|We sat under the trees awaiting the sudden arrival of the crows; we knew their movements so we set the ambush and waited! When hunting crows, patience and perseverance pays! The more we put into the hunt the more crows we will harvest!
For many farmers the crow is a very intelligent and opportunistic bird, but most agree on another point - it is a pest and its numbers must be kept under control. Every crow we remove we save about 5-7 dozen hatchlings of other birds, ducks and geese etc. However, to hunt the crow a hunter must know the crow’s habits, movements and what attracts it so that the hunter can outsmart it. Also a good hide or ambush location must be made up, and camouflage is vital, as are your surroundings, sounds that you make and wind direction, all these fine points will secure crow hunting success.
For starters we must watch a crow contingent, learn its habits and over the period of a day observe the crows’ most traveled routes (fly zones) – similar to the way that a sniper would observe a location to make one vital shot. Remember that the crow has one habit that they ALL have and this will lead to his downfall (excuse the pun!). They like to hover or fly VERY slowly over treetops! This they do to locate other birds’ nests, the more you watch them, the more you are going to learn; observing them will give you the edge needed to hunt them. Once you have established the crows’ preferred fly zones, it’s time to build a hide.
Never make a uniformly shaped hide out of wood or steel with camo net, as it’s unnatural and crows shy away from these constructions. Utilize those trees that crows often frequent, conceal yourself in the shade, cover your face and hands (they shine in light) and sit dead still.
It is important to ALWAYS position yourself in a way that you are facing the same direction as the wind is blowing; the reason for this is that ALL birds on approaching a location, like to have wind under their wings for them to get lift. So, the hunter will be ideally situated to sight the birds coming in to the treetops and with the wind under the crows wings will make him far more relaxed. So- face downwind if at all possible, and if it’s not possible- make it possible!
Break dead tree branches and put them across you, but don’t obscure your vision. The more break up of your body you have the better for you and try not face the sun, it will blind you. Sitting under those trees you are better camouflaged sitting directly in front of a thick tree, using it as a backrest. Use camouflage clothing in similar shades to the trees or shady colours and, if you are a game caller as I am, then use a good quality caller for crows.
For calling equipment I use a few of the best game calls on the planet, namely LOHMAN, M.A.D, Haydel’s, TNT and Wiley’s calls. I use a Lohman model P-1 predator call and a crow call from M.A.D. calls both from Kolpin sports- USA. I also use a local product made in SA by us at Feather & Fur, it makes adult and baby crow sounds that are very realistic, has a soft rubber tube that you can squeeze to get other sounds. A Wiley’s crow call is similar, and has nice rubber housing. I also use a CASS CREEK or Foxpro electronic with crow sounds, these units are on the internet.
Another tip is to use a predator call to attract crows. Remember a crow is just like a jackal - both are opportunistic - so when a crow hears a distress call it comes in to look over the area. Because you are using a predator caller, crows will respond, as they know that after a predator has caught a rabbit, for instance, the crow will be able to find the odd bit to eat. So, that’s another good reason to try calling them with a predator caller. I use a Circe Lohman P-1 distress call for this. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to how busy your lands are with crows; just remember to sit dead still.
DECOYS & CAMOUFLAGE
We must remember we are in South Africa and not America, so it is extremely hard to get crow decoys, so it is up to us to make our own, I use a block of foam and carve my own decoy, I make it slightly bigger than an average PIED CROW because then it is easier to spot from far away, when the crow flies in close and notices that his cousin is slightly large it is to late. NEVER forget an owl decoy. Crows hate owls and will get really aggressive if they spot an owl decoy. That owl decoy must be placed on a fence post 10 metres from your position. Have lots of shells handy, as the action will be non-stop, as long as you have many crows on the property. Using dead crows as decoys is ok as long as you make them look alive and sit them atop a fence post. I have found that a lot of decoys is not that necessary, one is enough and it will get all the attention you will need, many will argue this point, but shooting 20 crows in an hour of calling proves that this statement is not far wrong. A good decoy with your realistic sounds will give you success. For another kind of decoy this is a system I use, I thought it up one day while I was calling crows and it works well! Blow up 3 balloons about 3 inches in size, close tops, put them in a black sock with a white piece of paper 2 inches wide, staple it around the top section of the sock (the neck area) and tie it on the fence, then tie thin fishing nylon to the sock, that goes to your hide, when you spot a few crows pull a little on the line to make the “DECOY” move, it does work. If you have ever seen a skeletal structure of a crows anatomy you will notice his HUGE eye sockets, this explains how they can see so well.
