Anyone who knows me will not be surprised at all that I have another obsession. And this time, it is all about crows. I went on my first crow hunt in mid-January, and I could not wait to get back in the woods to take on another hunt with these incredible birds. However, this new infatuation is not just about hunting crows, it is about anything and everything to do with crows.
I guess you could say that I was first charmed by crows at a very young age, watching one of my all-time favorite cartoons: Heckle and Jeckle, the two lookalike crows who were always up to mischief. This may be where my rambunctious nature took root. Their names perfectly depicted their behavior as they took on the best characters, even my beloved Bugs Bunny! However, while I was researching about crows, I learned that Heckle and Jeckle were actually magpies, which are in the crow family along with about 120 other species. Nonetheless, I loved their antics and shenanigans outwitting the other characters they came in contact with.
Later, I was held spellbound watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds as an incredibly large flock of aggressive crows massed near a playground full of children. The resulting frenzy created such chaos that the children were led out of the area, most running and screaming to get away. Whew! Seeing the kids being attacked by those birds was certainly terrifying!
Crows have long made fascinating subjects for many writers. A poetic term for a bunch of crows is a “murder”—who knew? It is really just a flock, but poets have all that poetic license, right? Folklore passed down from generation to generation has provided us with a lot of great sayings, and most of us have no idea where they originated. One of those sayings is “as the crow flies” and is said to have begun back in the days of sail, when sailors carried crows on their ships and then released them when they thought they might be close to land. The theory was that these intelligent birds would take the most direct route to solid ground.
Another well-known saying is “something to crow about,” and this one may have ties to loud, boisterous talking. Nothing that I do, of course! Besides all the great sayings and folklore, there is so much more interesting things to discuss, such as hunting crows and why it is important. Those of us who often hunt at first light know that the first sound we’re likely to hear in the woods is the calls of crows. They seem to relish the opportunity to pierce the silence with their shrill and relentless caw-caw-caw! And then it starts . . . Flying high along the treetops, the scouts start their day strategizing where they will get their next meal. That’s where the importance of hunting comes in.
I’ve learned that crows have a high metabolism with all their activity, and they are constantly looking for food. Crows are particularly annoying when you are hunting turkeys. There is a long-standing hatred between turkeys and crows. The crows swoop and harass the hens, hoping to gain access to their nests so that they can raid their eggs. Crows have had a huge impact on many gamebirds, including quail and ducks, with their aggressive tactics to rob the eggs, and are even guilty of killing poults. Farmers have long put up with crows ripping young sprouts out of the fields, resulting in damage to many acres of crops.
For those who are not acquainted with crow hunting, there is a season for crows in South Carolina, which starts in November and ends March 1. You need a valid license for small game to hunt crows, but since they are not considered gamebirds—unlike, for example, turkeys and ducks—there are no bag limits or restrictions against using electronic calls in our state. Hunting crows is certainly not easy, and I can personally attest to that. Being of a competitive nature, I certainly felt humbled as I got my tail whooped more than once hunting these birds.
- Camouflage is #1. Crows are not only intelligent, but they also have excellent eyesight.
- Hunt in short, thick pine trees instead of tall pines—the coverage will help keep you out of sight and make the shots closer as the crows fly above the treetops at whatever height they may be.
- Wind can alter your hunt, since the crows may not hear the calls as well in windy conditions.
- Let the first birds go by without shooting, and wait for the second wave.
- Don’t set up too close to your previous location. These birds are smart and wise up quickly to your calls, and you may be calling the same birds.
“Eating Crow” (No recipe follows):
I honestly didn’t think everyone would flock to dinner knowing I was serving crow; so instead, I tried to trace back the origin of this very popular saying. One such origin written by World Wide Words offered this explanation, as well as others:
An article published in the Atlanta Constitution in 1888 claims that, toward the end of the War of 1812, an American went hunting and by accident crossed behind the British lines, where he shot a crow. He was caught by a British officer, who, complimenting him on his fine shooting, persuaded him to hand over his gun. This officer then leveled his gun and said that as a punishment, the American must take a bite of the crow. The American obeyed, but when the British officer returned his gun he took his revenge by making him eat the rest of the bird.
After digesting that awful thought of consuming a raw crow, I hope you have enjoyed my crow article and hope that you look at these birds with a new level of interest. I know I will continue to be fascinated by these amazing birds!
Maggie is a Hunt Staff Member of Prois
As written for Waccamaw Outdoors Magazine, March 2018 Issue