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.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.
HOOKS & BULLETS
• Can doing a good deed bring great rewards? Sure it can, and Shelby retired banker and avid hunter George Williams found that out just recently. George has a farm in Coshocton County and a few weeks ago he went down to do some work. A road killed deer lay just off the road that passed through his property, and knowing that no hungry wild animal would touch it so near the road he dragged it well back in his field and then mounted a trail camera. What a surprise!
The first animal there was a lean coyote that tucked in for a free dinner, but before he got far, a bobcat arrived and chased it off. Then another came, and another and two more. Five bobcats, two adults and three nearly grown kits had a good meal on that deer, a rare sight indeed. George said he's done it before on his property, and with the camera seen eagles, skunks, red fox, and other species enjoying a meal in these starving winter times. "I'd recommend the practice to anybody." Williams said. "Pull dead deer well off the road and far from houses on your own land or with landowner permission. You might be saving plenty of small, hungry creatures."
• A special drawing will be held Saturday, March 23 at the Lake La Su An Wildlife Area headquarters for youths interested in turkey hunting. Youngsters age 17 and younger may participate. The headquarters is located at 9455 County Road R, Pioneer, Ohio with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m. Young hunters must possess a valid 2019-2020 hunting license to register. For more information call the Wildlife Area headquarters at 419-485-9092.