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Crow Hunting with Airguns

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Author Jim Chapman

Crow Hunting with an Airgun

Crows are usually black with black beaks and legs, but they can also be black with white, gray, or brown coloring. The common crow is approximately 20 - 30 cm long, with a wingspan of 40 to 60 cm.. American Crows commonly vocalize by making the familiar "caw-caw" sound but also have a large collection of rattles, clicks, and even clear bell-like notes. These corvids range all over North America, and one species or another can be found just about anywhere. They thrive in mountains, deserts, woodlands, across plains and farmers' fields, and throughout urban areas. While they are raising their young, crows are not very gregarious creatures. However, they are migratory, and will assemble in large flocks in the fall, to travel south.

Crows are omnivorous - they will eat just about anything remotely edible. Their regular diet includes animal and vegetable matter, insects, crops (especially corn), and occasionally the eggs or young of other birds. They normally roost in the fall and winter, with their numbers peaking in winter and then decrease near the beginning of the breeding season (usually in March). It appears that all crows will join winter roosts, even territorial breeding crows. Most breeding crows sleep on their territories during the breeding season, but join the roosts afterward.

Although not technically a "migratory game bird" hunting is regulated, but these birds can be hunted in many states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extend regulations to the hunting of "migratory game birds, and crows." The Act allows states the rights to establish hunting seasons on crows. States are allowed to set their own seasons, bag limits, and methods of taking crows subject to state fish and game laws, so you should check local regulations to ascertain if an air gun is legal where you intend to hunt. States that do have a crow season generally do not have a bag limit on crows.

In addition to hunting, crows may be taken (i.e., shot) without a permit in certain circumstances. USFWS 50 CFR 21.43 (Depredation order for blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles, crows and magpies) states that a Federal permit is not required to control these birds "when found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance " Provided: a) that none of the birds killed or their parts are sold or offered for sale. b) That anyone exercising the privileges granted by this section shall permit any Federal or State game agent free and unrestricted access over the premises where the operations have been or are conducted and will provide them with whatever information required by the officer. c) That nothing in the section authorizes the killing of such birds contrary to any State laws and that the person needs to possess whatever permits as may be required by the State.

Crows are exceedingly alert and wary game, and they are very tough and can be hard to kill. It can be difficult to penetrate the breastbone, so for maximum penetration and a clean kill target an inch lower than center of the chest. Headshots are effective, but as it is a small and constantly moving target not always a viable option in the field. One tactic is to pick a smaller caliber of .177 or .20 matched with a heavyweight round nose pellet in a moderately high powered rifle and stick to headshots, they penetrate as well as a pointed pellet and are more accurate. Conversely, a larger caliber such as a .25 or 9 mm fired through a very high powered PCP works very well, and gives the hunter a little more latitude when it comes to shot selection.

Crows are most often found at their feeding places, grouping areas and roosts later in the afternoon and as darkness falls. So setting up a blind and using a decoy can be quite productive. One technique that I have used is to place a dead rabbit in an area that crows frequent, and setting up an ambush using my portable blind. It can also be helpful to place a dead crow from an earlier hunt next to the rabbit as a decoy. I had a friend who used to keep a couple of dead crows and rabbits in his freezer for just this purpose. Crows like to feed on corn and legumes, so you will find them in these fields and granaries as long as there is food available. Check with local farmers, as they will often have a good idea where you should set up your blind, and often they are happy to thin the crow population. Most experienced crow hunters will point to the necessity to remain well hidden. Crows are on of the most intelligent quarry that can be hunted, and will pick up a poorly camouflaged hunter very quickly. Wear good camo clothing, which blends with the hiding area, and make sure that you are obscured from vision above and behind as well as front and sides. I not only camouflage myself, but my gun when after the crow. You should pick an area to set up in with a good covering of trees and a food source nearby where you can lay decoys. In Southern California I often hunted crows in the eucalyptus trees used as wind breaks around the orange groves.

The hit and run technique can be used effectively even in territory that you are unfamiliar with. With this method, hunters drive through the countryside searching for small bands of feeding or calling crows. A quick blind is constructed and the calling begins. I have been told by experienced crow hunters that they will start out using a Fight or Distress sequence of calls. One can also combine calling with decoying. This method has the advantage of being flexible and allows the hunter to locate and hunt different groups of crows once an individual group becomes clued in on the hunt. With this type of setup an air gun hunter can often score a few birds before he has to move on. This method can be very effective in areas with large tracts of farmland or big parcels of public land. For this method to yield good results the hunter must be able to quickly get in, set up, shoot and move to a new area. It is imperative to cover the maximum amount of ground covered per day. If you are hunting public land, try to find areas that allow vehicle traffic such as logging roads. This will allow you to jump to new areas quickly. Depending on the terrain, you may need to move a mile or more between sites. When hunting in farming areas, always remember to get permission before entering private property.

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