One of the most overlooked reasons why a shot is missed may be because your quarry saw your highly visible and reflective (sweaty) face and took flight.Try this test, wait with your face down as a crow passes directly over head, raise your head and look directly at the crow. Not until you raise your head will it take any evasive action and begin cawing-cawing.
To some extent air gunners aren't so obvious to the intended quarry because the facial outline is broken up by the scope. But your face won't always be hidden by the scope, take every precaution and keep hidden.
Scrim scarfs are available from most gun shops and provide and easy means of concealment.
The scrim also keeps the face and neck warm in winter and keeps flies off in summer.
Fig.1 Attach two pieces of Velcro (hooks), about 1" long, to the rear sides of your hat.
Fig.2 Fold the square of scrim as shown and attach one piece of Velcro tape (loops), about 2" long, then (with the hat on) measure the correct distance for the second 2" piece of Velcro, attach accordingly.The extra length of these two pieces allows for some adjustment of the fit.
Fig.3 When out in the field, pull the scrim across your face and attach in one easy movement.
Before taking any shot be aware of what is behind or beyond your target.
Decoying Magpies into Range
Magpies - you have to bushwhack them (applies to all Corvids).
It's no good hoping to find one off-guard - they are always on-guard. With a shotgun you can 'walk one up' and shoot it as it makes off - but not with an airgun. Air gunners really do have to be out of sight - in something (barn or hide) - under something (bush or hedge) or behind something (tree or building) also within range - use bait or Decoys.
Ive used these Owl Decoys for some years with varying success, I have one of the larger 20 inch owls (size matters) which I use in conjunction with the Flapper and the other small (static) owl. The problem with the small Owls is how do you stand them up ? On the bottom of the owls there is a short plastic post approximately 5/16 (9mm) in diameter, theres not much point sticking them in the ground as they soon fall over and they arent visible enough low down anyway. If there are plenty of fence and gate posts around your shoot, take a hand brace (drill) fitted with a 5/16(9mm) wood bit and make holes in the tops of the most strategically positioned posts. Now when you visit your shoot setting up ollie will only take a few minutes - just stick the plastic post in one of the holes you drilled. Position the big bird a short distance away, the higher the better! Shake your 35mm film canister to make the most realistic chack-chack..... chack-chack-chack sound you can (I have small nuts and bolts in mine to give a hard / sharp sound). The sound will get their attention from afar, on investigation the magpies will first see the big owl, then its time for you to flap the smaller Flapper owl.
I once had this arrangement set up in front of my hide position only to be disturbed by some elderly ornithologists on a nearby bridle path chattering with glee...Get your book out, its an Eagle I tell you !, what a pity I couldnt make the big un flap !
Plastic Magpie decoys have a hook at the bottom of their tale feathers, they are best hung by the hooks from fencing wire. Its the swinging movement and the obvious position of distress that may attract the real Magpies. If you have any dead Magpies, hang them up with the decoys, the open wings are an added attraction.
Another ploy is to have a crow decoy stuck out high on a flimsy branch (lofted) or on the end of an old fishing rod stuck vertically into a small bush, anywhere that it will move with the wind, keep this one some distance away, just close enough to give the Magpies a confidence boost.
Finally, dont try all these techniques at the same time, be subtle with their usage (mix and match).
Real or fake eggs can be attractive to corvids. Place your eggs in a realistic position about 30 yards from your hide - gather a little grass around them and break open a real egg alongside - get back into your hide and quietly wait. Your hide should give you full cover - get into the bottom of a hedge or similar position.
The Jay- not my quarry - but gamekeepers see them as a real problem species.
Other Corvid Lures
Also try placing broken Bread - White or Brown. Also I have seen it written that Magpies are attracted to Oven Chips - try them.
