Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Crow Season An Overlooked Opportunity For Wing Shooters
FRANKFORT, Ky. – They are just as likely to be eating scraps of fast food on a mall parking lot as winter wheat seeds sown for a cover crop in a recently harvested tobacco field. Crows seem to be everywhere in Kentucky, at home in both town and country.
The species most often seen in our state is the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), a 16 -to 21-inch tall, all-black bird with a raucous, annoying call: “Caw, Caw, Caw.”
They rarely travel alone and usually feed on the ground, eating earthworms and grubs in freshly plowed fields as well as insects, seeds and fruit. Crows will also eat garbage, carrion and chicks they rob from nests. They are best described as omnivorous foragers.
“Crow populations (in Kentucky) are stable with no indications of declines,” said Rocky Pritchert, migratory bird program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
In the past few decades, crow populations have been on the rise across North America. Their susceptibility to the West Nile virus, however, could cause population declines in some regions of the country.
In Kentucky, local crow populations usually begin to swell in the fall as migrants arrive and family groups intermingle, forming large communal roosts. Conflicts arise from the noise and mess when these crow roosts are close to cities.
“We get an influx of birds from up north during the winter months,” said Pritchert. “There are some tremendous roosts here.”
Kentucky’s other species of crow is far less visible. The fish crow (Corvus ossifragus) makes its home in far western Kentucky and is associated with sloughs and major rivers. “Kentucky is on the edge of its range,” said Pritchert.
At one time crows were considered pests and there were no closed seasons or bag limits. But as a member of the jay family (Corvidae), crows are covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
“The season can’t be more than 124 days long and must be scheduled outside the primary nesting period (mid-March to the end of May),” said Pritchert.
Kentucky’s 2010 - 2011 crow hunting season dates are Sept. 1 through Nov. 7 and Jan. 4 through Feb. 28, 2011. There is no daily bag limit.
Driving country roads is a good way to find concentrations of crows. Look for flight paths, roosts and feeding areas. It’s usually easy to get permission from landowners to hunt crows.
Flyways are the routes crows fly between roosts and feeding areas. In the afternoons, crows often congregate in staging areas before flying en masse back to their roost.
A 12-gauge shotgun, with a modified or improved cylinder choke, is ideal for crow hunting. For shooting over decoys, No. 7 ½ shot is the preferred shot size. Try shotshells loaded with No. 6 shot for pass shooting.
Both mouth calls and electronic calls are legal. Listening to audio tapes or watching DVDs is the best way to learn the hunting strategies as well as the array of calls used in crow hunting. Calls such as the fight, rally, distress, danger and look here are important for drawing crows into shooting range.
Blinds should be natural, well camouflaged and situated where there’s a good field of fire. Hunters must wear camouflaged clothing head to toe, including face masks and gloves, to prevent being spotted by the crow’s sharp eyesight. The ideal setup is to have the sun at the hunter’s back.
Full-body plastic decoys are the most realistic. A dozen decoys will work fine for most crow hunting situations.
There are two classic decoy setups for crows. The first is a feeding scenario, where a small group of crow decoys are on the ground with a sentry crow decoy placed on a tree limb above them. The second is a fight setup, with a Great Horned Owl decoy on a pole or fence post with crow decoys surrounding the owl decoy on nearby tree limbs. Crows hate raptors, especially owls, and will harass these birds wherever they find them.
To hunt crows, residents and non-residents are required to have a valid Kentucky hunting license plus a Kentucky migratory bird permit or a Kentucky waterfowl permit.
Follow this link for more crow hunting information in the 2010-2011 Kentucky Dove, Wood Duck, Teal, Woodcock, Snipe and Crow Hunting Guide: http://fw.ky.gov/pdf/doveguide1011.pdf. This guide is also available free wherever hunting licenses are sold or you may request one by calling 1-800-858-1549