Early Crows

I was sitting on a friend's patio last week, when a crow fell to the ground just outside his property fence. Normally, I like to see crows fall to the ground, but I usually have a shotgun in hand. This time it was the last juvenile leaving a nest and apparently a slow learner. Eventually, it fluttered off towards a nearby creek with a parent squawking encouragement nearby.

That was a significant event because it marked the week when crow nests empty around here and the time when the black bandits begin to flock into large roosts. Until now, crow hunting has been a run-and-gun affair, with short calling stands and no more than a half-dozen potential targets responding at one sitting. It's hit and miss but at least it's hunting. Even though the tallies don't get high, it's lots of fun and helps keep the crow population in check.

A friend whose wife is a biologist tells me crows are deadly on nesting ducks. Apparently they will sit in trees overlooking marshlands and watch for a duck to fly up out of the grasses. When they see this, it's a good bet what they're seeing is a duck leaving the eggs briefly to get food and/or water. With a potential nest location spotted, the crow will swoop in and eat whatever is found in the nest, be it eggs or hatchlings. That kind of intelligent hunting is, of course, typical for crows; probably the smartest bird in North American air space.

But like all animals, crows have a weak spot. For them it's the inability to resist a good fight and that's what will draw them into shotgun range. In my run-and-gun shooting I've been using an e-caller with various crow sounds, including ones that simulate fights with owls and hawks. I set up in the shade at the edge of some trees, set the caller and some decoys out in the open where the crows can see and "attack" it.

An owl decoy on the ground with a couple of crow decoys above it serves to hold their interest when they respond to the sound of a fight. This year I've been mounting the crow decoys on a homemade metal bracket fastened to the top of a Leupold Trek Pod II . This gives me only three decoys and an e-caller to stuff into a pack. With a shotgun on a sling and a Trek Pod hiking staff in hand, walking in, setting up and then reversing the process, after the hunt is easy. I'll keep using the Trek Pod when I start working roosts that will begin developing soon, as it gives me the ability to put decoys in visible spots where there are no trees.

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