"Three Days in October"
Here in South Central Pennsylvania October is a magical time of the year. The nights start to get cooler and the farmer is busy harvesting the corn. Yes, October is a time of harvest and for three days that is just what we did, I'm talking crows.
I was tracking the movement of a large flock of crows that was returning from feeding and heading back to the roost. This was a flock of two to three thousand birds. After a week of recon I felt confident on where to be positioned for the Friday hunt. Thursday night was a night of great anticipation. Phil and I were both aware of what tomorrow could bring. Scouting reports identified that the crows would start filtering back to the roost around 1300 hours. The flight would last almost too dark.
The next day we made it to the blind at 1230 hours. The crows had a sentry posted on the tallest tree. Phil dispatched him so he couldn't warn the others in the area. We quickly went to work setting out decoys, setting up the callers, staging ammunition and added a last minute touch up to the blind. At last the stage was set, we both had a gut feeling that something big was about to happen.
The forward element of the flock soon appeared. The callers were turned on and crows started diving in like angry bees swarming our position. Phil and I started to go to work firing at every target of opportunity. Shooting was intense, firing at small groups every thirty second it seemed. Once in a while larger groups of forty or fifty birds would appear. They would approach cautiously at first. When one or two birds came down to our decoys, that gave the rest the incentive to follow. This kept up for an additional three hours. We soon realized we were running out of ammo. Now I don't know about the rest of you guys, but to me that is probably one of the worst feelings in the world. We started conserving our ammo, only taking shots at kamikazes at point blank range. Our shells lasted for most of the flight. When we were down to our last shot, both of us were determined to make it count. At the end, we were down on the ground on our hands and knees looking for any ammo that may have been dropped in the melee. Man, now that is desperation for ya! At the end we were forced to leave the field, leaving behind 116 crows.
The second day I was alone, Phil had to work. The previous day taught me a lesson that made me better prepared. First, I wouldn't have to take long shots. The crows were determined to get in there no matter what. Second, bring lots of ammo and let me tell ya brother, I did. I had my Remington 11-87. I wanted something that was fast firing. Also, I brought an assortment of shells, the Federal heavy game load was a favorite for me (1 1/8 oz., #7.5). When a crow got smacked with one of these at twenty-five yards he erupted in a brilliant display of “black snow”.
I got in the blind and once again got things ready. Decoys, caller and shells are all necessary items of crow hunting. I poured myself a cup of coffee and waited for the attack. While waiting I looked around at the devastation maximus from the day before. Crows were laying everywhere and the amount of spent shells in the bottom of the blind was most impressive. I didn't have much time to think about it because the caw of the lead bird was heading my way and was coming in hot.
The firing started slow and then picked up as more birds arrived. They were coming at me from two directions, both from the north and the south. When the birds would approach from the north, I would press myself to the front of the blind then ease up and pound. When the crows would approach from the south, I would go the rear of the blind. At the rear there was a slight overhang you could get under. Those crows never knew what hit them. The average shot was about twenty to twenty–five yards. A full choke at that range can really get feathers flying. The wind was coming out of the northwest. The crows approaching from the north would ride the wind then hook in just to my right. With the wind in their face they would hang there just like a big black kite. No lead was needed, just put it on them and squeeze. Just about every crow from the north took this same fatal route. My best string was eight. I dropped three crows rendering my shotgun empty. Pennsylvania law dictates that the gun will be plugged to just three shots, even for crows. With three crows down my bolt locked to the rear. I single loaded five more consecutive times dropping five more crows. You had to move like a well-oiled machine when loading. Split second timing was everything. One thing I learned was to keep your shells where you can reach them. I left the field that day with 101 confirmed kills and knowing that this by far was the best wing shooting I have ever experienced.
After receiving the Saturday crow hunting report from my hunting partner Bob, I was in turmoil about whether I should set up for the bandits on Sunday. Bob was not available to participate in the Sunday hunt for the same reason I missed the Saturday hunt. He had to work.
I have always been a traditional hunter who for the most part respect the fact that Sunday is a day of rest and should not be hunted. However, being a part of the Friday hunt when we ran out of shells because of the mass number of birds that we had the opportunity to shoot at, I was not going to miss out!
Hunting by yourself is not always the best way to hunt. Besides the obvious, such as who will help you if you get hurt, there are other factors that just don't make hunting alone enticing. One reason is, who will you share the experience with when the opportunity knocks when you might pull a triple or when you say to your hunting partner “did you see that shot” after witnessing the red mist on a solid hit.
The lure of the excitement that we have experienced in the past is what pushes us to head for the blind. Some folks jump from planes, others like to roll the dice for excitement but what makes it happen for me is to hear a crow coming in for an attack, the crack of the gun and the smell of the spent powder. I'm sure that if you have ever been there you know exactly what I am talking about.
The third day of the October hunt started out later in the day then the first two days. I had other commitments earlier in the day and got a late start. I was in the blind by 1500 hours. I feel that this was one of two factors that limited the number of birds that were had that day. The second reason for the limited kill was that these birds had just experience two horrific days in the meat grinder. You have to understand that on a normal hunt in our area a good day of hunting is when a tally of 30 to 40 birds are confirmed KIA.
As I prepared the field for the afternoon hunt by setting out decoys and stringing speaker wire, I was amazed by what I saw. Signs of a colossal hunt were everywhere. The ground that I stood upon resembled a battlefield. Hundreds of corpses littered the field. Tops of saplings that happened to be in the flight path of the approaching bandits were splintered to bits from shotgun blasts. The blind was ankle deep with empty shell casings. When getting into the blind numerous bodies had to be kicked aside. Some crows were even lawn-darted into the side of the blind; a sure sign of a kamikaze attack Bob talked earlier about during the second day hunt.
After preparing the field there was little time to waste. The call of a crow in the distance could be heard. The electronic caller was activated and the hunt began. Bandits started pouring into my position at a steady pace. The gunning was fast and furious. The adrenaline was really starting to pump through my veins. At times a bandit would approach from the backside of the blind using stealth dropping in under my radar. At the last second he would give a rebel yell causing my heart to jump and miss a beat but never the shot. There is nothing more satisfying then seeing that crow go limp (rag doll) and fall to the ground after taking the full load of #7? shot. As I reached for my second box of shells, I was kicking myself for not being in the blind two hours earlier. The hunt ended at around 1645 hours. It was action packed from start to finish, totaling 45 birds, not bad for only a ninety-minute hunt. During those three days of October a total of 262 crows were confirmed KIA.
Next season when the corn turns brown and the cool wind starts to blow, we will once again look west into the October sky.
|TOP OF PAGE | BACK|
|Copyright (c) 1999. Crow Busters. All rights reserved.|