CORVID CHAOS

Ed­die Jones gets to grips with those dam­ag­ing black birds

Air Gunner - - Hunting -

This month sees me back in the Welsh hills. I had been in­vited there for a few days’ fox shoot­ing, by my good friend, Al­lan, and with his pest con­trol now back in full swing it was not an op­por­tu­nity to miss. We had been out a few times and, so far, put a pretty good dent in the fox pop­u­la­tion. I had even man­aged my fur­thest shot ever at over 400 yards. This was a mem­o­rable trip, but it was to get even bet­ter the fol­low­ing day.

We had been on a mole-trap­ping ses­sion and on our way back we no­ticed a large group of corvids on a re­cently cut bar­ley field. Now bar­ley fields are not very com­mon in the hills, so to find this was a real treat, and luck­ily for us, Al­lan had the per­mis­sion to shoot this ground. We de­cided to head back home to get the de­coy­ing kit and then re­turn af­ter lunch for a few hours to see what we could man­age to get be­fore head­ing back out on the foxes.

As it was a fox­ing trip I hadn’t taken my trusty Air Arms Ul­ti­mate Sporter with me be­cause we were shoot­ing bul­lets, so I was look­ing to shoot one of Al­lan’s ri­fles. He cur­rently has a Daystate Air Ranger, Theoben Rapid and a well-worn and bat­tered Air Arms S310 in .177. Well, it was no con­test what I was go­ing to use, and I was soon out in his back field set­ting the zero. The scope he had fit­ted was

“a well- worn and bat­tered Air Arms S310 in .177. Well, it was no con­test what I was go­ing to use”

an old Hawke and it was shoot­ing spot on at 30 yards. I was def­i­nitely look­ing for­ward to this be­cause it had been a long time since I had been out de­coy­ing corvids.

Plan­ning

When de­coy­ing corvids, you will al­ways want to find the very best place to hide you as much as pos­si­ble. When we got to the field that we were shoot­ing, we no­ticed a nice group of trees in a corner that would be great to hide us from any birds fly­ing over and also give us dark­ness, to con­ceal any move­ment be­hind the nets. When we ap­proached the corner, though, we could see a small cot­tage, pretty

close the place where we wanted to go, and dogs that barked as soon as we got there. This was go­ing to be no good be­cause the bark­ing wouldn’t let the birds set­tle, so we de­cided to go fur­ther up the hedge and just hope that we could get a few from where we set up.

When build­ing the hide, make it as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble. There is no point in mak­ing it so small and com­pact that you will strug­gle to move the ri­fle around to get a good shoot­ing po­si­tion if a bird de­cides to land at the side of your view. We had eight hide poles and three nets that we hoped would make it hard for the birds to see us, but with just enough holes for us to see through.

Af­ter set­ting up the hide, I walked out to 30 yards and looked back at Al­lan. I also got him to move about a lit­tle, just to make sure we were hid­den as well as we could be. It was very hard to see any move­ment, so I set about get­ting the de­coys ready and placed them out in a ran­dom pat­tern.

De­coys out, it was time to get the ri­fles and take a cou­ple of test shots just to gauge any cross wind so we knew ex­actly where to aim, and not waste any time tak­ing the shot. Al­lan was the first to go and his shots were hit­ting about 5mm to the left. That was noth­ing to worry about, so I set about fill­ing the mag­a­zine for the S310. Now, I had made a mess of things straight away. I had left the mag­a­zine back at Al­lan’s. Af­ter sort­ing the zero, I’d put the mag­a­zine on his kitchen ta­ble ready to put in my pocket – and didn’t. Oh well, sin­gle load­ing it was to be. I had taken my first prac­tice shot and I was also hit­ting around 5mm to the left ,so we both knew the breeze was steady and only mi­nor ad­just­ments were needed for our main zero. All we had to do now was sit on our comfy chairs and wait.

