Summertime Starlings – Hone Your Hunting On An Invasive Species

The long summer months can seem like a drought for hunters. The typical hunting seasons don’t start until the fall and the summer months are used for preparing and practicing for the upcoming fall seasons. There is one type of hunting season which is year round and has no limits plus you will be doing wildlife a favor by hunting these feathered invaders. I am talking about hunting starlings. 

The European Starling.

The European Starling, or Common Starling, is an invasive species to the United States. These little invaders are responsible for Agricultural losses of all kinds. They invade cattle feedlots and eat massive amounts of corn and they can ruin fruit crops. They are in continuous competition with native species and due to their flocking nature, often wipe out food resources before native species have a chance to take advantage of the resource.

The starling was introduced to the United States in 1890 in New York’s Central Park. They were released by Shakespeare enthusiasts that wanted to see the birds that were mentioned in his writing. They are incredibly productive breeders. Starlings can have two clutches per year and the nestlings can fledge within three weeks of hatching. This makes them very adaptable and capable of invading new areas very quickly. They can be found in all fifty states with great abundance, the fact is that if you see a bird in a parking lot or fishing worms out of your front yard, it is probably a starling. The males are given away by their yellow bill and speckled plumage.

Getting out under the roost tree with a .22. Remember if you use a .22 to be safe and always know what your background is if shooting upwards. 

Although starlings might be a plight on American wildlife and crops, they do offer a great hunting opportunity year round. I particularly like to hunt them in the long summer months when there aren’t many other opportunities to get out and hunt. I like to use unusual hunting methods when chasing starlings. 

I usually like to hunt them with a .22 by sitting under a roost tree first thing in the morning and before dark. There are a lot of shot opportunities. Trying to hit a bird that is six inches tall and doesn’t sit still long can be a challenge. I can guarantee that your squirrel hunting game will be on point after you take fifty shots at starlings hopping around in a tree with iron sites on a .22. 

I also like to hit them with the shotgun. I use the same tactic, sitting under a roost tree. Just take your chair out and perch up under the tree and wait. Within a few minutes, you will have birds coming left and right. It can be one of the most fun times that you can have on a hot summer day. The shotgun offers a much higher success rate than the .22, at least for me. I will often get ready for dove season by hunting starlings. They offer very erratic flight patterns and they are even smaller than a dove. So if you can consistently connect with a starling, you will be more than ready when the opening day of dove season rolls around.

The flocking nature that makes starlings so successful at taking over habitats, also makes them incredibly fun to hunt. Depending on the area, the size of the flocks can number in the 100’s. I usually find that the typical flight consists of about 20 individuals. When I hunt them with a shotgun I use a cylinder choke. Mostly because they are usually within 20 yards when I shoot, but it also provides the opportunity to knock down more than one bird per shot. 

The results of shooting over 50 shots at starlings jumping around in the tree.
Quick afternoon shoot with my dog and an old bolt action 20ga.

It can be hard to find hunting opportunities during the dog days of summer. The typical game animals are off limits due to the season structure that we have in the US, but with a little research, some opportunities are out there. I have yet to be turned away when I ask for permission to hunt starlings. Most farmers and ranchers are more than happy to have someone shoot at these pests. I have even been invited back by landowners to hunt other normal game animals because they saw how responsible I treated their land and equipment when hunting starlings. So although these little birds are hard on the land and wildlife, they can keep you shooting year round and open up other hunting opportunities for more desired animals.

About the author: Jake Wallace was introduced to the shotgun sports after breaking his hips when he was 11, which forced him into a wheelchair for 23 months. He saw a shooting program on one of the outdoor networks and thought that it was something he could do from a chair. Jake started shooting ATA from a chair and progressed to international when he was able to walk again. He loves being in the outdoors because nothing clears his mind like sitting in the woods or on a boat. Jake was part of Lindenwood University’s history of success having graduated from there in 2012 after being a part of four ACUI National Championships for the Lions from 2009-12. He currently resides in Colorado Springs where he’s a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete. JAKE WALLACE: Hunting for Trap Superiority http://www.usashooting.org/news/usasnews/USAnews-2017-August/?page=22 Competition Highlights • 2018 World Cup Gold Medalist, Mixed Team • 2017 Fall Selection, Silver Medalist • 2017 World Championships Team Member • 2017 Qatar Open, First Place • 2016 Fall Selection Match Champion • 2015 Shotgun Team Selection, Silver Medalist • 2014 USA Shooting National Championships, Gold Medalist • 2014 Championship of the Americas, Silver Medalist – shot a perfect 125 in qualification to tie World Record • 2014 Fall Selection, Silver Medalist • 2014 Spring Selection, Bronze Medalist • 2013 Granada World Cup, Sixth Place • 2013 World Clay Target Championships Team Member • 2013 National Championships, Bronze Medalist • 2013 Spring Selection Match, Bronze Medalist • 2010 World Championships Junior Team, Silver Medalist (w/ M. Gossett) • 2010 World Championships Junior Team Member

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Michael S Payne August 4, 2019, 12:35 am

    Use a .410, it is a lot safer for anyone with in a mile or so down range as opposed to using a .22. I use a .177 pellet rifle as well. Years ago I found a bullet hole in my house, it was a reality check – not everyone knows or cares about what is down range.

  • Jake July 11, 2019, 10:17 am

    I tried a few, sliced the meat off the breast bone. It was similar to dove. I will keep your recipe in mind when I get out next time.

  • John Hogg July 9, 2019, 6:53 pm

    Kinda simple. Are they any good to eat? When I was a kid living in Alabama, my mom had a maid come in once a week to help with chores. She excoriated my brother and I when we shot a bunch of black birds (not starlings) and just left them for the pigs to eat. She said “haven’t you ever heard of 40 and 20 baked into a pie?”. So next time we kept them and she cooked them into a pot pie; fantastic!

  • Phil July 9, 2019, 12:45 pm

    A Gamo .177 whisperer with a 4 power scope makes a nice platform. Our property was overwhelmed by them messing on everything. Good idea to know whats in the background. After a dozen or so it takes about 4 months for rhem to come back around. Great for keeping sharp!

  • DAVID MILLER July 9, 2019, 12:05 pm

    Back 1960 in rochester ny 19th ward had lot of starlings would make noise all night big maple in front of house my great grand father gave me a crossman .22 bb gun i got real good at exterminating them till a peta group of hippies moved in and called the police they took my gun gave me a ticket for shooting in city limits few years later uncle sam came a nocking and off to vietnam all that practice came in real handy

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