What’s your cheapest cartridge? I’m going pigeon shooting”. This is a question that has annoyed me for years. I simply don’t understand the logic; why should a woodpigeon not be treated with the same level of respect as any other quarry? Why would you buy high quality game loads for shooting grouse, pheasants or partridges and then use the cheapest and most random bottom-of-the-bag leftovers for this fascinating bird?

The woodpigeon is one of our finest and most agile quarry species. The shots they present can be stupendous. A flighting woodie on a brisk wind over beech trees is just as testing, if not more so, than a late-January cock pheasant, just as a woodie flaring furiously over decoys is, for many, on a par with heather-skimming grouse. Why would you use a cheap 28g No.7½ for one and a high quality 32g No.6 for the other? The end game is the same!

We all have our favourite loads and know what we have confidence in, and yet still some people go out and buy the cheapest cartridge available and don’t bother pattern testing it with their gun/choke combination at the mention of protecting their local landowners’ crops?. If you shoot out of your skin with a 28g No.6 all season, and get to the point where you feel every time you mount the gun you’re going to be successful, why would you not use the same for pigeon shooting?

I do understand the cost implication here, and it would be churlish not to acknowledge it. However, I would propose that by using your ‘favourite’ cartridge you will shoot better and enjoy your day much more than spending the day wondering why you’re shooting badly – or worse: pricking birds as your new cartridge doesn’t quite perform the same.

The magnificent woodpigeon deserves the same respect as any other quarry, so give it your best shot and use what you shoot best with – you will enjoy your days more, which has to be worth a few extra quid.

Little did I know at the time of writing this piece that the general licence debacle was coming; in fact I sat in a pigeon hide with a great pal a few days before the news broke, and we shot a wonderful 50, many of which will stay with me for a long time. Neither of us would have guessed that may be the last time we could do it under the old general licensing system.  Our associations and representative bodies are working tirelessly to ensure we can still carry out this most crucial of practices without onerous or unworkable restrictions, and continue to enjoy what many of us have taken for granted over the years. Good luck, team.