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
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