 16 inches at one end of which I can exit the hide without having to pull at the net, this will also come in useful if you have a dog that will be entering and exiting regularly to pick fallen birds, ensure your hide poles are fixed securely into the ground and suspend the net from the top, whether you are sitting or standing to shoot your hide should at least come to your neck level so that with a bowed head you will be peering through the top of the net rather than over it as we don’t want the hawk eyed pigeon spotting our face after all our work to create a good hide.
Next we should walk out to the position of our decoys and look back at the hide, if it’s not blended in gather nearby vegetation and place this over the front of the net to soften it’s appearance, once you are happy with the master piece you have created take all equipment into the hide and store it safely, and then with an unloaded gun practice a gun mount and full swing with the barrels checking that you have no restrictions and nothing hinders your movement, just a little tip, if it’s windy use plastic tarpaulin clips and attach the net at the bottom of your poles to stop it blowing and flapping, so now we are in our hide we will put our decoys in position and await the first birds, when ready to shoot, the gun will be loaded so bring the gun up over the net in a calm and smooth action, before releasing the safety button, a gun pointed out of the hide with the safety off is a lot safer than one in the hide, through the day you may need to take refreshments or toilet breaks but before doing this always empty the gun and store in a safe position where it is least likely to fall.
Lastly if treated safely and respected, a shotgun will give you many happy years of sport and some of the best days the countryside has to offer, just remember safety, safety, safety, until next time, shoot straight friends.
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