February 17, 2022
Hunting crows is a longstanding tradition in some parts of the country and not just an opportunistic hunt when in the field. These highly intelligent birds are held in high regard from the hunters who chase them with a passion. Crow hunting is very much like any other hunting obsession, it gets in your blood and never leaves. I was told by a seasoned crow hunter a long time ago that if I wanted to excel at chasing ducks and geese, I needed to start hunting crows and get good at it. He stated that if you could scout and find the flight paths of crows, get underneath them with a great hide, call them into range and kill a consistent number, your days hunting waterfowl would be much easier.
Not Just to Pass the Time
If you are not in the know on the psychology of crows let me help. This whole COVID-19 pandemic has given me time to read and research more on corvids! Crows do not get conditioned like other game birds or predators; they process real-time thoughts and have basic problem-solving skills. They can adapt and change in a current situation when new information is presented to them. This allows them to adapt quickly at what is going on in a predator-prey situation. They have also been shown to possess short-term memories like humans. This would explain why they mark a food location, roost, or even more important, remember where they were targeted by the boogieman! This type of intellect would explain why crows do not come back to your calls for a while in the spot they’ve been shot at. They earmark it and remember what happened there and it takes a while for them to get comfortable going back to that location.
Scouting for crows is essential, but not as intense as chasing other game birds for miles from a roost. You simply need to locate the roost and flight path, get in the general area, and set the trap. Lots of folks have success just after first light, but my “go-to time” to chase them is mid-day between 10am-1pm. I also make sure to not disrupt any roosts by setting up too close to them, so keep that in mind when you hon in on where crows are coming from and where they are heading to.
Setting the Stage
Once at my hunt location I have learned to set up the decoys and caller last after everything else in my blind is set and is hidden out of sight. This is to ensure that all is ready to hunt in case some curious wings come by to take a look, or if there are sentinels high in the trees watching your every move.
This year, I have totally abandoned standing in the trees, or fencerows, or building a remedial blind. Instead, I drag the layout blind that I use for goose hunting to where I want to hunt crows. It sets up in seconds, is easy to carry, and is already grassed up with artificial Raffia grass and natural grass, so I do not have to waste time on hiding. I make sure I pick a high spot to set the layout blind. Sitting at ground level is a disadvantage unless I can watch the horizon and see where the crows are making their approach from.
Crow Hunting Strategy
I have very simple rules for my decoy sets and calling. The 12 Final Approach Fully Flocked crow decoys I put out are in random areas in front of the blind. The farthest being about 25 yards from me. If there is a wind, I make sure to put the decoys off to the upwind side of the blind so as the crows approach the decoys, they must come right past the front of the blind to drop into the fakes. I usually put four or five decoys in a tight cluster around the Lucky Duck Roughneck e-caller and always use a wing off a dead goose to disguise the caller and make it look like the crows are fighting or attacking a bird. Many sounds will pull in crows, including a hawk and crow fight sequence, so experiment for your area.
Remember to always put one or two decoys high in a tree or on an extendable pole. I recently bought a paint roller extension pole from the hardware store that goes up to 16 feet. I put one lookout crow decoy on it and raise it up in some trees. It works great in all situations.
When all is set, I get in the blind, facemask up, load the Federal High Bird and start with the “Lone Crow” sound on the e-caller. Once I run that call for a few minutes I go into “Crow Gathering”. This is what starts stirring the pot and soon after I have a good flight of birds heading my way. A good thing to keep in mind when running the e-caller and certain sounds, is to fluctuate the volume up and down. Like hunting any predators, the heightened sounds of feeding, fighting or despair, fire up these critters and provokes a quick reaction.
Make Your Shot Count
The key on choosing your shots at this time is important. If there is a group of ten to twenty crows circling, I shoot the first one or two that come into range and try and get a third or close my layout blind doors fast enough to turn on “Crow Fighting” in the hopes that some will come back for a look or to help their fallen friends. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not, but it is worth a shot. It once worked for me three times in a row, and I ended up pulling six crows out of that bunch. It was hot there for about ten minutes straight!
I can honestly say the layout blind has not only changed the way I hunt crows but also the places I can hunt crows. I am now able to lay in the blind in a pasture with some brush lines or fencerows where I could never hunt them before. These birds have never had pressure in these locations and are not expecting you to pop out of a layout blind on the ground. The key things to remember are to keep your head still in the blind and only move your eyes when birds are coming. Make sure your hat is the right camo for the surroundings and use a facemask to stay covered and concealed. The best thing about the Roughneck caller is that I have my hot buttons on the side of the remote programmed with the four sounds that I use most often, allowing me to go through a sequence of calls without even looking at the buttons or the remote. This is a major advantage as I don’t even need to move my hands in the blind fumbling for a setting on the e-caller’s remote.
Don’t be scared to try to eat them—we hear they are delicious! Also, check your local seasons; don’t assume because they are considered a pest that it is open season. Crows are protected migratory birds, so read your state’s regulations before heading out!
If you enjoy calling predators and getting them close, then get on ground level and chase some crows using a layout blind. This will extend your bird hunting season and keep your skills sharp for when your next waterfowl season comes in.