Over the last few years, I’ve had to learn a great deal about larsen traps. When I started to work on the Chayne three years ago, I only had one trap and I hardly had the time to keep an eye on it. It sat in a convenient spot by the side of the road throughout the entire spring, and while I fed and looked after the call bird and checked for catches every day, the trap only performed modestly. The next spring, I ran five larsen traps in a small area of the farm, limited by what I could reasonably walk every day. So many traps in such a small area was overkill and I didn’t catch much, but I did notice that having what amounted to a larsen in almost every field unsettled wild crows and moved them on. I wasn’t catching birds, but I seemed to be repelling them.
This year, thanks to the Suzuki, I have hit on a new plan which seems to be working. Having access to a 4×4 means that I can use three traps to cover the entire 1,600 acres of the farm, and it’s just a matter of slinging the cages up onto the roof of the car when they need to be moved. Rather than panic everytime I see a crow, I’m learning to take my time and work out where territorial pairs are setting up nests before dropping off a larsen with them for a few days once they’re feeling aggressive. Almost without exception, I catch the cock bird within 24 hours of moving the trap and then the hen not the next day, but the day after. For some reason, I haven’t caught the pair in a single setting this year, when this would be quite usual in other years. Once they’ve been caught individually, I then move the trap away from the area and keep an eye on it from long range with binoculars.
Contrary to advice I’ve been given by a few different people, if I’ve caught one half of a pair, I don’t take the call bird out and put the new bird in. My theory is that if you catch the cock of a pair, the hen will wonder what has happened to her mate. She’ll fly off the nest and find the trap, and if the cock is in it, she doesn’t have much incentive to go on the attack and get caught herself. However, if she misses her mate, flies off the nest and finds the trap and a strange foreign crow in it, there’s her incentive to roll up her sleeves and give the intruder an arse kicking. I know there are lots of ways of working a trap, but this theory has worked well for me over the past few weeks.
My three larsens are all different designs, which also seems to help. I’ve got a round side entry drop door larsen from Solway Feeders, a traditional top entry larsen and a side entry swing door larsen. It’s surprising how often one will work when another has failed, and if I find that I’m not having any luck, often the best thing to do is take my traps in for a few days and then try another.
All this is probably bread and butter to a real gamekeeper, but these have been handy tricks to have picked up on my own. Of course, everything falls down when you find a crow that is too wary to go inside the trap, and spends all day sitting on top of it. Now might be the time for the Larsen mate to come back out of retirement.