A look at the “sport” of hunting crows.
The Great Auk, buffalo herds coloring the plains – the Carolina Parakeet, species once so numerous that their wholesale slaughter happened without worry. In our time we might think of species preservation as protecting those endangered – not usually protecting those who are common.
I’d just come in from a walk in a nearby field watching fledgling crows begin to explore their new home and found a message from a friend up north. He’d seen a brown crow, he thought, and wanted to know if it could be true. It wasn’t really that unusual for this person to exhibit such auspicious timing. He went on to say that he’d typed brown crow into his search engine and what came up, he said, was “not for the faint of heart.” So I did the same. Brown crow.
Among the top of the search results, if you haven’t looked, is a page on the website Crowbusters.com, titled Oddities, featuring photographs of crows that differ from the standard in some way. All of the crows pictured are recently shot and killed. In fact, most of the pictures on this site are of crows that have been killed.
Crow Busters is strictly concerned with killing crows, and the sale of products to enhance the enjoyment or the efficiency of killing crows.
US federal law permits killing crows. The regulations are slim: the season can last no more than 124 days each year; killing must not occur during the main nesting season in any given state; only rifles, shotgun, handguns, archery, and falcons may be used to kill crows. If these crows are engaged in, or about to engage in property destruction, including ornamental trees, fruit trees, all agriculture, or depredation of wildlife, or if they have gathered in number or manner sufficient to cause a human health hazard, or any other nuisance (italics mine), then the federal government offers no protection whatsoever, regardless of the season. At no time during the year is a “bag limit” imposed by the federal government.
In Oklahoma, the season is on right now, running each year from 10 Oct – 16 Nov and 9 Dec – 4 March, with no bag limit. In Massachussetts, the season is open Monday, Friday, and Saturday of each week except during the period from April 11 to June 30.
In Washington the 124 day season runs consecutively from September 1 to December 31. No restrictions greater than the federal regulations are placed on killing crows.
Auburn, New York is apparently notorious for its annual “crow shoot” weekend, with controversy over it gaining national attention in 2003 and for the next few years. According to the Auburn Citzen, in February 2004, 52 teams killed 1,067 individual crows.
The reasons usually given for the Auburn crow shoot relate to alleged problems associated with with a resident flock of crows whose population fluctuates around 50,000. Crow killers complain that crows are dirty and noisy.
You can purchase instructional DVDs produced by Kansas crow killing expert, Bob Aronsohn. Featured on the Crow Buster‘s front page was a new write-up from Bob of his recent crow killing exploits, traveling around Kansas, shooting crows with his friend Jerry.
Bob and Jerry travel together for the next couple of weeks, wreaking havoc on crows wherever they go. A hundred here, a few hundred there until –
Bob Aronsohn claims to have killed 125,000 crows – a remarkable admission to say the least. Other staff at the same website claim tens of thousands. On the website you can read “hate mail” they’ve received and find humorous.
Aronsohn appears to be a celebrity to other crow killers, and he drops in to other forums – offering counsel to youthful beginners, in this case, a teenager from Anacortes, Washington:
Posts: Joined: Location:
Of course, this isn’t new.
The brutal destruction of Eskimo Curlew, at the hands of “gunners” in Nebraska – shooting wagonloads of the birds, whose migrating flocks in flight would cover forty or fifty acres, according to Scott Wiedensaul in his elegant book of the migration of birds Living on the Wind (1999) – shooting the birds as they rose from the burned-off prairie, in numbers so large that 19th century colonists called them “prairie pigeons,” reminded of the Passenger Pigeons that once filled the eastern forests, before they were shot into extinction. They’d shoot them until they’d filled their wagons and dump the shot birds to rot on the ground and keep shooting until they had filled them again.
At the time, it was commonly believed that the numbers were so great, and the birds lives worth so little, that no great harm was being done. So it comes as no surprise that the crows shot today are called pestilent, or too many, or in the way. The same charge was leveled, along with shotguns and rifles, railroads and laws, against the bison, prairie and the people whose lives depended on its health and abundance.
The stories that naturalists, wildlife enthusiasts and subsistence hunters often hear and tell are of the days when this or that species, – pigeon, curlew, waterfowl in California’s central valley – so numerous their flocks would darken the skies, sometimes for days, as they passed. But now they are gone. As are the chestnut forests we hear of – so thick a squirrel could run from the Mississippi river to the Atlantic Sea without touching the ground; – and salmon, so many, you could cross the river they blackened by walking on their backs.
Do crow shooters view what they do as hunting? When asked, the Pennsylvania man who shoots 2000 rounds a year was incredulous, his reply mocking, and perhaps to him, laced with humor, “No! It’s killing! and it’s something I’m damn good at.” He said he hoped the country “lights up a second civil war” so he can “really practice his trade.”