Mat Manning is a fulltime field sports journalist, author and broadcaster with more than 30 years’ hunting experience under his belt.A regular contributor to national and international print and digital titles, Mat is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on hunting with air rifles. A fieldcraft specialist who shoots mostly for the pot and pest control purposes, Mat relishes hunting opportunities that enable him to get up close and personal with his quarry.
Mat Manning shows how airgun shooters can use decoy tactics to lure magpies and jackdaws within range during the spring corvid control.
Corvid control with an air rifle is seldom easy; sharp-eyed and very suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, these birds rarely drop their guard. It’s not an impossible task, though, and spring is one of the best times to do it.
At this time of year, songbirds and busy building nests and raising their young. Corvids, including crows, magpies and jackdaws, regard the contents of other birds’ nests as an easy meal, so they’re always on the lookout for eggs and chicks to plunder.
Corvids will also be defending their own nesting sites during the springtime. They are extremely territorial birds, and this is a trait that can be exploited by the air rifle hunter. Set up an imitation bird of prey close to where corvids are nesting, and it can cause quite a stir.
I treat every outing as valuable reconnaissance, and I’m always on the lookout for clues that will lead me to my quarry. During a recent outing to check out an area where I had recently spotted signs of nesting magpies, I was intrigued to see quite a few jackdaws on the move.Corvid control with an air rifle is seldom easy; sharp-eyed and very suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, these birds rarely drop their guard.
After slipping back into cover, I had a close scan through my Hawke Nature Trek 10×42 binoculars. These little binos are small enough to keep stowed in my backpack yet more than powerful enough for quarry observation, and through them I could see what appeared to be a busy jackdaw flightline. This spot was definitely worth an impromptu stakeout.
Because corvids are always on my radar at this time of year, I also had a couple of decoys in my backpack. I set up an imitation little owl in a fairly open area just away from the woodland edge. Owls and other raptors really aggravate territorial corvids and, although the single decoy would probably have worked well enough on its own, I also decided to add an artificial magpie. The black and white decoy would really catch the eye of passing birds, and give the impression that a mobbing was already underway.
I didn’t have a hide net with me but I wasn’t too bothered. Magpies and jackdaws are easily spooked, and the disturbance caused by setting up a screen would probably have put them on high alert. Instead, I tucked myself against a fallen tree on the edge of the wood and put on a camouflage head net to keep my face hidden.
With the trap set, all I could do was wait and see if the decoys would have the desired effect. I had a hunch that rather than swooping straight down to the decoys, any incoming birds would more than likely land in the apparent safety of the branches of the trees that flanked my target area. Expecting shots around the 30m mark, I wound up the magnification of my Hawke Vantage 3-9×40 scope to 9x to assist with precise shot placement.
It turned out to be quite a wait, and almost an hour passed before a group of four jackdaws veered off the flightline and towards my decoys. The birds kept high, chattering and wheeling overhead before they flapped down into the treetops to get a better look at the scene below. Three of them were obstructed by branches but one offered a very clear shot just about within striking distance.
Slowly and very quietly, I shouldered the gun and settled the first mil dot beneath the scope’s crosshairs onto the bird’s head to compensate for the fall of the pellet. I touched off the trigger and the shot struck with a ‘smack’, flopping the unsuspecting jackdaw from its perch while the others took to the wing.
Rather than beating a hasty retreat, the agitated birds circled a couple of times before dropping back into the trees. Again, only one bird offered me a shot, and I swiftly added it to the bag. The remaining jackdaws took flight again, only this time they didn’t make the mistake of returning.
I sat it out for another hour and managed to account for a single magpie before moving on. Three corvids is not a big bag, but it means there will be three less of them plundering the nests of other birds this spring, and I’ll be heading back again soon to try to make an even bigger dent in their numbers.
Hawke Vantage 3-9x40 AO
11 layer fully multi-coated optics for maximum clarity. Adjustable objective for parallax correction. 1⁄4 MOA low profile no-snag fingertip turrets. Fast focus eyebell and high torque zoom ring. Threaded objective/ocular for optional accessoriesFind Out More
Hawke Nature-Trek 10x42 Binoculars
Fully multi-coated optics to produce sharp images. Focus knob with 2 turns - close focus from 6.6ft/2m. High resolution BAK-4 roof prisms. Lightweight and durable rubber coated full-size chassis.Find Out More
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