We start out on a bitter cold but sunny day towards the End of October; as usual I was called in to sort a vermin problem out. I was glad to be wearing my Jack Pyke Hunter suit, hat jacket and trousers, as I was going to stay warm dry and concealed. I have been blessed with a set of skills that some have to work hard for, but the lord has blessed me with the skill of handling well all firearms, whether it be rifle or pistol (when they were legal) or indeed in this case the air rifle. A local conservation group called me in to deal with corvid problem that was getting beyond a joke and was literally affecting the entire area of song birds and beyond.
The group were trying to get barn owls etc. To nest in the area but the ever growing corvid population was getting, so out of control they had no choice but call me in. I started off with the Larsen traps and had reasonable success but by far the best way was using my Air arms air rifle and using field craft, and simply shooting them, had the best effect. They had tried all sorts of measures trying to deter the corvids from dvds on strings to birds of prey decoys etc. And even a cat decoy thing, all this did was scare the song birds that were left, away and well the owls just did not like it at all.
Well as always I carry some sort of gun with me when checking the traps, usually the air rifle but sometimes a shot gun most often my old Norcia .410 and I telle that sweet gun had served me well for 35 years now. The first day I went to check the traps, I took the Air arms TX200 air rifle and stalking around the farm yard took me back to my youth, and I found myself verminating and bagged a rat and a magpie before, I even had got to the traps. It amazes me how people underestimate the air rifle as serious gun that fills the bag time and time again, and is less obtrusive than a shotgun.
Well after checking the traps, I decided my plan of action was get here nice and early the next day, just as the sun was coming up and shoot from my truck, as the magpies especially take no notice of farm machinery.
I will say this has worked so well so many times before and this time was no exception, for everything from rats to feral pigeon to those pesky corvids.
Like I say I got in the yard and in position and waited, for the light to come up I put out a couple of pigeon decoys, and a couple of magpie ones for good measure too. Then sat back poured myself a coffee from the flask, and had my bacon and egg bap from my lunch box. As I sat there I got to hear the world come alive and the morning chorus serenade me and well a sort of peace came over me as I was right there, where I was meant to be at that moment.
The first movement to catch my eye was a rat, so I mounted the ole Air Arms S410 up slow and smooth lined up the cross hairs on its head and let rip, Ahhhh that sweet distinct thump as the pellet sailed true those that hunt with an air rifle will know of what I speak of. I took a breath and though hmmmmm, I hope the rest of the morning goes on like this, but no time to take a breath as a magpie landed right on the post next to the millet (ground seed mix) and started preening itself. Again I slowly lined up the cross hairs onto it head and squeezed the trigger thwack! As it bowled over backwards not knowing what had hit it.
I put him out as a decoy and disposed of the rat bloody hell that wind was biting cold, but I will say this Jack Pyke gear really does what it says on the tin, and kept me warm as toast. I got back in my truck and took a a breath, I positioned my truck just sticking out from silage trailer this worked very well indeed, although limiting my shooting angles it really camouflaged my position. Well that first dead bird worked like a dream as feral pigeons more magpies and other corvids came right into it like moths to a flame.
You know I counted around forty magpies here, one dead tree looked like it had black and white leaves on it there were that many magpies in it, The next magpie that presented a shot landed on top of a broken down tractors grab arm, as around seven or eight of his mates let out that unmistakable call as they literally attacked the dead bird. I couldn’t get a shot on those but the one on the tractor stayed just a little too long for him, but not for me as I gave a touch of hold over and a touch of windage and squeezed the trigger, thwack! He dropped like a stone, his mates all took off screeching that warning call.
As for the ferals and a massive flock of Collard doves, I just could not get an angle to shoot them, so I took up a position for a bit in the barn amongst the straw bales. This also worked very well but again it was quite limiting. Also I do not shoot onto of barn roofs or inside them as my farmers won’t be happy if they get any pellet holes in them that is unless the ferals etc. are on the rafters with a good back stop of solid wood etc. Again I was glad of my Jack Pyke gear keeping me warm and now dry as the heavens decided to open up and rain in one of my pics you can see the water running down the guns stock.
I got back in my truck and decided to pour another coffee from my flask and have a bite to eat, I call this playing my joker card as how many times have you seen nothing then as soon as you pour a coffee of have something to eat, the entire population of the quarry you are after appears? It happens to me every time and this day was no exception and I shot another four magpies before I had finished my mug of coffee.
Well I sat there for another hour or so, and took the odd Feral Pigeon or Collard Dove then just as I was going to pack up and call it a day, a magpie snook in under my radar. But not for long as I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye I mounted the gun slowly and waited for him to appear from behind the tyre of the tractor. It seemed to take forever as I was thinking he must have gone then I caught another flash of this crafty corvid as he popped out for a split second, but that’s all I needed and I dropped the hammer with a perfect head shot just under his chin.
He bowled over backwards in a sort of back flip. I tell you boys these Air Arms S410 air rifles really are the sizzle, reliable, accurate sweet on the eye and shoots like a dream, which coupled with my Jack Pyke gear, I think I have found the perfect hunting combo from dawn till dusk. The folks from the conservation group have me going back there weekly now and are reporting a rise in the song bird population etc. In the area since I have started controlling the corvids and other vermin, like I say field sports and conservation walk hand in hand.
Well until my next installment I hope you have enjoyed reading this and my other articles, Please keep the amazing and positive emails coming to The Countryman’s Diary both Greg and I do our very best to answer you all personally.
Corvids and Conservation
By The Ole Hedge Creeper