Trying to find something different to write every month can be a daunting task , I am sure you don’t want to read about rabbits and pigeons every month but when it is the target species for that time of year its all we can do really. Luckily this month one of my permissions cut the hay early and it has given me the opportunity to have a crack at clearing some Magpies that would have otherwise proven difficult . With so many leaves on the trees its hard to get close to a group of Magpies and make any significant dent in the population , there is always one that you have not seen and once the warning call sounds you can kiss goodbye to any shot . It happens time and time again , you know where they are , you stalk as slowly as possible keeping yourself out of site as much as you can until you get within range to get a clean shot off , a call comes from another Magpie usually closer than the one you were after because you haven’t noticed it and they are gone . It can get frustrating over a long session but there is a way to get them to come to you if you have the patience to sit and wait . Now the Young magpies have all left the nest you will often see groups of 4 or more flitting from tree to tree in search of a good meal . Magpies are usually creatures of habit and will keep to an area where they were born . This makes it a little easier to get close enough and be able to at least get a few shots off as they will be coming to you . The best way I have found to get the magpies in range is to leave a dead rabbit in the open , I usually slit the belly open and turn it belly up so the white fur is showing . A lot of hunters will leave the innards near or still attached to the rabbit but I prefer to discard them all together. The main reason I discard the innards is because I have found when you get a magpie feeding off them they are always hopping back and forth , they take little pecks at the gut and never seem to sit long enough for a clear shot . With the innards removed from the equation they have to sit longer to peck at the meat making it easier for us.
Now the farmer has cut the fields I can put a rabbit out in the open and it will be seen very easy by any passing Magpies , but before you can do that you need a rabbit . To start the trip off I will be going out to get my rabbit first and then hopefully you will see how the plan comes together.
I had planned to go out on a ground next door to where I was going to ambush the Magpies . This ground used to produce some good numbers of rabbits in the past , I have found though in the last two years it has suffered with mass Poaching . I went out last winter for a lamping session but I found as soon as the lamp was near anything they headed for the hills as fast as possible . This always means they have been lamped and shot at but its something we cant control every day. The ground had also been ferreted as I had found many brambles chopped down around warrens so these Poachers were not giving the ground any chance to recover.
As its summer time it is a lot harder to get any numbers from the ground as it is always well over grown but to me that just makes me work harder and its more satisfying when I get a result. This makes it less appealing to Poachers as well , so at least I get it to myself at this time of year. I started off on the right side of the ground, this has a small wood running all the way down its side where the rabbits are holed up . They venture out into the open from there so when the grass and weeds are down it provides some good ambush shooting.
I had started my stalk along the wood and it wasn’t long before I put a couple of rabbits up that I hadn’t seen , with these conditions I wasn’t surprised but it wasn’t long before I got one in sight that hadn’t seen me . It was sitting under a small bush about 40 yards in front of me . I slowly crept another 10 yards closer and raised the Rapid to my shoulder . The rabbit was sitting with its back to me so I placed the cross-hairs on the back of its skull and sent the .177 pellet towards it. The rabbit flipped up doing a full circle in the air and fell stone dead. I could have taken the rabbit to the other ground to start on the magpies but as I had just started on this ground I decided to walk the full length and see if I could get a couple more. I had walked a good few hundred yards and again it resulted in me scaring the odd ones that I hadn’t seen . I decided to go into the wood now but this is just as hard as the trees are close together and it makes it hard to stalk quietly .Not to be put off I was soon rewarded for my efforts. I noticed a couple of rabbits making their way back into the wood just ahead of me, I had probably spooked them as I was pushing myself between some branches so I quickly got to one knee and waited for my chance. One of the rabbits stopped in a little clearing so I quickly got him in the cross hairs and the pellet hit it hard just behind the eye. With the second rabbit tucked in the Jack Pyke rucksack I set off for the final run along the trees. I had just reached a clearing and I noticed a rabbit feeding near the edge of some conifers. I was a good 60 yards from it so slowly I edged closer . I kept the trees just in front of me so I had a little cover , just as I neared the corner the rabbit spotted me and ran for the safety of its warren but unfortunately for him it stopped to have a last look back. I had tracked it in the scope so as soon as it stopped I was ready to take the shot and made it three in the bag.
That was enough for me this trip as It was getting later now and this is the time of the afternoon when I see the Magpies in the area most.
I was now at the field where I was going to ambush the Magpies , I quickly prepared the rabbit and placed it ten yards out in the field . The place I had chosen for my ambush point was twenty yards back into some trees , this gave me a ten yard kill zone either side of the rabbit if needed and the shade from the trees made me virtually invisible to the Magpies . I took a picture of me from ten yards away and I struggled to see myself in the cover so I knew I was OK there.
I had been waiting for a good half hour when I heard the sound of the Magpies to my right , I sat as still as possible just in case . The first magpie dropped in close to the rabbit , it was very cautious as expected so I gave it a little time to settle. This turned out to be a good call as three more dropped in right next to it and started to make a right racket. I could see it was three youngsters and an adult so I lined up the scope on the adult and took the shot through the shoulder blades. The Magpie fell flat on its chest stone dead but the youngsters just sat looking at it unaware that it had been shot. I will always take the adult first in this situation as the youngsters haven’t got a clue what happens as the adult hasn't flew off showing any danger .I quickly cycled another pellet and lined up another bird. Again the Rapid made no mistake and a clean head shot dropped number two . Again I cycled another pellet as the other two were totally unaware what was happening and were just looking at the two dead ones . I quickly took my chance again and number three was lying stone dead around the rabbit carcase. What a great start this was and I nearly had number four straight after but the other adult came in going crazy and took the youngster off with it to the other side of the field. I quickly got over to the three Magpies and made myself a decoy out of the adult one. I pushed a stick from its back passage up to its head and once secured in the ground I spread its wings out to give any passing Magpies more of a chance of seeing it.
For the next forty minutes I could hear the other adult magpie calling to the decoy but it wouldn’t come any closer , it knew I was about somewhere but it couldn’t see me in the shadows. Another twenty minutes passed when two magpies dropped in near the decoy, they didn’t seem happy with it and started to mob it a little so I left them again as I wasn’t going to get a shot of at them the way they were jumping about . It does get frustrating having the birds in front of you but patience is the key and in this instance it paid off dearly. As I was about to finally shoot one I had a mad flurry of feathers in the scope , taking my eye away from the scope I noticed not two but seven magpies all around my rabbit and decoy. This was heaven , I quickly scoped up one of the larger birds and a head shot put it firmly on its chest . The others again looked on so I quickly took out another larger one of the group. I must have shot both adults as the other five were just sitting there calling at them . They didn’t have a clue what to do and as quick as I could cycle the rapid I was dropping them all over the kill zone. Two of the young ones had managed to get away but they had only flew sixty yards down the hedge line . I was tempted to go after them but I chose to keep hidden just in case more were about . I sat it out for another hour but nothing more showed, I could hear them in the distance but I think they knew better . It was the wrong decision I suppose to leave the two that got away but that was giving my position away again and I chose otherwise.
They afternoon couldn’t have gone any better, I know it was a long wait in between the two groups coming but when the Magpies showed up it was frantic shooting and a thoroughly enjoyable session . I will definitely be giving them another bash soon as there are more about and hopefully it will be where I am waiting for them .