Upon spotting a crow or more flying towards your position reduce that volume on the caller, sit still and don’t move, let the crows come right on in, and if you are positioned correctly they will offer you shots at 10 metres. The crow WILL fly slowly or hover above the trees at some stage, so just wait for a clear shot, drop your poundage on that trigger and watch the crow fall from the sky. Never get up straight away. OFTEN gunfire and shock effect, for instance, will confuse the others. Be prepared as often the other crows will not fly away, this may provide ample time for you to use your shotgun again. This is evident with Pied crows; they almost never fly away after gunfire and seem confused as long as they have not seen you. If you have educated crows who stay out of range, try throwing a dead bird out into the open from your hide when they look in your direction, this brings them in close to see what just happened. Also the decoy is always a great idea as crows can see the decoy further away, much further than what they can hear your crow call. ( That’s why I make my decoy bigger).
The camouflage I use are colours with typical shades matching the terrain I am operating in, crows see in FULL colour, so wear proper matching colours.I use either seclusion camo with mask and gloves, or another excellent camo – the Natgear Natural camouflage, and standard Real tree Advantage with grey and brown colours. Remember the face mask and gloves are essential. Also take a cushion to sit on, as you may have to wait a long time! Try sitting in front of a thick tree with some shadows that can help break up the human shape. Using good camo pays! I like wearing a set of bibs like old timers often wore, they are loose and comfortable, in fact I enjoy them the most.
By studying a crow’s habits you will quickly learn how to set up in its location, shooting crow’s long range is also an option; however tricking it with a fake crow decoy gets him to come to you. The most crows I killed at one set position were 21 crows in 1 hour. If you can reach the treetops, placing a decoy on top of a tree would also offer you a few shots. But every area is different, so study the crows and the movements they make. I also use our local crow-fighting CD; it makes genuine sounds of fighting crows. This is also a good attraction, but no matter what style you use, to outsmart him is a great challenge!
When making a set to hunt crows look over your area you are hunting, walk away from it and look it over from 20 metres away, take note of shadows, dense cover and take note were you want to place that decoy, place it so that it is easy to see.
I always try place it as near to me as possible, this way the crows will come in closer to me. My one area I hunt I shoot crows at about 7 metres. The crow decoy is placed on a fence in front of my sitting position.
If you are like me and have a day before the arrival of new hunting clients, take a shotgun, a decoy and go and relax under a few trees or at your favourite ambush location. A fellow does plenty of thinking while all alone between the trees, and you are still hunting! I have found that PIED SA Crows are best hunted on warm days between 10 in the morning and 2-00 in the afternoon. Winter is not a good time, and you need warm days. September to November are excellent times (Western Cape).
Rifles are an option but they are really not needed if you hunt properly using a decoy with calls, a crow will not land often, and if you see a crow on the ground you MUST KNOW that that place he is sitting at has absolutely no threats whatsoever, they are very observant as to strange and new structures so if its not a normal setting a crow will NEVER land. Sometimes a crow will land near his friend that has just suddenly fallen out of the sky with a load of shot in him, then you have an opportunity, but generally I will say leave the rifle at home. I would say in my last 25 crow hunts I have only seen ONE crow that landed offering a rifle shot.
Sitting back to back with shotguns allows you to watch your “back door” as sometimes the odd one will approach from another direction and not as you have planned when you face the way the wind is going. Make sure that your shotgun is patterned so you know how it shoots.
For every crow you remove you get to save dozens of hatchlings of other species of birds, also some game as well. So to hunt the over population of crows is a good thing, as it helps with conservation. In the Western Cape of South Africa we have seen a radical outbreak of crows, so an ethical means of removing them is best. It is no good poisoning eggs and waiting for crows to eat them as your poison will kill plenty of other innocent wildlife that rely on the scraps lying around on farms.
THE CROW CALL
A crow caller is very popular in America, many manufacturers of game calls make a crow call, many people in USA hunt crows and the market for crow calls is huge. Again we at Feather & Fur are the only and first company to make crow calls together with predator and buck calls in South Africa. The American crow has sounds different to our Pied Crow, so I had to design a different sound chamber to imitate the PIED CROW. Out of our plant in Cape Town we after 3 months put together a very nice smallish rubber caller, it is rubber in texture and has a very easy to blow sound chamber. I harden my reeds four times (the heart of the crow call) so that I get nice baby crow sounds for November months and adult sounds for the months of January to October. Our latest crow calls have brass inserts for that classic appeal. American calls that are really classic are the Wiley’s as I mentioned in rubber and the Haydel’s, and turning it sideways gives you a hawk sound, really quality sounding calls. The vital part of making a call is the fine art of tuning it before setting it in the mould and throwing the completed unit. The thickness of the mouth piece must be exact to get good sound. If the thickness is too thick or thin you get incorrect sounds and you won’t fool a crow. Almost all crow calls are of a semi concealed reed design. I have also had huge success with the Lohman model 104 crow call.