Not long

We didn’t have to wait long be­fore we could hear jack­daws call­ing in front of us. Al­lan took a peek through the net and con­firmed at least four com­ing straight for the de­coys. I stared through a gap in the net and I could fi­nally see them at about 50 yards away and clos­ing in. Al­lan had got the si­lencer through the hide ready to pounce if one landed, but the jack­daws seemed to be play­ing with us; they flew around for what seemed an age call­ing to the de­coys and each other. Fi­nally, one took the plunge just on the right-hand side of the de­coys, and be­fore I could tell Al­lan to hurry up, he had it shot and it was ly­ing face down. The other jack­daws went berserk, call­ing like mad to their fallen

friend. All the com­mo­tion seemed to help us, though, and within min­utes we had more com­ing our way – there were even crows com­ing to find out what was wrong!

We now had around 15 birds in front of us, and we had agreed that there was no tak­ing it in turns; we just wanted to get as many as pos­si­ble that landed be­cause this is hard enough with shot­guns, never mind air ri­fles. Again, Alan shot the next on; he had seen one land on a fen­ce­post to his right and was on it like a dog out of a trap. The crows and jack­daws were even more con­fused now, and in a way, it was funny to watch. They had no idea why some of their mates were drop­ping dead. We were well hid­den and the ri­fles were so quiet that they had no clue we were there.

Steady flow

This lit­tle group went on for about 15 min­utes and we man­aged to bag an­other corvid each be­fore one came too close to the hide and spot­ted us from above. There was quiet now. The crow that had spot­ted us soon let the oth­ers know of the dan­ger and they fol­lowed him over the fields, out of harm’s way. It was a good start; four birds down in 20 min­utes was more than we ex­pected. For the next hour, we man­aged to get a few more be­tween us. We seemed to be get­ting a run off pairs com­ing to the de­coys, and this seemed to give them more con­fi­dence to drop in near the pat­tern sooner. There had been more drop­ping on Al­lan’s side, for some rea­son, so

“he had seen one land on a fen­ce­post to his right and was on it like a dog out of a trap”

he was get­ting more shots off, but I didn’t mind be­cause the num­bers were grow­ing.

The next hour was a lit­tle slower be­cause we were get­ting more com­ing from be­hind and un­for­tu­nately, they were spot­ting us as they went over our hide. We de­cided a dif­fer­ent ap­proach was needed, just to change things a bit. We had brought with us some bouncer poles as an ad­di­tion for when we had shot a cou­ple, and as we were do­ing OK we had not used them, but now we thought was the time to add just a lit­tle move­ment to the pat­tern and maybe give more con­fi­dence to any bird that might come to us.

It worked a treat. We had sin­gle, dou­ble, even groups of five birds drop in with­out any bother. There were some that backed off, and I am sure these were old, wise birds, but luck­ily for us we must have had a lot of thick ones com­ing into the pat­tern, too. We con­tin­ued to plough on un­til the lack of light forced us to start pack­ing up, and I didn’t want this to end be­cause I had en­joyed this red-let­ter af­ter­noon so much.

The S310 had been fault­less, even though it was bat­tered. I found out that it was made in 2000, and was prob­a­bly one of the last ones made be­fore the S400 took over. It had prob­a­bly seen more hunt­ing ac­tion than hun­dreds more put to­gether, and it still had not been ser­viced. This is a tes­ta­ment to how well built the Air Arms ri­fles truly are.

Af­ter we’d packed up and done the fi­nal pho­to­graphs, we were sure there were over 60 birds shot, my best-ever day on corvids. Al­lan just seemed to sit back and catch up on read­ing the mag­a­zine whilst I did all the work at the end … he was so tired af­ter shoot­ing ‘what­ever’.

Main: It might not look much but this de­coy pat­tern worked a treat

Top right: Our hide blended well with the hedge

Top left: The hide was dense but had enough gaps to shoot through

Right: Pick­ing up was a re­lent­less task

Top right: Al­lan caught up on his read­ing be­tween shots

Top left: Shoot­ing from a seat aided sta­bil­ity

Be­low: The old S300 worked per­fectly de­spite the cor­ro­sion

Right: Rooks, jack­daws and crows all came in to the de­coys

Bot­tom right : What a bag and what a day!

Bot­tom left: The bouncer added re­al­ism

Bot­tom mid­dle: Stan­dard de­coys worked just fine

Left: There was no peck­ing or­der. Who­ever got on to the shot first took it

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