Mat Manning Crow Twilight Shooting

Mat Manning Crow Twilight Shooting
Mat Manning Profile Pic

Mat Manning is a full-time 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 field-craft 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.

With spring’s lambing and nesting seasons about to get into full swing, Mat Manning targets scavenging corvids at dusk for some Twilight Crow Shooting.

Twilight Crow Shooting

Crows like to pitch into tall trees so choose a spot that offers a clear view of the highest boughs. Mat set up next to a tree trunk which would provide cover and an opportunity to take leaning shots. A splattering of white droppings on the undergrowth is a reliable sign of an active crow roost.

Crows are opportunistic scavengers that prey on new-born lambs and on the eggs and chicks of songbirds. Now is an important time to keep their numbers in check. With the lambing and nesting seasons just about to hit their peak, airgun shooters can help farmers and wildlife by thinning out resident corvids.

...the action reached a peak just as the light was really starting to fade. The little scope performed exceptionally well...

Crow control with an air rifle is seldom an easy task. Corvids are exceptionally wary and, although decoying tactics using a fake nest to take advantage of their egg-stealing habits or setting out an imitation owl to trigger their territorial instincts can be productive, they can be very suspicious of anything out of the ordinary.

One way to get on terms with these cunning birds is to target them at the roost. You don’t need to use any decoys or trouble yourself with building a hide but you need to act quickly because it becomes very difficult to spot and shoot incoming birds in the half-light once the trees start to leaf-up.

The key to successful roost shooting is location. Thankfully, crows leave plenty of calling cards in the shape of their watery white droppings. Find a place in the woods where there’s a good splattering on the leaf litter and you’re probably standing underneath an active crow roost. Crows usually flight to tall trees which they use as lookouts before they settle down into the lower storeys, so look out for towering ashes, oaks or beeches in the vicinity. Timing is another important factor in catching crows at the roost. These birds usually come in very late so, if you head for home as soon as the pigeons stop flighting in, you’ll probably be gone before the crows arrive.

My latest visit to the roost was a great opportunity to see how the Hawke Airmax 30 Touch would perform in low light. I’m quite new to short-eye-relief scopes but they seem to lend themselves very well to compact bullpup and semi-bullpup airguns, and I was keen to see how the little Airmax 30 Tocuh 3-12×32 SF AMX IR model would cut it in the gloom.

Twilight Crow Shooting stance by Mat Manning

The first crow of the evening swoops in and Mat lines up for a shot.

I arrived in the woods about an hour before dusk and settled into an area where I know the crows like to tuck in for the night. Tree trunks offer useful gun support and handy cover for an ambush like this, and the absence of a carefully constructed hide means it’s easy to move if you start in the wrong place. In spite of the gloom, a headnet and gloves are essential for this sort of shooting as crows are adept at spotting the glow of pale hands or a face peering up from the undergrowth.

The crows started moving a little earlier than I’d expected, and the first pair was wheeling over the woods less than 15 minutes after I’d arrived. The flock slowly gathered until there were probably 30 or 40 birds swooping and croaking above the treetops. A small group eventually made the mistake of pitching into a stand of trees not far from where I was waiting. The closest crow was no more than 25m away from me, and I dropped it with a shot to the head. Its flock mates flapped away at the sound of the impacting pellet, but it wasn’t long before the crows were back overhead and making even more noise.

Crows can become incredibly raucous when they gather in large numbers, and the woods were soon filled with the din of screeching and croaking birds as they swirled above the treetops. Every so often, a few would make the mistake of peeling off and fluttering down into the boughs and I was able to pick off a couple more that pitched within range.

Twilight Crow Shooting with Airmax Touch
Airmax Touch used in Twilight Crow Shooting

It was Mat’s first roost shooting session with the Airmax Touch and he was very impressed with the results.

As is often the case, the action reached a peak just as the light was really starting to fade. The little scope performed exceptionally well, and switching on its illuminated reticle enabled me to maintain a clear view of the crosshairs against the birds’ dark silhouettes. It session went well, and I ended up with a total of seven crows by the time it had become too dark to shoot.

I will be returning to those woods over the coming days and weeks in the hope of chipping away at the crows’ population, which has risen steadily over the last couple of years. Of course, these birds are an indigenous species so I’m not aiming to completely eradicate them from the woods. They have a role to play but keeping them in check will help other wildlife to thrive and reduce the risk of the tenant farmer losing lambs to these scavenging corvids.

Find out more about how to use harvested wild meat from our friends at Talking Game with the best squirrel risotto recipe 

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  • Hawke Airmax 30 Touch 3-12x32 Rilfescope

    Hawke Arimax 30 Touch 3-12x32

    Zero eye relief riflescope to suit minimum recoil. Wide Angle optical system. Lightweight and compact construction. 16 layer fully multi-coated optics for exceptional clarity. Side focus control for parallax adjustment to infinity. 30mm mono-tube chassis for superior strength. 1⁄10 MRAD capped, resettable target turrets

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