A sure lure is the use of a dead - Squirrel or Rabbit cut open to show the blood red flesh (important). Even more convenient is minced meat from your local butchers. I keep one or two quarter pounds in the freezer compartment of the fridge ready for my hunting trips. Even a frozen block of minced meat placed on open ground will bring in the Crows / Rooks and Magpies (guaranteed). Once it thaws, spread it over an area of about two feet. I sometimes shape it to look like an animal carcuss. After a shooting hunt leave the remaining meat out on the open ground - this will give the remaining Corvids confidence to come in the next time you place bait in the same position.
Try placing the eggs to the right of your position and the meat to the left, both at different (but known ranges) maybe some bread in the centre - if you don't lure corvids into your kill zone with this set-up I'm a 'monkey's uncle'.
When you have shot your first Magpie of the day do not be tempted to leave your hide - wait wait wait - your patience will be rewarded. A dead Magpie will without doubt bring in other Corvids, once they spot their fallen comrade they will mob / hover-over and generally create mayhem from either close in or from the branches of a nearby tree or high point. Be ready!
I use this trailer as a hide from time to time. I recently found that I wasn't alone in there !
'Ratty' is now no more !
Nuts, whole Hazelnuts are the perfect lure for Grey Squirrels. Squirrels will eat your bird-bag Peanuts but they will do somersaults for Whole Hazelnuts (with shell). With these they can do what comes naturally ie; nibble the ends out and cache them around the garden (or wherever) for when times are lean. Last winter I took six Grey Squirrels in my garden, when I thought there was just one lone critter that was 'stealin' me nuts'.
This advice is a little seasonal as most stockists (grocers) only keep them during the Autumn / Christmas season.
If you find you have Grey Squirrel Dreys on your shoot use an eight metre telescopic Roach pole to prod them. When the Squirrels emerge, bag them with stealth. You may need to take a hunting partner when hunting Squirrels as the little blighters tend to hide around the opposite side of the tree trunk or will press themselves close to and along the length of the branch they are on. Send your partner around the other side of the tree, then Squirrel will shimmy around to your side.
Always go for the head shot. As with Rabbits - body shots on Squirrels are pointless.
Look for Squirrels around Oak, Beech, Hazel and Chestnut trees.
Being territorial, Squirrels are quick to respond to the calls of other Squirrels. Try clicking two ten pence coins together thus:- hold them between your thumb and first finger - with the bottom coin sticking out a little. Push down the lower coin with your other thumb nail - allowing it to snap back against the upper coin. The click this action makes is similar to an alarm call and may get one out into the open.
I suggest you get plenty of practice shooting at such high targets before venturing on a Squirrel hunt. Users of pneumatic rifles will only have to remember the hold-over but users of spring powered rifles will also need to compensate for the 'new' recoil.
Squirrels are very curious animals - on one occasion I was half way through a zeroing session when two Squirrels came out to see what was making all those clicking and plinking noises. I gave them both some first hand knowledge !
On another occasion I was showing a young lad how to hold and shoot an air rifle - a Squirrel came out to have a look around - I quickly took the rifle from the boy (much to his surprise) " Squirrel " - I hissed, I took aim and bingo, one Grey Squirrel in the bag. "I never even saw it" said the lad, " Takes years of experience " I said, smiling to myself.
The Park RH 93 Recoilless Air Rifle.
Waiting for Brown Rats to show themselves can often mean a long and cold wait.
To increase your tolerance to the cold go along to your favourite Pizza take away (one that delivers) and ask them - not for Peperoni - but for one of their insulated delivery bags. The bags sometimes get torn or the Velcro gives-out. Sitting on one of those makes your backside glow and also makes the cold nights more bearable.
Use baits with a strong aroma or flavour. I find that flake chocolate draws them in and they can't carry it away. Apples are also favoured by Rats, use Apples whole (can't be carried away) crush small amounts to create an aroma. Try cat food such as the tins with peel top lids (do not leave the tin on the ground). Basically Rats prefer anything that is fresh in preference to old and rotten .
Brown Rats have keen hearing, smell, taste, and touch, but poor vision, and they are also colour blind. The adults are nocturnal and like to explore, but they are cautious and shy away from newly introduced objects - such as Fenn Traps.
