Pheasants are sparse unless released on wildlife areas, quail even scarcer, and ruffed grouse darn near extinct in many counties. Which means you can find game only on preserves most days or head for places like Iowa and South Dakota for wing shooting. There's one alternative though, seeking a bird that's here in many thousands, is sporty and a hard flier, and can be found in every county of the state. That's crows.
Readers might be surprised to hear that there's actually a season on these wary, black pound to pound and a half birds, June 1 through March 2, but there's no limit so you can shoot as many as you want on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only... And they do need some shooting. Not only are there untold numbers of these feathered rascals out there, but they cause plenty of damage. Dozens or hundreds like to gather in one place as witness various downtown park areas where their droppings require frequent washings of park benches, etc. They're omnivorous too, willing to eat almost anything they can swallow, and that means baby birds and eggs in the nest of many species that can't afford the loss.
Farmers dislike them because they love to walk down corn rows and pull the just sprouted seedlings to eat the kernel below, and they're guilty of other depredations as well. So, finding some is no problem at all, and there are several ways to bag a dozen or a hundred. They like to roost in good numbers in a specific woodlot here and there, so following a few to their nighttime home will turn up a roost without much trouble. Then you post yourself along their route to and from feeding areas, maybe in a fencerow or thicket, and pass shoot them as they fly by.
A method that I've tried more than once is to find a place where they're feeding, then with permission for a hunt, set up a great horned owl of plastic or Styrofoam in a handy tree on woods edge, and add a few crow decoys around it. Crows hate owls because they like to swoop silently into their roost at night and pick off a bird or two at leisure, so when they see one they tend to gang up on it. Owl and crow decoys are available on Google or in many large sporting goods stores, and you can get a crow call in the same place.
Set up your decoys, tune up the crow call with a loud raucous alarm call that imitates the same sound most of us have heard on many a hunting trip. The crows should swarm the owl decoy and provide fast paced shooting until they wise up. I once set up such a shoot and called in birds from all direction, then killed one that landed upside down on a tree limb. The flock went crazy! I ran out of shells before I ran out of birds.
What do you do with your kills? You might try eating some. Everyone has heard of the old saying "he had to eat crow,” and I met one old man who actually did it. Did he like them?
"Well, it was better than eating boiled owl," he said.
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Hooks & bullets
• Across the country, communities are preparing for another long winter of ice, snow — and road salt. Although road salt can help keep drivers safe, excess salt can cause corrosion in drinking water systems and create toxic conditions for fish and wildlife. The Izaak Walton League's Winter Salt Watch Program gives volunteers tools to identify excess road salt problems and share best practices with their communities. Interested volunteers can order a free chloride test kit at iwla.org/saltwatch. The Winter Salt Watch web page also provides tools to help volunteers advocate for best practices in their communities.
• The Outdoor News tabloid launched "Junior Pro team," a youth membership program at the Deer and Turkey Show this past March. Five hundred kids signed up during that three day event, and since then the total reached 2,000 members. The goal of the project is to get young hunters and anglers to participate in our much loved outdoor sports and give the video games a rest. Membership is free and available to youths aged 18 and younger. Those who join will be eligible for weekly prize drawings for prizes like lures and gear, invitations to special events, and more. Sign up online at JuniorProTeam.com.
• The National Rifle Association (NRA) has given U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke a pat on the back for his effort to give America's outdoorsmen and women greater opportunities to hunt and fish on public lands. Sec. Zinke announced a proposal to open more than 248,000 acres to new hunting and fishing opportunities in 30 national wildlife refuges. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposal would take steps to simplify regulations to more closely match state hunting and fishing regulations. If finalized, the proposal chances would be implemented in time for the remainder of the 2018-19 hunting season.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.