"Hunting with a Living Legend"
A few years ago co-Founder Doug Wigfield and myself went on a Midwestern crow safari with Sr. Field Advisor Bob Aronsohn. Like the rest of our membership, we had been drooling over tales of Bob’s crow shooting exploits for years, so when he graciously extended an invitation to spend a few days with him, well, we knew we were looking at one of those “chances of a lifetime”. What follows is a brief journal of the events of that hunt. You can bet that it turned out to be a real blast, both figuratively and literally.
We left Baltimore on a Saturday and of course we had to go through the usual post 9/11 airport waltz. I had flown a few times since 9/11, but this time I got to experience the full treatment, the shoes off and complete body wanding (glad I had clean socks on). That behind us, we had an uneventful flight and arrived in the early afternoon, where we picked up our rental for a 45 minute drive to the motel.
Since we couldn’t carry the necessary shells with us, we were forced to stop at a local Walmart to pick up some ammo as well as our hunting licenses. I've got to say, that was the first time that I ever cleaned the shelf off of any brand of ammo. In this case we were using the Remington 27 Yard Nitro Handicap Target in #7 1/2’s. We took everything that they had, which was about 300 rounds a piece. Turns out, it wouldn’t be enough!
The first thing that we noticed during our 40 mile drive to the motel was that we didn’t see a crow. I mean anywhere! If we were meeting anyone but Bob, I would have started to panic at that point. Not to worry, we would see crows alright, and in spades! We met Bob and after a quick intro, he decided to show us around the area that we would be hunting for the next couple of days. We would also slip by the roost before dark to see what we had to work with. So, we followed his truck (affectionately named the “Meat Wagon”) out of town, our anticipation high. What followed was a tour that could hardly be described. As our faces were pressed against the window glass, we saw thousands and thousands of crows returning to the roost from all directions. We stopped near a number of small staging areas that contained more crows than we see in an entire season back home. It reminded me of a biblical plaque. Bob estimated that there were about 250,000 crows in the area at that time, but in a few months, the area would hold nearly a million birds. It was unreal! Bob casually mentioned that since the wind was perfect, we probably should have set up and hunted that evening. Now you tell us, Bob! Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night.
Day 2—Our First Hunt
The key to Bob’s success, we were to find out, was his knowledge of the area and in particular, the habits of the birds. He had scouted this area extensively for days and seemed to know just what the birds would do under various conditions. High winds, low winds, Northeast wind, Southwest wind, he had a plan for each, along with the ability to quickly change plans based on some keen “on the spot“ observations. Basically, he knew these crows better than they knew themselves and this would prove to be the most important factor in our upcoming hunt.
His preferred morning technique was to let the individual flights get to their feeding areas and then set up to intercept them as they moved back and forth between water and feed. In this way, we could accumulate a high TBC (Total Body Count) by decoying in small manageable groups at a time. Turns out this plan worked to a “Tee”.
After some quick intelligence gathering, Bob decided to set up near a dry lake bed. Here we got our first experience with Bob’s blind installation system. He has a complete portable blind that fits unassembled into the back of his pickup. He even has the necessary evergreen boughs precut to size that were used on the outside of the blind walls. In about 10 minutes we were in place and “locked and loaded”. We got some fast shooting in, but it was obvious pretty quick that Bob didn’t like the numbers that we were seeing. And, as anyone knows who has been a member for any period of time, Bob is all about numbers. So, we quickly reversed the blind assembly, packed up the “Meat Wagon” and moved on.
Our next stop was a large melon field that had been utterly devastated by crows. We have all read about the damage that these birds can do, but you cannot appreciate the financial loss to the landowner until you see a scene like we did. Thousands of rotting melons, as far as the eye could see, each with a single hole pecked into the top. Apparently, this patch was a great place for the crows to take a drink without going to water. Well, since Doug and I are always ready to help out, we pulled a few tumbleweeds around us and began to call. We managed to drop about 20-25 birds before they wised up and moved on. That was Bob’s version of “Run & Gunning”.
That afternoon, Bob decided to set up at a spot where we would hopefully ambush the black bandits returning to roost. The wind had dropped, which causes a lot of “late comers” to the roost, but we still got nearly two hours of non-stop shooting in. Total Days Count: 184
Day 3—The Big Shoot
Bob opted to try something different and positioned us on a hill between two feeding areas. This proved to be a great choice, as we managed to take singles and doubles most of the afternoon, totaling over 200 birds. We then moved to a farm near a lake where the birds were watering before heading to roost. We managed to knock a couple of dozen more down there, which gave us a Total Days Count: 237. Not Bad!
Day 4—The Wind Returns (sort of)
The weatherman was forecasting winds in the 15-20 mph range for our final day of hunting. Bob was pleased. Hopefully the wind would not only cause the birds to return to the roost earlier and in more manageable numbers, but would force them to fly lower. After a brief and mostly unsuccessful attempt at an abandoned orchard, we moved to an area close to the one we had hunted the evening of Day #2. The wind was letting up a little, but with the help of Doug’s “Buster 2” motion decoys, we hoped to give the crop heavy rascals a big surprise. About 3 hours before dark, they started coming. And coming. And coming! Shooting was nearly non-stop, with many, many birds diving in “on the deck”. After 3 days of constant shooting, we were really “warmed up” and not many birds within range slipped by. Only darkness forced us to quit, with a Total Days Count: 185.
Believe it or not, Bob considered our 3 day total of 606 birds a little on the low side. With the wind failing to cooperate and the bulk of the birds having yet to arrive, we were not able to bag the numbers that he is used to. Regardless, Doug and I had the time of our lives and while we do kill a respectable number of crows back East, we have never had the opportunity to hunt the crow numbers that we did with Bob. If there was any lesson to be learned from this hunt, it was this: Preparation and scouting makes the difference between an average shoot and the shoot of a lifetime. Bob has put in both the personal time and the odometer miles on the “Meat Wagon” in order to make a hunt like this possible.
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