Pigeons are a huge problem in Idaho. There’s no season and no bag limit, yet the state is still overrun. In wheat fields, corn fields, on dairy farms, in granaries and pretty much everywhere in Idaho, pigeons are there. The state’s pigeon population is unknown, but a local ranch manager told me that one summer he and his buddy killed 1,000 birds and it didn’t even put a dent in the population.
Here’s the gear we used to get it done.
Prior to this hunt, I wasn’t a serious pigeon hunter. Neal Hunt, however, is a serious pigeon hunter. Hunt, the President/CEO of Soar No More decoys even sells shirts that simple read “Pigeon Hunter” across the chest. After hunting with him, you just might become such a big-time pigeon hunter that you wear that shirt on your flight home — like I did.
Hunt and his buddies at Soar No More started pigeon hunting about 15 years ago. It didn’t take long before they noticed pigeons decoyed to dead pigeons on the ground. They started freezing taken pigeons and using them as decoys, then in 2008 they started manufacturing actual decoys.
“It was a new sport for the U.S., so it’s not like you could go buy decoys. When we saw the open market when I was 20 or 21 years old, we said, ‘Dude, we should create a pigeon decoy. And we should really promote pigeon hunting like duck hunting.’”
It didn’t take long in Idaho to realize the effectiveness of Soar No More’s products. Our first morning’s hunt in a cut corn field included seeing more than 2,000 birds. There were numerous times a new flock would arrive before I could reload my gun after shooting at a previous group. In fact, the hunt ended after several hours because we went through 1,200 shells and were out of ammo.
There was carnage all around us, with nearly 300 birds in the field. Though all of our equipment — blinds, shotguns, ammunition, etc. — played a role in the slaughter, the Soar No More decoys were what brought the birds to us. This comes as no surprise, as we were using new prototype decoys.
“Nothing will ever be able to beat it,” he said of the prototype decoys. “We’ve taken the last year and a half to create something that we’d never have to worry about someone creating something better — or for us having to create something better. This is kind of our last hoorah, with the best pigeon decoy you could ever come out with.”
So what makes these new decoys “the best pigeon decoy that could ever be produced?” Well, they are 15 percent bigger than average pigeons. Soar No More researched pigeons’ habits and created four head pigeons for the decoys (feeding pigeon, upright pigeon with 90-degree head turn, resting pigeon and strutter pigeon). Each head position also comes in three different colors, creating 12 total color options. Each decoys comes with a motion stake, which adds movement to the decoy. Lastly, each is sand-blasted to keep it from shining in the sun or rain.
The night before our first hunt — the massacre in the corn field — I sat with Hunt at the kitchen table as he put the final touches on some of the new prototypes. He took time to individually paint each decoy to perfection. These guys are serious about their craft — and it shows.
This isn’t a complaint, but I’ve never shot so much while hunting in my life. To say we were using a high volume of ammunition is an understatement. When you’re shooting a high volume of ammunition, you need high-volume ammunition. For us, Federal Premium’s Hi Bird was the way to go.
Hi Bird combines two things for hunters who shoot a lot. First, shot shells have a two-piece wad that features SoftCell technology to decrease perceived recoil and produce more consistent long-range patterns. When you’re shooting hundreds of shots, having some help with the kick is always a good thing — and your shoulder will thank you the next day. Second, the MSRP is listed at a reasonable $10.95-$12.95 per box of 25 shells. This is convenient because, when you shoot a lot of ammo, you need a lot of ammo. And it’s nice to not break the bank buying it.
“I love the fact that when you are pigeon hunting, crow hunting or dove hunting, you’re shooting quite a bit and shooting boxes and bases of ammunition,” Vista Outdoor communications manager JJ Reich said. “So, to have it priced where you can buy a premium ammunition like Hi Bird in high volume with optimum density and hardness of the lead pellet that you know will allow you to bring down that bird.”
Lastly, Hi Bird provides hunters with a peace of mind. Each time I grabbed more ammo outside my Final Approach Original X’Land’R blind, I knew that as long as I could reload my shotgun quick enough and make an accurate shot, pigeons would fall. That’s a great thing to know while afield.
The Original X’Land’r was designed from feedback of the full-frame Original Pro Guide, and it seems like Final Approach took what customers said very seriously. The X’Land’r is known for having a low profile, but there’s more to it than just that. The blind is roomy, measuring 26 inches wide by 90 inches long by 14 inches in height, but weighs only 14 pounds. It features a zippered storage area under the back rest for carrying gear, rag decoys or silhouettes. For true convenience, the X’Land’r also has backpack straps and built-in scabbard. Fabric color varies from field brown (MSRP: $279.95) to Realtree MAX 5 and Mossy Oak Blades (MSRP: $307.95).
I can honestly say hunting in the X’Land’r was a million times better than jumping wood ducks from the ground. But the lay blind, overall, was incredible convenient. Getting everything out of the truck and into the field — then out of the field and into the truck — takes long enough already, so it was nice to simply dump spent shells through the blind’s clean-out door, fold it and use the backpack straps to take it back to the truck.
We tested three CZ-USA shotguns — the 612 Magnum Waterfowl (pump), 712 Target (semiautomatic) and Swamp Magnum (over/under) — but the Swamp Magnum was easily my go-to.
It’s a 12 gauge with a 3½-inch max shell length. It’s automatic safety, which engages every time the action is opened, was a feature I really liked. It has a 30-inch barrel and 14½-inch length of pull. The Swamp Magnum was easy to maneuver in the lay blinds, from shooting to reloading. MSRP is $929.
The 712 Target is equipped with a larger target stock that made for a comfortable fit. It features a gas system that made recoil much softer than other semiautomatics I’ve used in the past. It was also chambered in 12 gauge and has a magazine capacity of 4+1. Maximum shell length is 3 inches. MSRP is listed at $680.
The CZ 612 Magnum Waterfowl is designed for bagging geese and other big birds, but it also works well for pigeons — even on a dairy farm. It comes in 12 gauge with a 3½-inch chamber and 28-inch barrel. The magazine capacity is 4+1. The CZ 612 Magnum Waterfowl is hydrodipped in a Realtree MAX-4 waterfowl camouflage pattern. MSRP is listed at $429.