It is hard to strike up any serious conversation amongst other hunters when you ask them to try crow hunting….just not something many people take seriously. They are not the sexiest bird out there and no one dreams of dogs pointing them or their set wings over open water. Add to that the mystique about crows in general and it is easy to see why this fascinating and exciting bird is overlooked as a game bird by so many.
Crow hunting should really appeal to all waterfowl hunters. You get to wear the cool big kid camo head to toe, you get to use decoys (big kid toys), you use calls to lure them in (a technical element that gives us something to brag about) and the action can be fast and heavy nearly every outing (something most of us waterfowl hunters can only dream about).
Hunting the mysterious black bandit is a late season paradise for those of us who literally need the aid of support groups to make it to the spring turkey season. They are likely the most intelligent bird in North America (my apologies to the Starling) and will try the skills and patience of the most veteran hunter. Yet anyone can pursue these critters and have instant success with very little output in terms of equipment. For die hard varmint hunters like me…crows were a natural progression.
Crows live in tight family units of usually a handful of birds or more. These family units tend to bond with other crow families forming large groups (known as a murder of crows). They are most easily found in the morning on their roosting sights where as many as several hundred or more may roost in trees in perfect safety from predators. As morning comes, they begin to leave the roost in smaller groups heading to feeding grounds along a consistent flight path. Feeding grounds may be anything from a picked corn field to a freshly hayed meadow. Crows will eat just about anything.
I like to find areas either near a roost site or along the boundaries of a flight path (zone between feeding and roosting areas). In this area, once I have obtained landowner permission, I generally will find an open field with loafing trees (trees crows will roost in while loafing throughout the day) and will set up my decoy spread of 6-8 crows. Being smart critters, crows can read a spread like a book. If your decoys are not agreeing with your calling, you will see crows flare as they get closer to your spread and leave. If your calls are of a crow-owl fight then have an owl in your decoys. I usually like to have them in trees or on fences with the crows always higher than the owl. On the other hand, if trying to simulate a crow party, then I like to have decoys spread out on the ground in a feeding pattern with one or two sentry decoys in a nearby tree keeping watch. The sentry is very important as no self respecting murder of crows would have a party without a bouncer nearby!
Hand calls work well if you know what and what not to say. Crow hunting is a lot like your first date. Say one thing wrong and the party is over. The infamous “caw”, when noted in the correct sequence, means a great deal to the crow. For example, give a blast of three caaaw, caaaw, caaaws in a row and the hunt is over as this is the warning cry that will send these birds packing.
A great call to know is the four caaaaw, caaaw, caaaw, caaaw sequence blown enthusiastically that should bring crows your direction. It alerts them that something is going on and they need to come to you. Once they turn your way, let them come. A host of crow calls can be easily made using the current round of e-callers on the market that can give you the realism of a crow fight, crow and owl fight, dying or injured crow, etc. These can all be used to bring more birds into your set up. You can start with high volume but these birds can hear very well so back the volume down as they come in or you are likely to spook them. Once you have called some crows in and the gunfire begins, keep calling as they will often roost in a tree for a moment and come right back. Once they leave the area, you can often times wait out a few more birds and call another group or two in…just be careful you don’t over stay your welcome if you want to use this location again. Crows learn fast.
Any pheasant gun you currently own works perfect for crows. They are tough birds but any 12 or 20 gauge with a light to moderate load of #6-#8 shot will work well with #71/2 shot being perfect using modified choke. They are a big bird but not as fast as doves so leading them just past the beak will generally result in a folded bird every time.
The old crow has been villainized for centuries. Hated by most yet respectfully pursued by only a small few. The hunt they provide can be more fun than a day at Disney World and they offer a spectacular opportunity to expand your hunting during what many hunters consider the “off season.” Their numbers are plentiful and they are more of a challenge than any game bird you are likely to meet. They also can make a mean stir fry for those with distinctive culinary senses!
Get Em’ Out There