Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Summer crows a bigger challenge than ever

Back when I started crow

hunting, there were few

er hunters, the bird numbers were busting all historical
records, and most crows were decoy dumb and less hunter-savvy.

This made for some outstanding gunning whenever you fired up a
calling machine from a mid-summer cornfield or tree line ambush
point.

State crow seasons help control bird numbers and provide
additional shooting opportunities for hunters. Since their first
exposure to shotguns, the adult crow population has become educated
to the ways and means of the crow hunter. That leaves hunters
encountering changes in bird behavior directly related to the time
of year they see hunters.

July birds provide especially tough hunting.

For a long time, getting out and gunning those opening day crows
meant seeing some spectacular action. With the caller running,
birds would dive into gunning range from every direction. Keeping a
shotgun magazine loaded was an almost impossible task.

But soon, that picture started to change. These birds have long
life spans, and those lucky enough to dodge the deadly flak
returned home to tell the tale of close encounters with two-legged
animals and big, fire-bellowing sticks.

Now most adult birds, some in the 14 years-plus age-range, know
what not to do when they hear an owl crow fight. Those first days
of July summer hunting seasons mean young birds remain near the
roost. High-flying adults stay well out of shotgun range and drift
almost among the summer clouds to view the ruckus below.

I have had summer hunts during the past several years in July
that didn’t yield a single bird for three or four calling stands.
Crows will sit off on a distant tree line and send the three-caw
distress call back toward my calling machine. That three-call
signal spells empty skies.

But August is the time for serious shooting.

In only a matter of a few weeks and into August, the picture
changes in terms of calling crows to the shotgun muzzle. Young
birds have become teenagers, and all teens (regardless of species)
know more than their parents, and they’ll invariably strike out on
their own. This leaving of the safety of the clan brings August
into line as the best crow gunning month of the summer.

Young birds, while paying little attention to the adult birds,
will drive hard into the scatter gun’s kill zone while searching
for the hawk, owl, or even coyote call that has caused other crow
voices (on tape) to plead for help. These birds make outstanding
targets, and a morning’s shoot can total 25 or 30 birds.

Not only do young birds react to the calls, but often an adult
bird will turn back a young bird knowing that it has crossed into
that deadly air space of scatter gun shooting. I have observed
adult birds roll out of a steep dive right behind a young bird in
an attempt to block off the teenager’s entry route. Usually, the
adult and juvenile get caught up in the pattern and now two birds,
or more, come to bag.

The August system becomes so deadly that I will often set up my
decoys upwind of feeding birds, and by working my calling machine,
a Johnny Stewart tape playing system with a factory-installed super
amplifier selector in a varied sound level mode, pull in birds by
twos and threes an hour. I can’t emphasize enough the need for a
good calling machine. I can call by mouth some of the time, but
rest assured the tape calling that makes use of hurt crows, owl and
crow fights, along with dozens of other tapes is the real way to
take on the black, fast-moving targets.

Attention to detail

Summer crow hunting offers hunters the chance to use a deep,
ground cover environment. Now the brush and trees are in full leaf
growth, and using proper camo, you can literally disappear into the
green carpet below an incoming target. Each year I test camo
patterns for fall waterfowl, deer, and varmint work during my crow
hunting. If it passes the crow test it will suffice on game animals
during the months ahead. Patterns like the newer Natural Gear (NAT)
and Farmland (Goose View Industries) fit open field gunning, rock
quarries, and clear-cuts. Established camo like Mossy Oak Break-Up,
and Realtree Advantage Timber are always solid choices. Even the
standard Army issue forest green camo will get the job done under
many types of ground cover conditions.

Use head gear, gloves, and shotgun covers if you want to pull
targets into close range. Even those young birds can spot the wrong
thing in that green ground cover below. Let them observe your face,
a glint of a watch, or exposed hand, and expect a target to buzz
well out of gunning range quickly.

Family groups

You won’t see large flocks of crows during the first months of
summer. During this time, Minnesota retains thousands upon
thousands of five- to seven-bird family groups scattered through
the state. Often the past year’s young will still hang around the
family group, and this can bring a single family up to nine birds.
Using the “shoot and scoot” method will pull in these spaced-out
groups of birds, but if the lazy hunter using a common tape machine
(boom box) just sits on his tailgate on a dirt road, write that
area off. That is just how volatile the birds have become within
the past several years. One hunter with marginal calls and no
patience can destroy quality hunting in a whole county in a matter
of days.

Each summer I head north and spend a full week hunting crows via
my electric calling equipment, a scatter gun, and decoys. In most
cases my day ends by mid morning because the birds don’t take well
to open country feeding and the hot direct sun. If you’re going to
hunt summer birds, start early because the first three hours of the
day are definitely the very best.

Evening calling can be productive, and if I’m not fishing by
then, I will head out for the last couple of hours of daylight to
pull in a single or two over my calling machine.

What I do with all those crows? Several farmers provide me
access for hunting, and they’ll take them for cats and hogs, so the
birds don’t go to waste. I will always try to recover my kills.

Want some training work for a dog? Crows can make for some
interesting time afield with your canine hunting buddy. My golden
retriever Lakota knows the crow game and is always eager to search
the tangled summer swamp bottoms for a downed bird.

Hunting summer crows is a great way to keep a sharp edge with
your shooting skills, and if that’s not the goal, just hanging out
in the great outdoors is ample reward for most of us.

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