Crowman turns his shotgun on corvids after some worrying crop damage on the farm

credit: Archant

“I don’t normally bother too much with controlling the corvids – although if numbers really build up, I will try and get on top of them. But this year we have had a problem with the jackdaws plucking out the young wheat, maize and barley plants to get at the kernel in the soil. The cold spring meant that the plants have been growing more slowly and so the birds have been causing much more mischief than usual. Given the numbers that have built up in recent weeks, it was starting to become a bit of a problem and numerous local farmers have had to re-drill crops.

credit: Archant

“As well as the crop munching, jackdaws are, like most corvids, good opportunists and will take eggs from nests. And if, like me, you have had the ill fortune to have a jackdaw nest in your chimney, you will know just how much debris a pair can drop into your flue in a very short space of time!

credit: Archant

“The problem is how to target them, as they are intelligent and cautious quarry. But when a neighbouring farmer cut his silage crop, the jackdaws descended en masse to feast on the leatherjackets and other grubs stirred up by the machinery.”

Andy opts to set up a hide on a nearby rape field and intercept them on the way in to feed. He selects a site that affords lots of natural cover from behind and above. “With pigeons, I don’t mind being a bit more out in the open, but today I want to be well hidden as these birds are very tricky.”

He uses a large number of full-bodied flocked decoys. “I got these from Jack Pyke and A1 Decoys and they are good and lifelike. I’ll use a good number, as jackdaws are gregarious and like to look for their mates. Some I’ll put quite close together, others I will spread out – just a bit of variety really. I like a nice slow flapper (Flightline Decoys does a specialist corvid flapper) rather than the faster wingbeat of a turbo.”

It is interesting to note that Andy hasn’t brought a dog with him today, the reason being that corvids can be pretty nasty if injured. “The birds can try to peck at the dog’s eyes or nose and that can either put them off retrieving all together or make them hard mouthed. Neither is something I wish to risk after getting Ruby up to a good standard.”

Andy has had some decent days on the crows in the past but never topped 100 – yet it very soon becomes clear that today will be a day to remember. There are a heck of a lot of birds in the area. Some of them decoy quite well, others drift in to take a look but remain at range, offering challenging shots.

“They aren’t as fast as a pigeon nor as agile. But they are sharp witted and if they see something that they don’t like they will take evasive action very quickly. The key is to stay well concealed and surprise them.”

It is also clear that Andy will be working up a sweat on the retrieve, as dead birds don’t look natural on the floor and cause the jackdaws to go mad, cawing and chattering and generally not wanting to hang about.

In the end Andy decides to bring in all the dead birds, relying exclusively on the artificials. It’s harder work tidying up the pattern but the result is less suspicion from the birds and more makeable shots.

Andy uses his normal pigeon kit for crow shooting and the same 32g 6s. He uses a slightly tighter choke when the ranges are longer but rarely more than ½. Many seasoned corvid killers insist on hat and veil but Andy has made sure that the hide is providing that essential cover today and as the bodies mount up – mostly jackies but with a few crows and the odd rook and pigeon in there too – it’s clear his tactics are spot on.

By the end of the day he counts up just under 200 birds – his best ever bag on corvids. “It just shows the number of them in the area and why they have been proving so troublesome. The longer birds provided some challenging shooting and I have had a really fun day. I don’t think I’ll be giving up on the pigeons just yet, but on a day when we would have struggled to bag 50 pigeons, we have had a really fantastic day on these cunning corvids.”

Words: Dom Holtam

Pictures: David Wright