Young Rats will often venture out to find food during daylight hours.
Rats seem unperturbed by the presence of humans if they sense that they are pre-occupied. They will also come into the open if all is still. I generally find something to sit on, face the direction of the Rats, cross my legs and rest the rifle on my knee and stay motionless. Rats will bolt at the first signs of movement so it is essential that the rifle is pointing almost directly at the place you expect the Rats to emerge.
Place any bait along regular 'runs' and in such a position that the rat has to expose all of its body to get at it. Generally about one or two feet from any rat hole - this way any rats hit but not killed cleanly will not be able to get to cover before you take another shot or get to it and finish it with a large stick about 1" dia' and 2 ' in length.
As a further remark regarding the poor eyesight of Rats - During a snow shower I slowly walked up to within two yards of a Rat before it bolted - I guess that it was 'blinded' by the falling snow - I didn't shoot it because I hadn't taken my rifle from the car !!
Do not handle dead Rats, use a shovel or stick to remove them.
Diseases carried by Brown rats
Salmonella..carried by all rodents.
Trichinosis..Pork roundworm. Initially the worm lodges in the intestines, but the larvae may invade the muscles to form cysts that are often resistant to drug treatment.
Rat Bite Fever...Murine Typhus spread by lice on the animal, they die of it, but not before they have passed it on.
Hantavirus.. Pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva. Humans can contract the disease when they breathe in aerosolized virus. Although rare, HPS is potentially deadly. Rodent control in and around the home remains the primary strategy for preventing hantavirus infection.
Weils Disease...Leptospiral Jaundice(Leptospirosis). Symptoms are flu like, with a severe persistent headache and if you think you have been in an area where there are rats, then you should seek immediate medical advice. Affects the liver and kidneys.Needs early treatment.
You are unlikely to be able to bait-up an area that has Rabbits in it. Rabbits are territorial and won't wander far from their burrows - so the best method is stealt.
Rabbits have amazing hearing, a remarkable sense of smell and the position of their eyes gives them such a wide field of vision, that they can almost see what's coming behind them, they can also sense ground vibrations through their feet. So my best advice is to find out where their burrows are, position yourself down wind - out of sight - and keep very still.
I have found that if you are dressed in baggy dull / camouflage clothing, wearing a hat and scrim over your face, sitting in the conventional Field Target position close to a hedge or tree is enough to lull the Rabbits into a false sense of security. What you do not want the Rabbit to see is the distinct outline of a human. Obviously being completely out of sight is ideal.
Have your rifle across your knees (field target position) with the barrel pointing at roughly the spot you expect the Rabbit(s) to emerge. Sit motionless and wait. Always allow them to 'clear' their burrows by about 5 yards.
Get well within range (inside 35 yds) and always take head shots - body shots at Rabbits are inhumane and pointless - a Rabbit shot in the body will without doubt struggle back to it's burrow and that situation must be avoided ! Wait until the Rabbit presents itself sideways then take a clean head shot.
If you are not sure of your hunting ability or would like to check your rifles accuracy - download my free practice targets to test your skill.
The usual control methods for Feral Pigeons include exclusion techniques, repellents, stupefying baits and trapping, the reason for this is that Feral Pigeons are usually found in built-up urban areas.
For discreet control of small populations of pigeons a .22 air rifle with hollow point pellets is recommended. Go for a chest shot, this will help prevent over penetration of the quarry and possible damage to surrounding property.
If you find that any of your shot birds have leg rings (indicating a Homing Pigeon Society or club) notify the appropriate organisation or a local pigeon fancier.
As much care as possible must be taken to avoid accidents.
The use of an air rifle is not suitable where adverse public reaction is suspected even though it may be the most effective method of removal.
Any shooting work you are planning in urban situations should be notified to the local police.
Public feeding of Pigeons is a sure way to encourage them to stay put - DO NOT FEED THEM.
No longer a pest species.
If in doubt see UK Gun Law