For those whose shotgun adventures don’t come to an end on 1 February, Vic presents his pick of the pigeon shooting loads

The game shooting season’s over and the guns are silent. Not for the pigeon shooter, however, and for them the best is yet to come. Flighting pigeons coming home to roost was the first shooting I had as a youngster and it still retains its magic. In the big, dark woods with the sun slowly setting the grey squadrons are seeking their base and sporadic fire heralds the first arrivals.

It’s a testing time for the gunner whose opportunities represent only a fleeting glimpse of the quarry through the treetops and so he has to be quick. In the past some of my most successful evenings were with a 25” barrelled side-by-side of dubious origin. Nowadays it’s the old Watson with slightly longer barrels, but for me at least it’s a fast handling gun that’s required. In recent forays I’ve used all the makes of ammunition reviewed this month with varying degrees of success. No fault of the cartridges as there’s no more challenging quarry than flighting pigeon and it’s a difficult task returning a respectable kills/cartridge ratio. All the more reason then to use good quality ammunition and the following loads are the very best.

Hull Cartridge Special Pigeon

As with all their class-leading products, this redoubtable northern manufacturer incorporates only the best of everything from the powder shot and primer to the box they put them in. Hard-hitting Special Pigeon with a 29g shot load is eminently suitable for lighter guns and easy on the shoulder if you expect a lot of shooting. What it lacks in terms of pellet count it more than makes up for with superb distribution, trust my pattern plate. The 32g option is certainly the best for roosting pigeons, as when shooting through a canopy of trees the bigger shot load will be an advantage. Available in 29g plastic, and 32g in 6, plastic and fibre from around £242-£255 per 1,000.

Hull Cartridge Super-Fast HV Pigeon

The ultimate pigeon deterrent, a 32g shot load delivered at 1424fps spells nemesis for any Columba palumbus that’s in range. Like all Hull’s shotgun ammunition, superbly made and carefully balanced for optimum efficiency, it’s a pigeon shooting specialist’s natural choice. Available in 32g in 6, plastic and fibre from £189-£195.

Eley Pigeon

From the grouse butt to the pigeon hide the great British cartridge from the UK’s longest established ammunition manufacturer ticks every box. On the flight line I found Eley Pigeon both hugely effective and consistent. This should come as no surprise – as an integrated manufacturer with all their components from powder to shot developed and produced in-house we can expect nothing less. The 30g load available with plastic or fibre wad is a great all-rounder. The 32g option with a plastic wad is suitably effective at longer ranges. Available in 30g and 32g in 6.5, plastic and fibre from £215-£221 per 1,000.

Gamebore Clear Pigeon

Dark Storm may be the company’s prizewinning game load but it’s crystal clear to the pigeon shooter that their Clear Pigeon load is a winner. Carefully made and exhaustively tested this cartridge enjoys an enviable reputation among the sportsman for pigeon shooting going to roost or over decoys. A cartridge that is also particularly semi-auto friendly together with a 1400fps velocity that provides extended range capability, it’s a load that fills the bag but doesn’t empty your pocket. Available in 30g and 32g in 6, plastic and fibre from £208-£218 per 1,000.