Missouri is home to two species of crow — the fish crow and the American crow. American crows are, by far, the more common of the two and are found statewide, while the fish crow’s range is limited to areas along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and a sliver of southwest Missouri.
Telling Crow Species Apart
It is difficult to tell the difference between American crows and fish crows by sight, but their calls are very different and can easily be distinguished. Both species may be hunted in Missouri.
Behavior and Diet
American crows are a very adaptable species and considered one of the smartest birds in North America. They have a diverse diet consisting of fruit, nuts, grain, acorns, insects, carrion, small mammals, eggs, reptiles, and nestling birds. In winter, crows tend to be associated with agricultural areas and wooded habitats along rivers and creeks.
While American crows are still relatively common in Missouri, most crow hunters agree that their numbers plummeted in the early 2000s when the West Nile Virus became established in the state, and populations still have not recovered to previous levels.
The 1940s, 50s, and 60s were the heyday of crow hunting, as it was a very popular sport during that time. Today, it’s hard to find anyone who regularly goes afield after the "black bandits." Crows are considered a nuisance by many farmers, and because of this, access may be quickly granted to good crow hunting areas. Crow hunting can provide fast-paced action and many seasoned crow hunters describe it as addictive.
Because crows are so intelligent and have keen eyesight, it’s imperative that hunters plan carefully and set up for success. Keep the number of hunters in your party to 2 or 3. Once you’ve chosen a spot to hunt, you should build a blind or find a good place to hide. Try to set up with the sun at your back to optimize your vision and keep you in the shadows.
Basic Crow-Hunting Gear:
- Plenty of shells
- A call
- A stool
Nearly any gauge shotgun is suitable for crow hunting if shots are kept inside 30 yards. For longer distance shots a 12- or 20-gauge shotgun with high brass loads may be necessary. Shot sizes suitable for crows are #6, #7 ½, and #8.
Tips and Tricks
- Crows have excellent eyesight, so hunters should wear camouflage clothing that blends in to the area they’ll be hunting. And don’t forget to cover your hands and face with gloves and a mask — if not covered, glare from these features can alert crows to your presence.
- The use of calls, either mouth calls or electronic calls, aid tremendously in attracting crows to your hunting location. Electronic calls use recordings of live crows to attract the attention of nearby birds.