Crow Hunting: Law, Technique, Recipes

- by Ligia Brubaker + the hunting community

In this article, we will discuss legal aspects, techniques of successful crow hunting (calling, camouflage, proper guns, gear, habits and flyways of the crow, decoys and decoy set up), field dressing and recipes. This article is a mix of my experience, different resources I found available online and some of our customer's experiences. We have quite a few crow hunters here in the PNW. For many of us crow hunting can be as challenging and rewarding as any type of hunting that exists. Crows are counted among the most intelligent and well sighted birds that exist. At the same time, especially when multiplied without control, they are a destructive animal. Crows will dig seed out of the ground, will eat in farmers cornfields and the pecan trees that grow so rarely in WA state are one of their favorite meals. LEGAL ASPECTS Crow hunting is practiced across the globe. In WA state, it is unlawful to hunt for or take predatory birds without a hunting license except as allowed under RCW 77.36.030. However, it is lawful to take crows during established hunting seasons and crows or magpies when found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance provided that none of the birds, or their plumage, be offered for sale. TECHNIQUES & GEAR A quality pair of binoculars to help locate distant crows are a must. By viewing and studying their flight patterns you can best determine an optimal site for your decoy setup. Once this is determined you can use these "flyways" as great ambush sites, as crows relate to given flyways. During early spring when crows are nesting, and living in pairs (not groups) no real flyways exist. As summer approaches and the young leave the nest, the crows start forming groups because there is safety in large numbers. Now is when they can be patterned. As winter approaches larger flocks are formed. At night crows will group together for safety in treetops against their enemies such as the great horned owl. These concentrated areas are referred to as the "roost". Hunting a roost in fall and winter is the best.

Some people know, some don't, that crows are mortal enemies with birds of prey, such as hawks, owls, eagles etc. For this reason a good setup of decoys including an owl or hawk decoy mixed with crow decoys is preferred to fool this bird. I have found that the plastic full sized crow decoys work the best. This type of setup works very well with modern electronic calling devices with remote speakers as well as mouth calls for us more experienced crowers.

After being inactive all night, crows are hungry and more aggressive in the morning, than later in the day. They are ready to eat and FIGHT. Most often, at first light, they can be lured in closer to a setup, putting them in deadly shotgun range. As the day wears on they can become more cautious and weary meaning they will come to the setup but many times they will stay high in the air and not be fooled into gun range. With mornings always being a great hunt, the crow can also be hunted during all daylight hours. Locate a flock with a good pair of binoculars, then make your move. Concealment is mandatory. From an aerial view the crow will always have the advantage. Full camo, including face mask, hat, gloves and gun camo is best. (Waving a shiny gun barrel around will most often send them on their way with no shots fired.) Once shots are fired, that location and setup are done, move on. Crows are too smart to be fooled again at that location. For diehards like me, relocate to a new area by glassing and finding more birds, make your setup, then get ready for more action.

Preferred setup sites are those that offer thick cover for human concealment without the obstruction of too many over head trees and limbs. I have hunted a roost in my state that numbers over 100,000 crows. Through my homework I know exactly where they roost. With definite known flyways I know exactly where to setup, about 1/2 mile plus away from the roost. My choice for this scenario is the thick undercover where I can normally put a large tree between me and the incoming birds, because they cannot see me til its too late and it hides my movement. A good morning hunt for me in this area means about a 100 crows won't be coming home tonight. Sometimes semi open fields can be great setup sites if they are on a flyway.

I prefer the small popup camo, loose netted hunting blinds. There are times on very, very windy days, crows fly naturally low to the ground, (in gun range) coming to and from the roost. On these occasions no decoys are needed, one should immediately find concealment under these paths and good luck trying to keep you gun full of shells. As one wave comes and goes the next is sure to be right behind. I have had over 1 1/2 hour non stop shoots during these times. This is the exception when you do not have to get up and relocate because they will use their flyway no matter what and the crows that haven't gotten there yet have not heard the previous shots.

For me, my Remmington Model 1100, in semi automatic, is an excellent firearm choice. When the action is hot a simple pull of the trigger beats pump action in my opinion. Of course I know that pumps are the choice of some hunters, and you should use what ever you are most comfortable with. Crows are not the easiest birds to knock out of the sky. 12 gauge has the power for me. Shot number 4 is my preferred BB size as it has the power to break bone at further distances giving me a 40-50+ yard advantage. Full choke works best to keep the pattern tight. A crow coming towards you is easier to down than the ones that are trying to fly away, but, the 4 shot will give you more distance as they try to escape.

RECIPES You've got your crows. Now what? Well, crows can be safely eaten. They are considered edible birds, which means that they provide nutrition and will not cause illness when consumed. They are not tasting bad either, but their taste varies greatly depending on how they are prepared rather than what their actual taste. However, a natural prejudice has prevented most crow hunters from even considering this bird as wild game. The members of the Corvid family are as tasty as most other game birds and even tastier than some.

