We ran out of birds before the end of the season on our little shoot... how can we improve our returns?

credit: Archant

Q: How can I improve our little shoot’s returns as our bird numbers dropped too early and we ran out before the end?

GRAHAM CROCKER replies: I always think of February as the beginning of the new shooting season rather than the end of the last one. This is when the real decisions are made to help the upcoming season.

Nail those predators that have been benefiting from your hard work! If you don’t get on top of them now, in the quiet months, they will only make your life harder in the summer and autumn when you release your poults. There is a school of thought that if you leave the resident foxes alone then they will keep other foxes off your patch. This may be true, but resident foxes get to know where your birds come off the roost in the morning and will really make a dent in your shoot returns.

Foxes will have finished running about mating and are becoming more resident at this time of year. Check wind direction and beat the woods through to some strategically placed standing Guns. Thermal imaging gear could be a real bonus to reduce numbers.

Focus on the rats next as they will be doing you untold damage. Look for rat holes near the feeders – these can provide really good sport by smoking them out and either shooting them or using some good terriers.

Fenn traps are still legal to kill rats and squirrels for the coming season and Quill Productions produce a plastic green box for this very purpose and sell shed loads to shoots all the year round. We are confident our new Doc 150 Trap Box, impregnated with aniseed oil, will be approved as a run-through trap for stoats later this year. The big added benefit of the Doc 150 is that it can be dual purpose and used for rats.

Also, make sure you feed any remaining birds to encourage them to stay and raise a brood of chicks ready to start again.

Good luck!