CROWS: Eric Prior is out with his Hush­power to crack down on those trou­ble­some corvids

Once again, Eric Prior is crack­ing down on those pesky corvids, as they re­turn from the stub­bles to as­sault the silage and dairy build­ings

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Most of our wood­ies have moved off the stub­bles, so it’s now time to fol­low the mixed corvids back into the si­los on the dairy units, and to pro­tect the feed in the pig­geries.

They had re­turned to cause havoc, not only in the silage, but also inside the dairy build­ings. The farm­ers are con­stantly trou­bled, not just by the amount of feed be­ing con­sumed, but equally by the risk of con­tam­i­na­tion.

There is no point in try­ing to in­ter­cept them on in­com­ing flight lines as they en­ter the area from so many di­rec­tions. This is the rea­son for us­ing Hush­power over-and-un­der mod­er­ated guns, which we find out­stand­ing for such a task. As I have said be­fore, they are very quiet, so much so that in­com­ing crows con­tinue de­coy­ing, prob­a­bly think­ing that the shot birds have dropped in to land among the static de­coys. An­other ad­van­tage is that we can po­si­tion the hides, if nec­es­sary, within a few yards of the 600-plus herd with­out dis­tur­bance. The farm staff of­ten com­ment that they only know that we are there when they see the crows fall­ing out of the sky.

The guns, un­like many other mod­er­ated or partly mod­er­ated weapons, are not heavy (7.25lbs) and move smoothly, com­fort­ably and eas­ily onto the tar­get. The rea­son be­ing that the sight plane is low, where you would ex­pect it to be on a con­ven­tional over-and-un­der. There are now three of us in our team of six us­ing the Hush­power 20s, fed with Game­bore Hush­power 30g no.5s, which in my opin­ion is a per­fect com­bi­na­tion for all ver­min.

On this par­tic­u­lar dairy unit we have two main am­bush lo­ca­tions; both must be manned at the same time to keep them mov­ing. The first is at the front of the si­los where the birds con­stantly land in large num­bers to feed and foul on the open feed ar­eas.

On the up­side there are two dy­ing oak trees we can knock them out of as they land on the dead branches. Un­for­tu­nately, on the down­side, there’s a nar­row, hard track which is used by all types of farm ve­hi­cles, pre­vent­ing the use of ground de­coys. When it’s my turn here, I make good use of my loft­ing poles, se­cured to a farm im­ple­ment that I know will not be used on the day. For this job, I have glued a pair of full-bod­ied de­coys onto their pegs in the usual slots on the de­coys, and then glued and se­cured with tape to the cross bar. This has al­ways proved suc­cess­ful, es­pe­cially where space is lim­ited and your de­coys need to be vis­i­ble from a long dis­tance.

‘Dur­ing the time that I was busy set­ting up the pat­tern, the crows con­stantly called and de­coyed over the hide to my lofted poles’

The sec­ond am­bush lo­ca­tion is on the op­po­site side, in front of the open-fronted cow units, with two oaks in good con­di­tion, and an­other dy­ing with all the leaves miss­ing from the top. Pal­let hides, sup­ported by our usual cam­ou­flage poles, and nets are used to good ef­fect. Here, there are two per­ma­nent po­si­tions – one right next to the sitty trees and the sec­ond fur­ther out. This one is used mainly when the silage is freshly cut, at­tract­ing them away from the build­ings. Here, again, I make good use of the loft­ing pole set-up.

In ad­di­tion, I now use a new flapper sent to me by The Pi­geon Shooter (paul@thep­i­geon­shooter. com). I have, in the past, steered well away from us­ing flap­pers for crow shoot­ing as I found that the birds of­ten flared away be­fore com­ing into range, prob­a­bly due to the flap­ping be­ing too fast and fre­quent. How­ever, this one op­er­ates on a re­mote con­trol from within the hide, com­plete with a built-in speed con­trol and timer. A ma­jor plus is that it re­tails at a very rea­son­able price, and in­cludes a car­ry­ing case. Re­li­a­bil­ity ap­pears not to be a prob­lem as I’ve used this one ex­ten­sively for the past nine months, on corvids and wood­ies, with­out any kind of a flicker.

An­other new item to join my list of use­ful tools is the Cros­man .22 cal­i­bre gas-op­er­ated air pis­tol, com­plete with shoul­der hol­ster. I know that there are many quick and ef­fec­tive meth­ods of dis­patch­ing a wounded corvid, but this lit­tle tool can be drawn to fin­ish the job with­out get­ting scratched, pecked or cov­ered in blood. A shot in the top of the head or back saves a lot of time, fuss and fum­bling – es­pe­cially if they reach the cover of un­der­growth, par­tic­u­larly bram­bles or sting­ing net­tles.

On the day of this visit, Alan and I met at 9am at the usual park­ing area at the farm en­trance. From there we would be able to clearly see the crows ap­proach­ing the dairy from all di­rec­tions, as well as any that may be for­ag­ing on the sur­round­ing fields. Af­ter a short chat, Alan de­cided that he would cover the si­los, which left me to keep them mov­ing at the front. I chose the pal­let hide away from the build­ings. From that po­si­tion I could take them from the sitty trees, and at the same time de­coy oth­ers us­ing the field.

I sta­tioned a hide pole at each corner, for the two nets to con­ceal my pres­ence from all four sides, and two more halfway across, with one at each side to hide me from high in­com­ers (also, to pro­tect me from the glar­ing sun). The right-hand pal­let had been po­si­tioned at an an­gle to al­low easy en­try and exit. Next, I se­cured one of the loft­ing poles to the back pal­let with gar­den wire, to ex­tend the other three into po­si­tion. The next task was to place the full-bod­ied flocked de­coys out in two flocks, and fi­nally, the two glid­ers and my new flapper at the front. De­frosted crows were fixed to both glid­ers, and the flapper was left ready but not in use, as I wanted to see the dif­fer­ence it would make on this par­tic­u­lar visit, if any. Dur­ing the time that I was busy set­ting up the pat­tern, the crows con­stantly called and de­coyed over the hide to my lofted birds.

Ten mixed corvids, mainly jack­daws, were downed in the first half hour. I’d no­ticed that a fair num­ber had de­cided not to ven­ture within sen­si­ble range. I then went out to set up the dead on sticks, and fit­ted the flapper with the best car­rion crow. On re­turn­ing to the hide I ad­justed the speed to im­i­tate a land­ing corvid. This im­me­di­ately al­tered the sit­u­a­tion with them com­ing in far more con­fi­dently. It was down to a com­bi­na­tion of the dead birds and the move­ment of the flapper. The pat­tern was re­in­forced from time to time, which again in­creased the pulling power. The bag grad­u­ally climbed to a to­tal of 42, plus two wood­ies. Alan ra­dioed in and re­ported that he had counted his right-hand emp­ties pile, which gave him a to­tal of 47. Al­though he was po­si­tioned only some 400 yards away, be­hind a silo, I only re­call hear­ing about six shots fired.

If you have not at­tempted to shoot crows around live­stock, try it – it will earn you a good rep­u­ta­tion with your farm­ers.

Eric’s new flapper with in­te­gral speed and timer con­trol

Lofted crows re­ally draw the birds

Part of the de­coy pat­tern

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