Historically, crows, as well as other non-songbird species have been common fare. Our revulsion seems to center around the fact that the crow and its close relatives are scavengers. At the same time, we find it totally acceptable to consume pigs, chicken, Blue Crabs, Lobsters and other scavengers.

In short, it is our cultural prejudice that limits our possibilities. The color might have to do with it as well. But in Lithuania, for instance, crow meat is considered a traditional natural aphrodisiac and a male potency, so crow pies are a common dish. (Since I am a woman, I cannot confirm or deny it.) Field Preparation Crows can weigh anywhere from 12 to 57 ounces (337 to 1,625gr) live weight, but even the biggest crow doesn't make much of a meal. However, the fact that it is often possible to take large numbers at a time can compensate for this. Since a morning shoot can easily net from 10 to 100 birds, you want to limit the amount of time necessary to clean each bird. Put out of your head any idea of plucking a crow like you would a goose or duck. Besides the breast meat, unless you are starving, there isn't enough edible meat on a crow to make it worthwhile. In case you are starving, you can pretty much eat everything except the guts (including organs like brain, heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, sweet bread). Nothing will harm you, but the effort required to obtain this meat is not worth our first world time. Other countries, less spoiled and blessed, consume everything except the guts - including the feet. Using the technique described below, you can extract the best meat of a crow within a minute or two with very little mess.

Method 1

  1. Lay the crow on it's back in front of you with it's head pointed to the right.

  2. Take a finger and locate where the breast bone meets the upper abdomen.

  3. With a sharp knife, make a cut across the crow (wing to wing) below the breast bone. Don't be concerned about cutting too deep, no edible meat will be damaged with this cut.

  4. Holding the birds feet with your left hand, place 2 or 3 fingers under the skin where the cut was made and pull in opposite directions. The skinless breast meat should now be exposed.

  5. Take the knife again and separate each breast half away from the bone starting in the middle and working outward. You should end up with 2 lime sized pieces of crow breast. Discard the remains properly.

Method 2

  1. Lay crow on ground breasts up.

  2. Place feet on wings as close to the body as possible.

  3. Grab the the legs, one in each hand and pull straight up. This will leave you with the breasts and wings.

  4. Cut off wings.

  5. Cut breasts in half.

The results of a quick morning hunt ready for the freezer or the skillet.

This batch took about ten minutes to clean. Looks like real food once the feathers are off, doesn't it? Pre-Cooking Preparation: Marinate, Marinate, Marinate! You can use this method with crows, coots, diver ducks and just about any fowl that may have a strong flavor. Use as many breasts as you decide to grill and soak them from 2 hours to overnight in salt water then thoroughly rinse and dry the breasts. Then use your favorite brand of Italian dressing and put enough to coat the bottom of a container you can put a lid on and put a layer of breasts, a layer of dressing, and keep layering till all the breasts are in the container. Finally, top off with dressing and put in fridge over night. The next day they will be tender and tasty. As far as crow meat recipes go, below are the most common recipes across Europe and U.S.. Feel free to try these or to experiment with your own creation - but bare in mind that the way you prepare the meat will easily change the taste. There is no reason why any recipe for dove, quail or grouse to be found in a wild game cookbook would not work just as well. Enjoy! Summer Crow Kabobs Ingredients

16 pieces of crow breast meat (no bones) (8 crows)

16 pieces of green pepper

16 cherry tomatoes

8 button mushrooms

8 ears of sweet corn

1 1/2 cups of Teriyaki sauce

1/2 cup melted butter

8 kabob skewers Preparation

Cut each piece of crow in half and place in a covered bowl with the Teriyaki sauce over night. Clean and cut each ear of corn into 3 pieces. Cook in boiling salt water for 10 minutes. Alternately put corn (3 pieces), green peppers (3 pieces) and cherry tomatoes (3) along with 4 pieces of crow meat on each skewer. Use 1 mushroom to top each skewer. Brush with melted butter and place on preheated grill for about 4 minutes. Flip, butter again and place back on grill for another 4 minutes. Repeat one last time for a total of 12 minutes or until they appear done. Serves four adults. Country "C" Medallions Ingredients

24 pieces of crow breast meat (no bones) (12 crows)

2 medium onions (chopped)

6 tblsp of oil

5 slices of bacon (chopped)

1 big or 2 small turnips (peeled & chopped)

1/3 of celery root (peeled & chopped) - note: substitute with celery

3 tblsp wet mustard

1 tblsp lemon juice

salt, pepper to taste

dash of paprika

2 bay leaves

2 juniper berries - note: substitute with allspice

1 tblsp Majorjam (crushed)

1 heaping tblsp of mayonnaise

water Preparation

Saute onions and bacon in oil until golden. Add meat, spices and saute some more. Add vegetables and the rest of the ingredients except mayonnaise. Add enough water to keep the meat almost covered. Simmer slowly, adding water as it evaporates. In about 3 hours you will see that the meat is soft enough to cut with a fork. Take the meat out and place on heated platter or dish to keep warm. Remove the bay leaf and put all the g