I always try to keep my farmers happy and control their vermin to the best of my ability. Doing this can pay off in numerous ways – other than job satisfaction another major perk can be gathering more ground through word-of-mouth.
Such a thing happened to me last year when a neighbouring farmer had been chatting about his crow problem to the shepherd on the estate where I control a lot of vermin.
I received a phone call later on that week after the shepherd had passed on my details. After a brief chat on the phone, I arranged to pop in to have a look at the ground to see how I can help in the future. As I wanted to make a good impression and show I was keen, I arranged to call into the farm the next day.
I decided to pack the car with the necessities to make a start on the crows if the opportunity became available. I took equipment that I deemed to be useful in most crow shooting situations because I didn’t really know the area well enough to make a proper plan. As it sounded like the shooting would be primarily “urban warfare” around buildings, the main kit was my gun and ammunition, but I also took a few decoys, some camouflage netting, poles and a seat with me, too.
The following day I arrived at the farm for a coffee and to have a look around. Looking at the layout of the farm and the intelligence I received about the typical whereabouts of the crows, I was trying to work out different plans of attack that could be put into place. I was also looking at things from a safety point of view. The farmer explained that he had been having a lot of trouble with the crows coming into his cattle feed and generally causing a nuisance around the buildings. As we went down to the lower level of the yard it was clear that the bulk of the birds were congregating in the meadows that lead to the river.
The farmer explained that he and the workers would be around the top yard for the rest of the day, which normally keeps the birds away from the main buildings. I decided to get myself tucked into a little spinney wood that overlooked the lower fields to give me the best chance at a shot or two. After explaining my plan, the farmer left me to it and said he would keep out of my way.
I started by trying to find a suitable hide location. The spinney wood had a small concrete drain that ran down the edge, about 2ft in from the fence. This allowed me to get my bucket seat set up on the concrete, using the natural wall of nettles and thistles on either side as cover, as well as the tree canopy as shelter from above.
I tracked my way down the path and cleared a small area in the cover to prevent myself from being nettled every time I moved. Goose had also come for a day out so I set a bed up for him so he could relax and watch the world go by. Once the shooting position was established, I could then think about the decoy set up. The small field in front of the hide had been used to feed the cows, I scattered the decoys around on the fences and feeders using insulation tape to hold them in place. The decoys were set in a very random pattern to give the illusion of crows milling about as they naturally would.
Decoys in place
With the decoys in place and a good shooting platform sorted, I settled down to let it go quiet and see whether the crows would venture back up to the farm. It wasn’t long until the odd bird came up to pitch into the decoys. There was a mixture of birds with the bulk of them being carrions and jackdaws. The canopy above my head gave me plenty of cover from a crows point of view, however it made the shooting very sporting as crows, especially jackdaws, often caught me off guard as they swooped over the decoys giving me very little time to react. The AYA did its job perfectly as its light weight and short barrels make it an ideal gun for snap shooting.
After a few steady hours shooting, I managed to get a respectable body count. The farmer reappeared after a while with another coffee and to see how I was getting on. He was amazed at how many birds I’d managed to shoot and even witnessed a few lucky shots while we had a natter and a brew. It’s safe to say that going the extra mile to keep farmers happy, or to make a good first impression, is key to securing shooting in the future. I now have a great working relationship with a new farmer and a cracking new bit of ground that will keep me occupied.