Create a well camouflaged hide. Think about the position of your hide, where the crows will fly in and which way the sun and wind are. Building it in a hedgerow is ideal. If you have no hedges and only grassy banks, as can be the case with a drilled field, camouflage your hide well against the bank. Some people doubleskin their hides with two lots of camouflage netting. It’s most effective to cover this with branches or other vegetation. Obviously the hide needs to be thick enough so the crows can’t see you.
Decoys can be half shells on spring sticks or silhouettes made out of plastic sheeting or plywood. Some people use real crows too, once you’ve shot some.
You can make your own DIY crow decoys cheaply and easily with some bin liner, scissors, small cable ties, a bamboo cane and a paper stapler. By folding a bin bag in half at the perforated seam and cutting along the fold, you’ll have enough material to make two decoys. Scrunch up your bin bag square and wrap it around the cane at the top and tie a knot. Then laying the cane through the centre as though each side were the crows wings, knot the bottom to the cane too and you will have a bin bag decoy roughly in the shape of a crow! Wrap your cable ties around the cane to reinforce your knots. Staple the bottom ready to trap the air in your crow decoy for when it’s sitting in position in the wind.
There are many ideas on crow decoy placement but basically there are two sorts of set ups. The ‘friendly’ set up and the ‘fighting’ set up.
For the ‘friendly’ set up, you put your decoys out like crows forage feeding in a field or orchard. You place sentry bird decoys on nearby fence posts, on perimeter banks or in trees and they will pull a lot of birds in. This is the way crows work with birds placed on sentry duty so looks more natural. The rest of the birds, you put in a rough semi-circle as though they are feeding. Some people go for two groups with a ‘kill zone’ in the middle.
For the ‘fighting’ set up, you simulate a situation where crows are fighting – maybe an owl or a hawk or even other crows. This way you’ll need an owl decoy which you position so every crow in the vicinity can see it! Put it on top of a fence post, in a small tree or even on top of a 10-20 foot pole. Position the rest of your decoys in bushes or trees around this. These simulate the crows ‘scolding’ as would be the case in a real owl-crow fight. You only want a few, if any, decoys on the ground.
In terms of how many decoys to use in any situation, work on around a dozen of them inside a 150 yard square patch. Allow between 4 to 10ft between the decoys and don’t put them any further than 35 paces from the hide in any direction.
Your carefully laid out decoys should successfully bring the birds in, but some people also like to use a caller for crow hunting. An electronic caller makes a combination of different noises including the sounds of crows fighting. The issue with an electric caller is that it doesn’t talk to the crows, it talks at them. The other option is hand calling. A master of crow calling can use his hands to his mouth to make hand calls to talk to crows. We’ll leave the option of which one to use with you!
- Create good will with the farmer by offering to decoy crows on his land. He’ll then potentially allow you to shoot other birds on his farm.
- Look for crows on the silage fields or anywhere they’ve been spreading muck. Also freshly ploughed or cultivated fields, especially maize fields.
- Make a dense crow decoying pattern, close to the hide. If the crows get shy and veer off they will still have ventured into the danger zone close enough to shoot
- In the summer, try and decoy at first light as the birds are in dribs and drabs then. Later on they will move as a flock, making them harder to decoy.
- Don’t let the crows see your face and hands. If you’re shooting into the sun wear a face mask and gloves. If they’re flying from behind, it’s not so necessary.
- Keep still in the hide and don’t keep looking over the top. Stay crouched down until you hear the crows coming. You need a quick, careful shot as they will generally circle and rarely land. Any movement and they’re off!
Hopefully our crow decoying tips will give you all the ‘crowhow’ you need to shoot a good number of crows and make you popular with the farmer into the bargain!