A lot of people ask me, “Why would anybody hunt crows?” I usually answer. “It’s fun.” Hunting crows is a great way to polish your wing-shooting skills for duck or dove season, and it is pure fun.
One hunting buddy calls crow hunting, “redneck duck hunting.” It is somewhat like duck hunting in that calling, decoys and being well hidden are involved in both. After a few trips, some hunters might find it is more enjoyable at times than duck hunting. It can be done after other seasons have closed in late winter, but it can also be done in warmer weather, just make sure you check your state’s regulations. And there’s normally more shooting action that duck hunters get.
Lonnie Ray Harris of Thurmond, N.C., is a hard-core crow hunter. He has been hunting crows for nearly 30 years, during which time he has honed his techniques.
“I remember when I started crow hunting, I had nothing but a shotgun and a hand call, and if we killed four or five crows we had a big hunt,” he said.
Last year, Harris and three friends killed more than 80 crows on one hunt last year. Clearly, he has learned some things over the years. Here a few of them.
Hunters can use a hand-held call, but nothing compares to electronic calls for hunting crows. Harris said you can’t imitate 20 crows calling and a hawk whistling at the same time with three or four hunters blowing crow calls. He uses an old Johnny Stewart cassette caller, although he is looking to get one of the newer, digital electronic calls on the market. The advantage of the newer calls are they are more compact and can be operated with a wireless remote.
Harris said a caller needs plenty of volume, so a call with a large speaker or speakers is the one downside to electronic calls. Also, most with enough volume to be effective are fairly expensive. If you are on a budget, the older, cassette callers can be found used fairly inexpensively. Harris uses several different call sequences on his caller, but he said the crow/hawk fight is one of his favorite.
Other than an electronic caller, decoys are responsible for Harris improving his hunting success more than any other piece of gear. As many decoys as you can comfortably carry is fine; you can’t have too many, said Harris, who uses a mesh decoy bag to carry his fakes. Most of the time, he puts most of them on the ground, 2 or 3 feet apart, along with a few in smaller trees in the setup area to mimic lookouts.
As in real estate, it’s all about being in the right place before you setup to call. Harris said his favorite is a high knoll in short, young pine trees. The highest ground around is best because if you are in a low spot, the crows probably will come in too high to give you good shots. A high ridge in a 2- to 4-year-old clear-cut can also be a good place to setup. Both of these types of terrain offer concealment and the advantage of being high, so crows don’t come in too high.
But sometimes you have to make do with what you’ve got. Harris has had good hunts in other types of areas, but he always seeks out the highest ground he can and stays as concealed as possible.
Being concealed is of utmost importance. Crows have very keen eyesight and can spot you and quickly turn before getting into shotgun range. Harris recommends dressing like a turkey hunter: in full camo with a head net and gloves. Any good camo will work fine as long as it blends in to your surroundings.
Guns and ammo
Harris said crows can be taken with almost any shotgun and load. He uses a 12-gauge Remington 11-87 in full camo — which helps in staying hidden — and he uses 2¾-inch shells delivering a 1¼-ounce load of No. 6 shot. He has used everything from No. 4 shot to No. 7½ shot but has settled on No. 6 shot as a happy medium. Crows are fairly large birds and although most hunters prefer 12-gauge guns, for young hunters or those who are sensitive to recoil, a 20-gauge shotgun will work. A 1-ounce load of No. 6 or No. 7½ will work fine, although hunters may want to refrain from taking longer shots.
Crow hunting is a great sport for off season wing shooting, is a lot of fun and will definitely make you a better wingshot.