No Caws for Alarm!
This behavior is much less common now than in the days of mound planting, especially of corn. Given the diversity of their diets, crows don't depend on the farmer's grain and can even be considered beneficial because they consume so many pest insects.
Unfortunately, crows are the victims of a lot of bad press. Look at how the language treats them. The expression "to eat crow" means to do something disagreeable. To "crow" is to brag obnoxiously. Wrinkles around the eyes are called "crows-feet." A flock is known as a "murder" of crows.
The Sioux tell the story of how a white crow used to warn buffalo of approaching hunting parties. The buffalo would then stampede, and the hunters would be left hungry. Eventually, an angry Indian threw the bird in a fire where it turned black.
In another tale, after watching human fishermen pull fish through holes in the ice, a group of crows started doing the same when the fishermen retreated to their shack for coffee. The crows actually pulled up the lines leading down the holes, then devoured the fish or bait they found on the books.
In Virginia, a murder of crows was implicated in a milk scandal. Upon retrieving their milk from the porch, people found the bottles opened and the cream gone. It seems crows followed the milkmen on their deliveries, pried the paper lids off the bottles and helped themselves to breakfast.
Because of their ingenuity, crows have their defenders. A society of crow fanciers publishes a newsletter called the Corvi Chronicle. And 19th century clergyman Henry Ward Beecher stated that "If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows."
Their intelligence has also made them a favorite of hunters. Crows can provide a real hunting challenge. In Missouri, crow season runs from Nov. 1 to March 3. A small game hunting license and a sporting ethic are all that are needed.
Well, maybe cunning and patience help, too.
"There are a lot of things that are stupid compared to a crow," says Richard Godwin, who hunts crows near Poplar Bluff. "To sneak up on a crow is impossible!"
Crows are wary. If a person walking in the forest suddenly stops, any crows nearby will instantly fly away. Some studies suggest that crows can count and that if three men enter a forest but only two leave, the crows won't return to the area.
Crows also have good eyesight. "I wear full camo, just like turkey hunting," says Godwin. "Masks, gloves, everything."
But despite their wariness, crows can be fooled. They will flock to calls from a hunter. The distress call is one of the best ways to attract them. Mimicking the call of a great horned owl or red tailed hawk will also bring them in.
"I guess a guy could hunt crows forever and a day and still learn something," Godwin says. "I still do."
Hunting crows is a great sport. But what about eating them? Cooking and eating crow, in the literal sense, seems to be a practice that has disappeared. "I know what they eat, and I'm not too fond of that," says hunter Richard Godwin.
But no less than John James Audubon considered crow a delicacy, and the birds rounded out the diet of early Missouri pioneers and settlers.
Here's a recipe for crow from the Pioneer Heritage Wild Game Cookbook, by Trapper Jack French:
- 2 crow breasts
- G teaspoon salt
- J teaspoon pepper
Boil the clean, skinned breasts in water for about five minutes. (This is important because crow meat can be tough.) Salt and pepper, then roast them on a spit or green stick over your campfire.
Conservation agent Kevin Dixon suggests trying:
- 1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
- H c. soy sauce
- H c. red wine
Sprinkle each breast with seasoned salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Submerge breasts in marinade for 24 hours. Drain marinade and wrap each breast in bacon. Place breasts in smoker for 2 hours at 250 degrees.