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, 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.
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.
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.