I got hooked on hunting crows with a rifle when I lived in Uniontown. Central Maryland is smack in the middle of one of the nation's largest crow flyways.
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, during the height of crow hunting popularity, New Windsor, Uniontown, Taneytown and Silver Run were hotbeds of crow-hunting activity. Crows were gunned by the thousands and town shoots were common.
This was shotgun hunting that closely resembled waterfowling tactics. Hunters used blinds, decoys and calls to lure the crows into range. It remains a challenging sport, and I have done a fair amount of it over the years.
Crow hunting took it on the chin, not for any lack of birds, but via diplomatic blundering in the late 1960s.
While working on a treaty with Mexico that had virtually nothing to do with hunting, a Mexican diplomat mentioned that a certain species of crows was rarely seen in Mexico anymore. Presto! All crows in America were placed on an endangered species list.
That caught everyone by surprise and states rushed to correct the error.
That is why Maryland has this stupid crow season that runs from Aug. 18 to March 19, but only on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- unless you spot a crow that is eating "or about to depredate a crop," which makes it a fair target regardless of the day, time or month.
One early summer evening I found a large flock of crows busy depredating a neighboring farmer's new cornfield.
I was carrying along a superbly accurate Anschutz rifle loaded with .22 long rifle hollow points in case I spotted a groundhog during my evening's walk. The range was well in excess of 175 yards, but I had a safe backstop and the temptation of all those feeding crows was more than I could resist.
Now this was an unusually long shot for a .22, so I held about three crows high on the largest one I could spot through the 4x scope and gently squeezed the target quality trigger.
The rifle cracked as the bullet left the muzzle, and then there was a long, long pause. And then the unluckiest crow in the world fell over dead. I paced the shot at 227 yards and was hooked on crow sniping on the spot.
These days I use an assortment of rifles and calibers in my crow sniping depending on what property and type of shot I'm on at the time. All are either .22 rimfires or centerfire .17 and .22 caliber varmint rigs.
Because of shrinking open spaces as the county continues to fill with housing, I recommend the milder choices such as the .22 long rifle and magnum, the .17 Remington and old .22 Hornet to the most people.
Until a few years ago I relied on riding familiar back roads and on farmers' tips for locating good shooting. Now I supplement that invaluable data with an electronic tape player and decoys. The result has been some sizzling shooting action.
Armed with a .22 or .22-magnum rifle scoped with a 4x or higher power scope I like to set up my recorder under or near a dead tree 50 to 75 yards from where I will sit.
I slip in the Johnny Stewart tape, "Death Cry of a Crow," after arranging a couple of decoys in the tree's branches, turn up the volume and run for cover.
Crows will come in fast and low and sit down without hesitation most of the time.
A couple of days ago I set up on such a spot on a farm near Hampstead. In less than five minutes after turning on the tape, two crows rushed into the setup and landed.
I shot the closest and the second took off. It made about a 25-yard circle and set down right beside the tape player, giving me an easy shot with the 22. Minutes later four more came by and I added another pair to my tally sheet.
After waiting 10 more minutes without additional action, I moved a couple hundred yards over to an adjoining field, set up again and collected three more before calling it an afternoon.