Scott Rall: Want a challenge? Try crow hunting
By Scott Rall
I missed two weeks of the season and did not even know it.
I am entering the fray at full speed this weekend and there is no common crow safe from my intentions.
I have the greatest reverence for almost every animal that I hunt. I always take just a short moment to thank God for his bounty every time I put a pheasant in my hunting vest, and the same goes for ducks and other game animals. I just do not share this same reverence for crows. I have many reasons, but the list starts with the damage that they do.
A crow will eat just about anything and that includes little pheasant chicks, song bird eggs and their young, along with the young-uns of many other desirable and endangered birds. They also like frogs, mice and other small animals. In the winter they make seeds and other nuts and acorns their No. 1 source of nutrition. We cannot forget how attracted they are to the dead skunks on the road and anything else that gets in the way of a car tire.
Before Worthington got its big black trash cans, Worthington housed more crows than the rest of Nobles County combined. There is nothing better to a crow than to spread the trash all over the street in that insatiable quest for some leftover fast food French fries. I certainly don’t miss them in town.
Hunting crows is not an easy venture. They are smart, and you need to prepare if you are going to get any number of them into shotgun range. There are fewer crows in the countyside than there used to be, and I think this has a lot to do with the West Nile virus. Crows seem more susceptible than other birds and this is why I think there are fewer of them.
They are certainly in no danger of becoming endangered, and their populations are estimated at 31 million. I am going to see if I can make that number a little smaller.
I just can’t imagine how many good bird offspring they eat. I see them flying around with a young bird in their mouth more than just every once in awhile. Many, if not most, song birds are struggling in North America. If I can reduce the predation on these endangered species by hunting crows I think I am doing the outdoor world a favor.
The second biggest problem for some birds is feral cats.
I might have spoken to this method before, but my favorite way to hunt crows is the drive drop and drive method. Get permission ahead of time on as many abandoned tree groves or other large tree sights as you can.
Abandoned tree sites are disappearing faster than cold beer on the 4th of July. Make sure that you use safe firearms procedures at all times to keep this effort safe for all in the vicinity.
Two hunters take a drive past likely crow hangouts. If you can actually see a few crows, all the better. As the car comes to a stop, one hunter gets out with the electronic crow call and the driver then proceeds to make his or her way around the section at 20 miles per hour. Crows cannot count. One car stops and one car drives away. They can’t count the vehicle occupants.
I turn on the call and then move about 40 yards away. The crows in the area will most likely come to check out the commotion, but very few ever fly right over the source of the sound.
A crow in the hand is always better than 10 in the bush. I have passed on a single crow in shotgun range when I saw four more coming in from a distance. I figured if I played my cards just right I could double or triple up on my crow harvest.
More times than not, passing on the individual bird nets you zero. With four or five sets of eyes looking for danger, one of those eyes will get a look at you and the whole bunch is gone in a flash. You can call and call but once spotted they will most likely never get back in gun range.
The same can be said if you fire the gun. Once they get educated to gunfire you can call from that same spot again and if you are lucky that spot might work one more time. But after that, the spot is burned and no more crows can be taken from there even if you waited a month or more to go back.
Using the word “smart” to describe a crow is an understatement. For as often as you see them on the road, how many times have you ever seen a dead one from being hit by a car? I have never seen it.
There must not be any young crows where I hunt. You heard the saying “tough as an old crow?” Crows need a solid load of pellets to bring them down, so this is not the time to buy cheap shotgun shells and hope for the best. I use big loads of high speed 7 1/2 shot and still they often don’t fall.
In the time it takes the driver to drive around the section, you will have attracted all the crows that are going to show up to your call regardless of how much longer you would wait. Switch seats and drive to the next spot where the jobs are flip-flopped and now the shooter becomes the driver and another trip around the section takes place allowing the other member of the party to operate the call.
If you can get the proper permission from the land owner, you can set the call on the shoulder of the road near crow roosting spots and stand in the corn field and be hidden from approaching crows. Don’t do this without proper permission.
They make owl and crow decoys, but for as fast as a spot becomes ineffective, the time to set up and take down does not add enough benefit to warrant the extra time and effort, in my opinion.
Dove season opens on September 1, and after that time chasing crows is a stop-if-you-see-them kind of thing. Doves wrapped in bacon on a grill are much more desirable table fare.
The season runs till October 15, so the time to capitalize is now. The season is set according to the migratory bird act of 1913. Some cultures must like them for some reason that I don’t understand.
I don’t want them all gone. But numbers low enough to make the most of our song birds and other bird wildlife would be just right to me.