Asheville – It’s hard to believe we’re less than two months away from the regular hunting season. Time flies when you’re quarantined. I know there’s a lot of folks itching for the opening day of dove season which is Saturday, September 5th this year. Like me you are probably getting in a round of sporting clays now and then just to keep from getting rusty. There is something that can sharpen your shotgun skills even more. Shooting live targets. Not only that, but landowners will welcome you. Let’s go crow hunting. I try to get some in over the summer and you should too.
Most farmers or landowners consider them pests. That’s the welcoming part. But despite that status, they are regulated. Don’t ask me why, but crows are considered a migratory, non-game species by the Wildlife Resources Commission. Yes, there is a season on crows and it started on June 1st. Despite the fact there are no bag limits, you can only hunt them three days a week: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Here is my preferred method which has given me success in the past.
If you have ever been around crows you know they are smart and very wary. They will not fall for just any setup. Crows are difficult to pass shoot, typically flying 40 yards or higher, so you need something to bring them into range. I use two complementary tools: decoys and calling. After I’ve gotten permission to hunt I find a hayfield or pasture with an adjacent tree line for a hide position. I get out there just before daylight. Crows are early risers and start moving shortly after sunrise. I put eight to 10 crow decoys in an irregular pattern in the field 25 to 30 yards away from the tree line. This is where the calling comes in.
The simplest method and most cost-effective is a mouth call. They do work. But I’ve come to swear by electronic calls. I use the FoxPro Wildfire and alternate between the fighting and dying crow calls. You cannot replicate multiple crows with a mouth call. I don’t know what it is in the nature of crows, but they love a fight. Every time I use the fighting crow call it works like a magnet. Last year a friend and I set up as described on a field south of Asheville. Once the call was on the crows flocked to the field we were in. In thirty minutes of shooting we bagged eighteen crows. We did that several times over the summer with the same success. It works.
Here are some other things you need to keep in mind. Drag out the deer hunting gear and put on your camouflage clothing. I’m talking head to toe. As mentioned before crows are wary not just of humans, but of any movement. Camo helps mask the move to shoot. That’s another reason we set up in a tree line. The trees provide overhead cover and break up our human profile as well as conceal movement when we stand to shoot. The decoys, calls, and camouflage are all components that work in conjunction to produce a successful hunt.
To add to that success you need the right shotgun and ammo combination. Along with their wariness, crows are also hard to bring down. First, even using decoys you are still looking at a typical shot of 30 – 40 yards. Any 12 gauge shotgun with a modified choke is good medicine. I use my waterfowl semi-auto because of its camo pattern. My preference when it comes to shotshell loads is a high-velocity #6 or 7 ½. Anything smaller might lead to crippling shots. Yeah, high-velocity shells cost more but there are some out there that are $2 – 3 dollars more than standard field loads. It will be worth it, believe me. So if you want some challenging live-action shooting before the dove opener, get out and call in some crows! It’s great practice for the upcoming season and fun to boot. You can also practice physical distancing while you’re outdoors. It’s a winning situation. Crow season ends in late February.
Background photograph by Benjamin Balázs