Crows present hunters with a challenging target

CARROLL OUTDOORS

January 28, 1996|By Lonny Weaver | Lonny Weaver,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I recently added a handsome .22-250 chambered sporter weight varmint rifle to my hunting arsenal and have been burning turn it loose on something other than a paper target.

The fox season closed Jan. 6 and any possibility of an early woodchuck safari is just about out of the question until mid-March. Luckily, we have countless thousands of crows to occupy ourselves with in the weeks ahead.

Historically, Carroll County has been a hotbed of crow hunting. Through the 1950s, it was not unusual for local communities to stage hunts in hopes of thinning or discouraging the winged bandits from getting too comfortable. During these hunts, gunners would circle a grain field or wood lot that was being invaded and the daily tally would often number beyond a thousand.

One such hot spot was a flyway that ran roughly north and south through the county and included New Windsor, Uniontown and Taneytown. Another that I remember being gunned was an area between Hampstead and the Pennsylvania line paralleling Route There is still quite a bit of crow activity in those flyways, but it is an activity that is often overlooked by target-hungry hunters.

Crow hunting was very popular throughout the United States until the sport was virtually killed by a diplomat and Congress when a treaty with Mexico in the late 1960s managed to put crows on the endangered species list. Mexico asked, during the negotiation of an aid package, that a certain species of South American crow be protected from North American hunters.

By the time the maze was sorted out, the remedies were made so complicated that most hunters simply lost interest. That's why Maryland has such a wacky crow season limited to Aug. 16 through March 16 and only on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. But, if at any time you spot a crow about to feast on a crop field, it's OK to shoot it regardless of the calendar.

Typically a crow weighs about a pound and measures around 20 inches from beak to tail. Its actual body size is close to a 3x5-inch index card, making it a very challenging target to riflemen.

The birds are naturally weary and suspicious of everything strange or new. They use established flyways and always fly these invisible lanes in a straight line, often reaching speeds up to 60 mph, though 20 to 30 mph is a good average.

An immature bird will eat half its weigh each day and about 30 percent of that intake is animal matter. It's that other 70 percent that puts them on the bad side of Carroll farmers and gardeners.

I like to attempt to keep down the population by shooting at medium to long ranges with rifles commonly used for summer woodchucks.

Some of my favorite crow choices include the .223 Remington, the .22-250 and the .220 Swift cartridges. I seldom get more than a shot or two at a time, but that makes the sport all the more challenging.

For serious crow shooting, this is a shotgunner's game involving decoys, camo suits, calling and lots of ammo. Crow decoys help entice crows to dart into an area for a closer look and because owls are natural enemies of crows, an owl decoy is often a good way to entice crows in close.

If you haven't done much mid-winter gunning, you may be surprised to pull the trigger and hear only a dull, sluggish click.

That means that the oil or other lube inside the rifle or shotgun action is a victim of below-freezing temperatures. That's why it is wise to remove all lubricant from your hunting guns during cold weather.

Winterize your gun by disassembling the action enough to expose the firing pin and its spring, as well as the trigger mechanism.

Swab these parts liberally with a cotton patch saturated with a bore cleaner solution such as Shooter's Choice or Hoppe's No. 9, then dissolve the lube with a quick-dry cleaner/degreaser. Wait until the weather warms to lightly relubricate these parts to prevent excessive wear during high-use times.

If snow is on the ground, place a piece of tape over the muzzle to keep snow out of the barrel. When your rifle or shotgun is fired, the air and propellant gas pushed down the barrel ahead of the bullet or shot charge will blast the tape away harmlessly.

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