CA Guns & Hunting: Hunting Crows

CA Guns & Hunting: Crow hunting

BY BILL KARR EDITOR/Cal. Guns & Hunting Published: Jan 31, 2019

A 24-bird limit & season that runs four months

SACRAMENTO —Talk about a scattergun opportunity here in California that’s not at all utilized: This hunt season offers plenty of game, liberal limits of 24 birds, extends for four months at a time when you can’t hunt much of anything else, and when you kill ’em, you’re doing everybody a favor! Yep, we’re talking crows, and the season goes on until April 4 this year.

cgh_karr_crowsofferCROWS OFFER A challenging target, and when flocks of them come into the decoys and calling, shooting can be fast and furious.

According to Crow, originally, crows were simply classified as varmints and could be shot anytime of the year. However, since then the U.S. negotiated a treaty with the Mexican government to protect several species that move back and forth between the two countries. The treaty covers the entire major bird family Corvidae, which includes crows, ravens and jays. So without it necessarily being intended, the crow is now a protected species with limitations on how they can be hunted. The sport season for crows can be for no more than 124 days and can't occur during the peak breeding period in each state

Back in the 40’s, 50’s and even the 60’s, the sport of crow hunting was at its peak. Considered a villain and a pest, the crow was hunted with wanton abandon, spurred on by an encouraging government and a grateful farming community. And while their equipment was often primitive and ammunition scarce, the serious crow hunters of that age killed the black bandit by the millions.

Then things quieted down. Bounties were cancelled, federal protection appeared, crow hunting books went out of publication, and except for a loyal group of hunters, crow hunting left the limelight and took a back seat to other popular forms of hunting.

But in the past few decades, federal protection and ideal breeding condition have allowed crow populations to steadily increase throughout their range. In some areas, like here in California, they have actually reached epidemic proportions.


THE AMERICAN CROW has a hunting season in California that is four months long, extending until April 4 of this year and offering after-season shotgun outings complete with the need of camouflage, calling and decoys. A 24-bird limit allows extended hunts.

“Because of this, I believe we are entering the second ‘Golden Era’ of crow hunting,” said Gordon Krause, founder of Crow Busters. “Hunters are finding out that there is no other type of varmint hunting that involves so many hunting skills. Camouflage, blinds, calling, decoy placement and wing shooting all need to come together for a successful crow shoot. And best of all, crows are everywhere! With the exception of a few isolated spots, at least a few crows can be found almost anywhere you hunt.”

Most importantly, there seems to be a tremendous hunger out there to know more about this underrated sport, Krause said. Hunters want to do more than just pop an occasional crow while hunting for other game. They are looking to specifically gear up and go afield in pursuit of this often frustrating, but always challenging bird.

Crows by the tens of thousands inhabit California to the point where they cause massive damage to crops and wildlife, and major discomfort to cities where they take up residence, leaving reminders of their presence on everything they roost or fly over.

Except for the handful of recipes for preparing crow, why in this day of rampant animal rights fanaticism, should we continue to hunt and kill an animal that has no real monetary value? Krause said the reason is that the crow has and continues to exhibit behavior that ranges from simply annoying to highly destructive. In agricultural areas, be it the pecan plantations of the south or the cornfields of the mid-west, crows continue to account for extensive crop damage, including the nasty habit of pulling up sprouting grain in the spring.

Western crows, like the uncontrolled population here in California, have the worst reputation for crop damage, especially because of their habit of congregating by the thousands to feed on cultivated fruits and nuts. Often, they end the day by raiding a nearby melon field in order to save a trip to a distant watering place. Under such conditions, total crop loss can occur.

CROW HUNTING IS allowed in a large portion of California, with the far north, eastern and some southeastern areas closed to the take of crows.

Where their ranges overlap, such as the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, crows severely impact the annual waterfowl populations. When hen ducks begin laying, crows break open and eat the eggs. Later they will return and devour the fledglings. In the 40's a biological survey was conducted that really shows the damage crows can cause to the waterfowl in the Canadian "Duck Factory."

It was shown that crows in close proximity to duck nesting areas took an average of 110 to 120 eggs or fledglings per crow per year, approximately 20,000,000 ducks. During the same year, sportsman only took 11,000,000 ducks. A common slogan of the time was "Kill a crow, Save a duck."

Crows also take a heavy toll on upland game birds, and they also prey on small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels and have been known to kill prey as large as newborn lambs, and certainly pheasant nests and young.

More recently, crows have been identified as a carrier of the West Nile Virus, an encephalitis type virus that has killed at least 155 people to date. Crows have been found to be prime carriers of the mosquito borne disease because of their highly sensitive nature to the virus and their roosting habits.

There are some areas where crows may not be hunted—mostly along the coastal areas and a long stretch in eastern California that stretches almost the length of the state. Read the regulations before hunting. Even so, when almost every other hunting season is closed, it’s nice to know that there is a sporting bird that can be called, decoyed and shot. And be doing something helpful!

For more information, including tips for beginners, locating crows, calling crows and even more, go to

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