Tuxedo Targets: Hunting Magpies

Think these birds are pretty? Maybe. Think they're sweet? Think again.

There's an old joke that asks, "What's black and white and read all over?" The answer is: a newspaper (sorry if I ruined that for you). However, in my part of the world, the joke should go, "What's black and white and hated all over?" The answer, in that case, is magpies.

Related Video: Slow-Mo Magpie Shooting

Cattlemen don't like them because of the habit they have of picking at open wounds on livestock, making them much worse; and like ravens, they will sometimes peck the eyes out of newborn or sick livestock. Urbanites dislike them, too, because they're continually stealing pet food, killing songbirds and waking people with their raucous squawking at sunrise. It all means that magpie hunters are welcome anywhere they choose to ply their trade.

However, magpies do have varying levels of legal protection, depending on local ordinances and where you live. In my area, they are like crows, in that it's legal to hunt them all year long and there are no bag limits. Not that I've ever had a problem with shooting too many magpies: The black and white rascals are just too smart to be able to kill large numbers in one sitting.

Magpies can be attracted into shotgun range with a predator call and are often the first to show up when I'm coyote hunting. But who wants to shoot a worthless magpie when a coyote could be on the way? If I'm targeting magpies, I'm more likely to use a variety of crow calls—which they will respond to as well—no doubt because they are part of the crow family and understand the language to some degree.

Like crows, I've had the best success in the weeks immediately after the young ones leave the nest. Because the juveniles aren't too smart and the parents are still protective, it's possible to get into some sustained shooting. But, usually one or two shots will be all you'll get before magpies learn to stay away. It's why I usually pair magpies with crows—one species will show up first to collect some birdshot, then the other.

I went out last week to see if those nests were empty yet, but they weren't, so shooting was slow. I was itching to give a new Remington Versa-Max Tactical its first workout though, and it seems to pluck crows and magpies from the sky just fine. Although, I think I need a slightly tighter choke than the improved cylinder one I was trying out.

If magpies are fair game in your area, give them a try during the off season. They're a challenge to hunt, and for every one eliminated you'll save a number of songbirds.