|Crows use a mixed habitat and being omnivorous, their diet consists of almost anything from seeds, fruits, nuts, insects, mollusks, earthworms, other bird and reptile eggs, nestlings, frogs and mice to garbage and carrion. “Murders” (groups of crows) are often attracted to garbage dumps and their fondness of melons and grain crops is well known. Crows do occasionally help farmers when they eat insects attracted by their crops, especially during large hatches of locust and other crop damaging swarms. Crows can also severely impact the waterfowl populations by eating the eggs and devouring the fledglings. |
During the 1940’s, a biological survey was conducted in the Canadian "Duck Factory" pothole region of Alberta and Saskatchewan that revealed what damage crows can cause to nesting waterfowl. The study revealed that crows in close proximity to duck nesting areas took an average of between 110 to 120 eggs or fledglings per crow per year. That equates to nearly 20,000,000 ducks annually! During that same year, waterfowlers harvested less than 11,000,000 ducks. Due to these finding sportsmen were encouraged to hunt crows and the slogan "Kill A Crow, Save A Duck" became popular with wildlife agencies. Crows are also a major nest predator of upland game birds taking a heavy toll of their offspring each season. Crows will also prey on small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels and under rare circumstances murders of crows have been known to kill larger prey such as deer fawns and newborn lambs.
In the wild, crows can live as long as 6 or 7 years of age, while captive crows have been known to reached 20 years with the oldest recorded living to 30 years of age. Among the “black bandits” natural enemies are owls, primarily the great horned, barred and some of the larger hawks. Crows will often be seen “ganging up on” or "mobbing" an enemy raptor or mammal until it leaves their area. This exhibition of a cooperative defense behavior is an example of the crow’s high intellect. The crow is probably the most intelligent bird on the North American continent and is well known for its ability to detect trouble. Crows will often use a system of guards that observe and sound warnings to all other crows in the area. These sentinels are posted over fields of other feeding crows. Crows will also often send out scouts in advance of feeding forays to ensure the area is free of danger.
Crows are very social and live in family groups of between 2 to 15 birds. However, over the past twenty or so years, the crow population has exploded in the suburban areas around the country, particularly in the North East. Besides “trash day” nuisances by spreading garbage, new health concerns have risen since crows have been identified as carriers of the West Nile Virus, an encephalitis type virus. Crows are prime carriers of the mosquito borne disease because of their highly sensitive nature to the virus and their roosting and communal habits.
As we donned our camouflaged facemasks and gloves and settled back into the blind, my hunting partner asked, “You ready for some ‘land ducks’?” I gave the thumbs-up sign and he turn on the tape. Within minutes several black forms could be spotted gliding just behind a nearby tree line to our right. My partner added a few choruses from his own crow call and the first bird came sailing in. He slowly rose as the crow began quickly flapping his wings in an effort to change direction and gain altitude. A thunderous blast from his well-worn Belgium Auto-5 folded the crow in flight. Before he had even hit the ground, two more bandits were swooping in after the faux owl decoy and I got my first taste of some fast action crow shooting. We ended our shoot with nearly a dozen crows in bag and a promise to do it again, real soon!
For some reason many sportsman scoff or even ridicule the idea of hunting crows, believing, as “game bird” hunters, the dispatching of crows is beneath them. Crow hunting does hold a niche within the hunting and conservation community, and for many of the examples already stated; it should be elevated in stature and even celebrated.
Many more hunters should consider shooting crows as a method of helping and protecting the more glamorous game birds. Crow hunting is also a good method of improving your wingshooting abilities and one could even use a crow hunt as a way to introduce youngsters to hunting. A crow hunt is also a way to work on your dog’s blind manners and retrieving skills.
I have always considered the September southern dove shoots that I regularly attend as my practice for winter ducks; I now have a new way of preparing for the waterfowl season. I don’t believe, however, that I’ll be trying any crow recipes anytime soon!