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Methods to improve your crow shooting results

Tom Sykes highlights the different methods and aids he uses in crow shooting to lure more into his range and increase his chances of success on this most wily of quarry

Tom relishes the challenge of outwitting this intelligent quarry

As the summer crow control is now underway, I decided to look at some of the tools and tactics that can help yield better bags. Crows have always fascinated me as being a worthy adversary, with their keen eyesight and sharp senses. The damage they cause is considerable and the person employed to control them will need to use virtually every tool at their disposal. The following highlights my methods and gives some recommendations.



I have a passion for calling in general and very rarely hit the foreshore without an array of trusty duck and goose calls, and so it is with crows. The first point to make about calling is that it will not work every time and should never be overused. However, calls can be invaluable at beguiling your quarry and helping to lure them in close enough for a shot. When it comes to crows, however, I typically use them sparingly.

Aim to have a variety of aids in your arsenal

The most common birds to call are those ones that are wide of the decoys and show minimal to no sign of commitment. These are well worth trying to call as nothing ventured, nothing gained and they are most likely going to remain out of range anyway. I find that using a call they can be persuaded to come just close enough to give me a chance. 

The most satisfying crows to lure into the decoys are the ones that have pitched into a nearby tree. They often appear to be assessing every inch of the decoy spread and will seldom be convinced to leave their position. However, they will on occasion take flight and come sailing right in, providing an opportunity for a shot. The fact that they were not deterred by the set-up despite strict scrutiny gives me immense satisfaction. 

When it comes to types of calls, there are a few on the market which will certainly do the job. I have been a fan of CMS calls from Sweden for a few years. They produce a fantastic lifelike call. I still resort to voice calling crows on many occasions with my standard long “MAAAARK” call as my bread and butter. Shouting this with the right gravel effect on the voice will produce a great call and it has countless times for me over the years. As always, practice will improve techniques and experimenting by calling different birds will help gain a feel for which birds are worth calling. 

Calls are a useful tool but should not be overused



Flappers are one of my favourite gadgets to use for pigeon and crow shooting. I had one of the early versions as a teenager and upgraded to a Flightline Decoys FF6 a few years ago. Pigeons and crows both respond well to flappers in practically every situation I have used them. 

The version I use has a speed control, meaning I can adjust the speed of the flapper to suit multiple quarry species. I typically use it on carrion crow with a slow wing speed and set the flapper to short intervals so that it isn’t running constantly. This replicates the leisurely wing beats of a crow cruising into land. 

Pigeons and crows both respond well to flappers

An advantage of the flapper is that they run off a small battery, making them a compact unit. They certainly add value to the decoy spread and are worth carrying whenever possible. Depending on the day, I will vary the location of mine within a decoy spread. Sometimes it works better off to one side and other days it is better in the landing zone of the pattern. Either way, the movement is certainly eye-catching and I find birds rarely spook when I use them.  



A gadget that still has a place in the decoy spread is the magnet. I have a magnet that often makes an appearance, despite not being as versatile as the flapper. I typically like to use my rotary off to one side and often not in full view. The main objective is to add movement to the spread to convey the image of birds milling around. I find that crows’ reactions can be more temperamental to the movement, so sometimes they are worth including, others not so. 

I power mine with an old car battery as it lasts longer and can be used for days without the need to recharge. The battery and overall bulk of the unit does make it more awkward to deploy in the field and I will commonly only use it in areas where I have vehicle access. Despite this, magnets can be a formidable piece of equipment when used in the right situation. 

While magnets are a bulky unit, they can be a formidable piece of equipment


Wind direction

Wind direction is key when setting up to optimise shooting opportunities. Although most directions can be catered for, there are some that I favour over others. One of my favourite types of winds is either a crossing or quartering wind. I find that the birds coming in from the side have far less attention on the shooting location, which helps me to avoid being spotted. I have also found that these winds were far better to capture the shooting action on camera. I find that it is also easier to shoot crossing birds more consistently as they can be easier to read and calculate lead. 

Incoming birds can often be shot with little to no movement, but that approach to shooting, although technically easier, can come unstuck if the bird is misread and they are going in a different direction. The ideal set-up is having birds approach from the front, providing ample time to be spotted, before swinging slightly wide and then crossing the decoys. 

I have had many days with a steady stream of birds following the same line and requiring the same movement from the gun, providing a good bag.  

Elevating decoys looks natural and helps the pattern stand out



The art of setting a decoy pattern isn’t as complex as it first seems. The system I follow is to create a natural-looking image that the birds would expect to see, regardless of whether the quarry is corvids or wildfowl. I will have a very rough shape to the pattern, but it can be almost indistinguishable. Sometimes the best method is to scatter the decoys and leave a bit of a hole for the birds to focus on. My main goal is to get the birds over the decoys and in range. 

I use many tools and tricks to improve the aesthetics of the pattern, which include elevating decoys onto fences or in trees, for example. Elevating decoys looks natural but also helps the pattern to stand out, making it easier for birds to spot the spread. Depending on the day, I will add a few decoys around a feeder to tempt the birds as they approach with their attention firmly fixed on the food source.

Positioning decoys around a feeder can help lure the crows

The best way to find what works for you is to get out and experiment. Finding what does and what doesn’t work and refining your approach accordingly is what makes it an interesting sport.