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Control Pecan Depredation by Hunting Crows

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Posted Sep. 30, 2002

Crows are a huge threat to pecan production, especially improved pecans. They are very intelligent birds that are difficult to control. Crows are able to communicate with one another while remembering previous situations to avoid. When a crow is shot at and missed, it has been educated ? or at least warned. On the other hand, if crows are only being harassed with blanks and their buddy did not hit the ground, they quickly realize the noise is harmless. Often, when propane exploders have been used for some time and crows have grown accustomed to them, the exploders should be left on while hunting to offer further distraction and increase the crows' vulnerability.

Here are some guidelines that should be followed before you can successfully control pecan depredation by hunting crows:

  1. Secure a high-quality, high-volume tape player with a remote speaker.
  2. Obtain taped recordings of crows: fighting, calling, harassing an owl or hawk, and a death cry.
  3. Purchase No. 6 shot in high brass shells.
  4. Dress in full camouflage. The camo color, while the trees have a full leaf cover, should be greener than later in the year. As the leaves turn or fall, a different color should be used. A hat, gloves, and maybe even a veil should be used for complete cover.
  5. A blind is an option to reduce the requirement for the extensive camouflage, but it limits mobility. Camouflage greatly increases mobility, which is very important to keeping crows guessing.
  6. The remote speaker should be placed in the fork of a tree off the ground. It is best to place the speaker about 50 feet away from the location in which the hunters plan to stand.
  7. Be sure to kill the first crow that flies over. He is the scout! If he escapes, he will spread the word about what is going on. It increases the difficulty of the hunt. If he is taken out, the flock is disoriented and often breaks up, making them more vulnerable.
  8. After the initial flight, turn off the call for a few seconds to a few minutes and listen for activity. If you hear a crow coming into the area, turn the call on to entice it your way.
  9. It may be beneficial to change tapes. Try to use common sense in tape selection - possibly start with a crow fight or maybe even an owl hooting. If starting with an owl, go on to a crow fight. A crow reveille, where the tape begins with a single crow and builds to several, is another way to start. Then go to an owl. After several shots, play an owl hooting and a crow death cry. They will come in for a fight!
  10. When you determine a pattern is developing someplace away from where you are, it may be necessary to move closer to where the crows are and call them from the mob or at least distract the individuals flying to the mob.
  11. Remember, hunting success is dependent on your ability to keep crows guessing.

The higher the percentage of crows on the ground to shots fired, the fewer educated crows left to spread the word. So don't shoot unless you have a good chance of hitting the target.

Hunting in combination with propane exploders is very effective. The crows that escape the very aggressive hunt described above are very skittish. It will take several days for them to gain confidence to even investigate if the exploder is for real. They are more comfortable somewhere else. When they become comfortable, another aggressive hunt is necessary.

When a flock of crows become educated to the point that they will not respond to the call, you may consider observing where they do feel comfortable and place a couple hunters near that point. Then have another hunter drive around the flock and herd them back to their point of safety. That gives the hunters at that location an opportunity to take a few of the educated birds out. The only other way to take out the educated ones is with a high-powered scoped rifle. Position yourself where they feel safe and you can get a clear shot.

If you are not very careful, you can create an educated flock of crows that are almost impossible to control. It is best to be on target with your shots and not ever let any of them become leery. Practice your shooting skills before you go hunting. When hunting crows other than for depredation control, there is an established season, so check hunting regulations for dates.

Good luck hunting!

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