Is shooting the young of our quarry acceptable?
Is it acceptable to take branchers as soon as they fledge? The editor replies
Iwrite this in the middle of April, knowing that soon the young rooks will be on the branches around their nests and I’ll visit the rookery intent on killing them. Some of you may know this as a traditional way of reducing the rook numbers in the area, whilst others may see the method as unacceptable. Can killing naïve young birds in the name of pest control be justified?
My answer is a simple ‘ yes’ it can, and the rook is a good example. These birds are highly intelligent and travel in numbers, making getting close to them almost impossible. It’s not just airgun hunters who find this to be true. Shotgunners attempt to decoy them within range, and fail as often as they succeed. Centrefire shooters snipe them at long range, one at a time, but it’s like emptying a swimming pool with a tea cup. One or two kills make little difference when the flock arrives hundreds strong.
I feel it’s a case of ‘needs must’, and I’ll take any chance to reduce these damaging birds that the farmers and gamekeepers loathe, whenever I can. I’ve heard people say that as ethical hunters we need to show our quarry respect, and I’ve argued that we do as long as we make clean kills. In nature, there’s always a high attrition rate in the young of all creatures, as predators, disease, and bad weather take their toll – and I see my role as the predator. Young rabbits and pigeons make good eating, and there’s a tradition of making rook pie with the breasts of the young birds, but I’ll confess that my kills go to a friend who feeds them to his ferrets. I’m afraid that I draw the line at eating corvids because of what they chose to eat; seeing them as food is one step too far, for me.
Rabbits and pigeons breed throughout the warmer months, and parents losing their young will soon have more, so we’re only just holding back the tide. Remember, a young female rabbit will soon become fertile and have young of her own, accelerating the population of that warren.
I don’t take the young of my quarry without conscience, and only do it when I feel it’s necessary, but I will kill young birds and animals when the need is clear. If the person who gives you your hunting permission asks you to do so, I believe you should do it, too.
“I feel it’s a case of ‘ needs must’, and I’ll take any chance to reduce these damaging birds”
Above Right: Once the young birds get strong enough they move out onto the branches. Below Left:: If you can find the rookery you have a chance to reduce their numbers