Stephen D. Carpenteri, Game & Fish
It’s a good bet that you can step outdoors anywhere in the state and before long you hear the tell-tale cawing of a distant crow. These easy-to-identify scavengers can be one of the most challenging of all federally regulated game birds. Hunt crows any way but seriously and you discover just how difficult they are to fool.
CROW BEHAVIOR 101
Understand from the start that crows are among the most intelligent, alert and sophisticated of all game birds. They have a language all their own, they understand the power of numbers against their enemies and their senses are finely tuned. A crow that sees a hunter is one that will never be shot, and a crow that has been shot at and missed will alert his brethren for miles around.
To successfully hunt these birds, every outing must be planned and executed to perfection or there will be no shooting. It often requires the stealth of a trophy deer hunter to fool these black-feathered rascals, but skilled hunters routinely kill dozens – sometimes hundreds – of crows in a single morning.
All one needs to successfully hunt crows is a shotgun, a pocket full of shells and a hand-held crow call. Electronic calls are available as well, but not necessary.
Although crows may be found in back yards and city parks, the best hunting will be found near rural farmland. Enter wooded areas bordering crop fields or pastures as inconspicuously as possible, avoiding open areas. Wear drab clothing because crows can see color, and wear camouflage gloves and a facemask.
Do not call in advance. Doing so simply alerts the birds to your presence and the net result will be a lot of calling back and forth, but no shooting. Wait until you are concealed in a blind, behind a blow down or hidden by trees and brush.
Set a few crow decoys on the ground or in nearby trees for added appeal. Long-furred animal skins or hawk or owl decoys also attract crows. Set your decoys about 15 yards from your position to divert the birds’ attention away from you. Only when you are completely set up should you begin calling.
Crows utter a variety of calls, but one calling sequence hunters must never use is a rapid “caw-caw-caw” of three notes in rapid succession. This is the universal danger signal to crows. Instead, utter two, four, five or even six long, languid “caws,” which crows interpret as “Come look. I’ve found something interesting!”
The most realistic calls are made with hand-held calls constructed of wood. P.S. Olt, Lohman Game Calls and other manufacturers offer good-quality crow calls for under $10.
To make your call sound more like a real crow, practice uttering a soft groan in the back of your throat as you call. This creates the deep-throated sound of a “boss” crow and will bring more birds to your shooting site. You can simply blow on a call and get by with the high-pitched, anxious call of a young crow, but to get the attention of large flocks, it’s important to sound like a big, bad boss crow!
In most cases, you will get an immediate response from at least one crow “scout,” and this is where your hunt will be won or lost. That first bird must be downed or he will fly back to the flock and warn them. Alerted crows will not come to your call no matter how big and bad you may sound!
Call loudly at first and be prepared to shoot when you hear that first bird coming your way. Crows, like most predatory scavengers, are masters at locating the source of sounds. There’s no need to continue calling once the initial bird heads your way. That first bird may soar overhead, circle lazily or swoop in from any direction, so be prepared to shoot quickly and accurately.
Crows come in just over the treetops, where No. 6 or 8 shot in a modified barrel will bring them down.
When you have killed that first incomer, continue calling in the same sequence, but never three caws! Just add some urgency. The other crows in the flock saw that first bird go down and will come in as a loosely organized mob (or “murder of crows” according to Webster’s) to see what’s going on. Stay hidden, keep calling and drop your birds as they come into range. In most cases, you’ll wish you had brought more ammunition!
This article was contributed by Game & Fish, a publication of Intermedia Outdoors. Visit http://www.gameandfishmag.com/ for more useful articles.