Pigeon Hunting Tips
Pigeon hunting is in many ways easier than hunting some other types of birds. Unlike quail, pigeons don't explode suddenly out of the brush 10 feet in front of you. You generally see them coming, or going, in time to get off a shot.
Habitat - If there are any secrets to successful pigeon hunting, they generally have more to do with proper shooting technique than with the birds themselves. Of course you have to know where to look, and city streets don't count, even though that's where most of them seem to be found these days. Besides open fields, pigeons can often be found in logged off areas where new growth hasn't yet become well established. Cliffs are the natural habitat of many species of pigeons, so that is one area to look into if you're not sure where they'll be found. The best way to find them of course is to ask fellow pigeon hunters. Hopefully they'll be willing to share their knowledge.
The typical pigeon is about a foot long from tip to tail, and weighs about a pound. The female is called a hen, the male a cock, and the young ones go by several names, starting with hatchling and growing up first as a squab, then a peeper, then a fledgling, and finally a juvenile. When pigeon hunting, you are most apt to bag adults and an occasional juvenile, if for no other reason than pigeon hunting season is generally closed in most areas at the time of the year the babies are hatching, and they are juveniles by the time the season rolls around.
Opening Day Is Best - Pigeons are a lot like other game birds, and big game for that matter, in that they tend to be a bit dumb when opening day comes around. After having been shot at a few times they quickly become smarter, and as the season progresses, more difficult to get within shooting range. Pigeons have both excellent sight and hearing. If you are in very open country they will see you, and if you're crashing though a logged-off area, they'll hear you, and be gone before you get to where they were.
Shot Size - It doesn't take a dozen pellets of number 5 shot to bring down a pigeon. A single pellet can often do the job. Most people who have had some experience in pigeon hunting will go with a 20 gauge shotgun and shot size no greater than 7 1/2. You can save the number 5 shot for ducks and pheasant. As far as the shot pattern is concerned, an improved cylinder choke works well. At 35 yards you should have a pattern such that at least 2 pellets, and preferably no more than 4, will hit the bird. You don't want the bird weighing significantly more once it’s been downed because it's full of shot. You'll want a pattern that is just a bit tighter than what you would need for quail.
Pigeon are not terribly hard to knock down if they're flying straight towards you, or more likely, straight away from you. It's when they are flying straight across from you or away at an angle that you have to take leading into account. If you fire right at the bird, it will no longer be there when the shot gets there. You need to lead the bird, and the best way to do that is to train the muzzle of your gun to a spot just behind the bird, then swing it such that it overtakes the bird. When you see a little daylight between the muzzle and the front of the bird, pull the trigger.
Baseball, Football, Golf, and Shooting - When you swing at a baseball, you don't stop swinging the instant you make contact, nor do you stop swinging a golf club the instant you make contact. What you are taught to do is to follow through on the swing. The same advice applies to pigeon hunting. When you take aim at the bird, and lead it by swinging the muzzle, you continue to swing the muzzle after pulling the trigger. If you don't, you'll miss.
Baseball and football provide another metaphor that applies to pigeon hunting. On occasion you'll have the opportunity to get a shot off at a second bird after hitting the first. In football, a wide receiver sometimes starts to run with the ball before catching it, and drops it. Or a shortstop tries to throw a ball to first base before it's secure in his glove, and bobbles it. If you get the chance to get a shot off at a second bird, put that out of your mind until you've hit the first one. Otherwise you'll probably miss both of them.
If you know where to look for pigeons, and practice good gun control once you've found them, you should return home with something approaching the legal limit most every time out.