Winter challenge of hunting crows
By Andrea Haas
Late winter is often seen as “down time” and the end of most hunting seasons; however, there’s one bird often overlooked that you should add to your lineup – crows. While crows are listed as a nongame bird since they are hunted as a nuisance animal instead of for consumption, don’t underestimate this very intelligent and challenging bird to hunt.
I have been hunting crows for about four years now, but I admit when I first heard there was such a thing as “crow hunting,” I thought it just sounded like the craziest thing to do. My opinion changed when I shot my first crow. Now crow season is something I look forward to every year, and is actually one of my favorite hunting seasons that my home state of Missouri has to offer.
Why Crow Hunt?
In regards to crow hunting, it seems that most people are how I was initially. They find it to be a little weird and wonder what the purpose of it is. Aside from it being a blast, crow hunting can be beneficial from a conservation standpoint.
Crows have been known to break open and eat waterfowl eggs, attack ducklings and destroy upland bird nests. Crows can also be highly destructive to crops! There are often hundreds to even thousands of crows (depending on the area) that congregate near crops and farming areas, so you can see how easily that many crows could become a nuisance and cause significant crop damage.
‘Tis The Season
While you can hunt crows during the fall in most states, crow season often extends as late as February or March. Some states offer one continuous season and others are split into two different seasons. Fall is such a busy time of the year for most people, and as a hunter, there are so many options that our time is usually spread thin! That’s why crow season extending so late is great – an option when most other hunting seasons have closed.
Check your local regulations as each state varies. Most states will probably only require you to have a small game permit, which is usually pretty cheap. Often there is no daily or possession limits on crows.
Right Time, Right Place
Morning hunts are best, when the crows are feeding. I have noticed we don’t get much action past about 10 in the morning. Start by scouting for a good location of crow feeding areas near crops or cattle feeders.
Also scout for multiple hunting areas. If you have a good shoot at one location, I’d wait at least a few weeks before hunting that same location again. Crows have a very good memory and you don’t want to educate them too much and burn out a spot.
If you don’t have places to hunt, ask some of the farmers in your area if you can hunt on their place. I’m sure some would be more than happy to let you, and you never know if that could turn into other hunting opportunities in the future as well.
Crows have very good eyesight. You’ll want to make sure you are wearing camouflage that matches your surroundings and for the time of year. A camouflage gun also helps, but isn’t a must if you have the right setup.
Set up along fencerows or tree lines near the feeding areas. You can make a blind out of surrounding trees and shrubs, but this will need to be done ahead of time. I also like to set up where the crows will be flying over from behind me instead of flying toward me so I’m less likely to be spotted.
You’ll want about a dozen stationary crow decoys. While a decoy with movement like a MOJO crow decoy is not required, it really helps give the crows something to focus on when flying over other than you, and will be more likely to bring more crows into shooting range.
Spread the decoys out on the ground about 40 yards from your setup. If there are trees next to your setup, place one in a tree as well to simulate a “scout” or “lookout” crow.
An electronic call like the Primos Alpha Dogg works great for crow hunting. Crow frenzy and crow pair calls work great at the feeding sites we hunt. And make sure you have plenty of batteries!
Crows can be called into shooting range pretty easily with an electronic caller and a good decoy spread. Face the caller in the same area as your decoy spread with the speakers pointing in the direction you think the crows will be coming from.
Start calling with the volume a little lower at first. As the hunt progresses and it seems like less crows are coming in, you can then turn the volume up to reach crows that are farther away and may not have heard you previously calling. You can also try a predator call toward the end of your hunt, like a distressed rabbit, to call in more crows.
I prefer an auto-loading 12-gauge shotgun, like my Browning Maxus. A modified choke for your shotgun works well. If you aren’t hunting over decoys, then the crows will probably be flying farther away and you may want to consider a full choke for that scenario.
Crows are tough birds and seem to have nine lives, so I use the same loads for crows as I do for pheasant hunting, usually a 6 shot. These have worked well for me while crow hunting and I usually don’t have to shoot the same crow multiple times.
Don’t shoulder your gun until you are ready to shoot. Crows have very good eyesight and will often spot you raising your gun and fly off in the opposite direction faster than you can shoot. Try to wait until the last possible second to raise your gun and shoot.
You’ll need to lead the crows a little bit, but not too much. Crows actually fly a lot slower than you would think. And watch the crows on the ground. They seem to come back to life sometimes, so if you see one hopping around, stop your hunt and go shoot it. Otherwise you will never see it again.
Crows will send out a “scout,” which is usually a single crow that flies over your decoy spread to check things out and let the others know it’s safe to fly in. If you shoot at the scout, you better get it!
I know there are mixed opinions on whether or not shooting the scout effects your hunt. From what we have seen, if you shoot at the scout and miss, it becomes educated and you are less likely to get the other crows to come into your setup.
Because crows are often considered a nuisance, I feel they may have a reputation as being an unintelligent bird. I have learned from hunting crows over the years that they are a very challenging bird to hunt and possibly one of the most intelligent birds I have hunted. They are smart, alert and have a memory like no other.
Each crow hunt has to be planned and executed almost perfectly in order to be successful. If you’ve never crow hunted before, use these tips and give it a try this year! I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it is and you may even be humbled by the experience.
Andrea Haas is from the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. She is the founder of Huntress View, a blog designed to encourage women to get involved in hunting, shooting and the outdoors. She is pro staff for Browning Trail Cameras and HuntVault.