“CROW CALLING TIPS”
To start the crow hunting tips I will mention the MOST IMPORTANT ONE FIRST!!! When arriving at the hunting area, set up your electronic unit, put camouflage on, put calls around your neck and load up, put gloves on and get your seating area ready, NOW and NOW ONLY, do you then take out your crow decoy from hiding and put it in the location you want it, when you walk out in the open with it look around to make sure no crows have seen you with that decoy! I always hide mine in a bag when walking to the hunting area, so the crows don’t see my decoy. Now, put it down and hurry back, sit down, cover your face, pick up your shotgun and push play on that electronic. THIS TIP IS VERY IMPORTANT. Don’t let them see you with that decoy in your hand.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And try to never miss the first crow that you shoot at, this seems to have a negative effect on the balance of the hunt.
Lay a few chicken eggs on the ground about 5 metres from your decoy OR put a toy fawn decoy about 10 metres from your hide or blind like I do – it works, put it in front of the Pied crow foam decoy about 7 metres away. Tie a few fresh dead crows on fence in a good pose; don’t let them lie on the ground, it must look real! And finally (here is the good part!) finally to end your set up throw red blood colour tomato sauce on the ground near the fawn to make it look injured.
NOW this will drive the crows crazy!!!!!!! All you must do now is push play on your caller and let the party begin. If you find a dead buck that has ribs showing use that near your hide as an attractant, also throw red sauce to resemble blood, this will also help you harvest more crows.
I blow different crow calls at the same time to sound like many crows, I also use the Haydel’s crow call sideways this makes it sound like a hawk, crows hate hawks. Blowing the call from your throat, as if like you are going to spit will make the call very adult sounding and blowing normally in the call will sound like a baby crow. Use baby crow sounds in DECEMBER IN SOUTH AFRICA Take special care of your set up area; remove any papers or shiny things like old tins etc Make sure you have good vision and check that no branches obscure your barrel.
You will find that after you shoot at a few crows and drop a few the others will not fly away, they seem to be confused, often after my first shot they often fly around more and I can easily get another 3-4 in the process. It is a strange observation but it works for the hunter. THIS IS OF COURSE THAT THEY DON’T KNOW YOU ARE HIDDING NEARBY!!!
TIPS LEARNED IN THE FIELD
Hunt different areas that have crows, don’t go to same place to often, they become aware of you If possible use two speakers so your calls go different ways Angle your decoy on the fence facing sideways downwind, so more birds will see it at a distance Make your decoy a little bigger like mine; this makes it easier to be seen from a distance Use No 3 shot for Pied crows or No 1’s in a shotgun for longer shots Have patience and be ready for a crow sneaking in on his own You will see quickly which crows are uneducated, they simply fly straight in Crows you have missed will stay well out of range – very educated!!! Best times are warm days from about 10 in morning to about 2-30 in the afternoon (South Africa)
If you stay on the farm then observe crows and which fly routes they use most, and then make your set up nearby I let the electronic run for all the time that I sit at a hunting spot, I never turn it off, lower volume when crows are approaching Position your shotgun skywards so you don’t have to move much when its time to do the deed Sit back to back when you have a partner, to get the ones sneaking in from behind you, sometimes they do sneaky things Try a predator call sound; sometimes it works better than the crow caller Practice blowing a call with it hanging from your mouth without you holding it, so you can hold the shotgun Position your speakers about 20 metres apart if using two speakers If you shoot a crow don’t leave him lying on the ground, place him properly. Only take shots when you are certain that it’s a one shot one kill ratio Make sure your camouflage matches the terrain and keep quiet and still (crows see in full colour!) Crows are skeptical of new structures so don’t put a blind down just anyplace, rather hide away in the trees Pied Crows are opportunists, so they WILL investigate your sound and that decoy! So, be prepared!!! Remember a crow coming into your position is far easier to shoot than one flying away!
I tried this tip I learnt a while back, if you have a few educated crows, they fly around far out of range, when you think they are watching your position throw out a dead crow from your position, the sudden movement and that black blob hitting the ground will attract the sly ones. Try it- sometimes it DOES work.
If you are the owner of a sheep farm use the dead crows as bait in lynx trapping cages, or put them out as food for bat eared foxes or other small critters always opportunistic for an easy meal.
One last point, you get a troop of baboons, a school of fish, so a what of crows? Give up? Well, it is called a murder of crows!!!!