A CRAZINESS OF CROWS
Written by Jim Casada (Copyright 2011)
When Tipper told me she planned a series of blogs on crows and asked if I might be interested in contributing, I immediately responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” Crows and their close brethren, ravens, have always fascinated me. In the seventh grade, under the tutelage of a masterful teacher, Mrs. Mildred Wood, who could absolutely make Edgar Allen Poe come alive, I memorized “The Raven.” Then there was Grandpa Joe, who detested “those thievin’ scoundrels.” That was back when crows were notorious for raiding corn crops and gardens rather than their modern-day preferences for gourmet road kill.
Older readers will almost certainly recall a time when crows were considered worrisome indeed for farmers and were, along with owls and hawks, shot or at least shot at, on sight. Such doin’s are mostly illegal today, although many states do have a crow hunting season. During my boyhood though, you had to answer to adults in no uncertain fashion if you had a gun in hand and failed to shoot (or at least shoot at) crows and raptors if they were within range. Every hawk was a “chicken hawk,” owls were just generally considered no good, and crows were deemed the worst of the avian lot.
Once I learned about collective nouns, one of my two favorites immediately became a “murder of crows” (or ravens). As an aside, my other favorite, and Lord a-mercy is it apt in today’s political climate, is a “congress of baboons.” While crows may not actually “murder” with regularity, they will rob eggs from the nests of songbirds and ground-nesting game birds such as quail, grouse, and even turkeys. Although they have to be given full marks for their intelligence, crows are also loud-mouthed bullies. Anyone who has spent much time outdoors has seen them “deviling” other birds, notably hawks and owls, and once one of these black rascals starts fussing it seems every crow for miles around wants to get in on the harassment.
Crows love to devil turkeys, especially gobblers, during the mating season. Maybe that’s because the call of a crow will often make a wild turkey gobble, but more likely it’s just pure meanness. Whatever the cause, years ago I had experience with these black boogers which momentarily had me believing a hunter’s time warp had somehow placed me squarely in the middle of Alfred Hitchcock’s frightening terrifying thriller, “The Birds.”
While hunting turkeys in the Low Country of South Carolina, I struck a bird (that’s turkey hunter talk for getting one to respond to my calling). The lovesick old gobbler starting working my way on slow-paced turkey time, no doubt wondering why that seductive hen heard (my calling) wasn’t coming to him like she was supposed to do. After he gobbled three or four times, the tom turkey got the attention of crows. The closer to me he got and the more he gobbled, the bigger ruckus the crows raised. They were wound up tight as an eight-day clock, and so was the old tom. His normal wariness forgotten, that longbeard was convinced that my plaintive calling held promise of a romantic rendezvous of woodland delight.
The turkey with his one-track mind set on love pretty well ignored the crows, never mind the fact that they were dive bombing him, making enough noise to rival a whole host of tone-deaf singers auditioning for the Tower of Babel Oratorio Chorus, and darting in and out of the open pine forest like a band of black banshees. Old tom turkey may have paid no heed, but I sure did. Under the best of circumstances I lose all semblance of calm as a turkey nears shooting range, and for those of you who don’t hunt them, let me assure you that a big tom strutting through the spring woods looks like a runaway black Volkswagen beetle with the doors open. When he gobbles, the earth shakes, or maybe it’s just me. Anyway, something shakes.
This time, though, it was worse. I could see the turkey long before he came within gun range, and the cacophony produced by well over a hundred crows was like date night in the insane asylum.
Still, the gobbler came on steadily; somehow I didn’t become a complete basket of nerves, and when the majestic lord of the big woods was within 35 yards I squeezed the trigger. The longbeard began flopping in a way which will be familiar to anyone who has ever chopped off a chicken’s head (that’s likely lots of Blind Pig folks), and I excitedly raced from my set-up spot to lay hold of my trophy.
What I hadn’t counted on was the reaction of the crows. My shotgun blast did not spook them in any way. In fact, when the turkey began to flop, they went berserk. Evidently they somehow thought they were responsible for the turkey’s death. Worse still, they began to dive bomb me as well, flying within inches of my head. Only when I jerked off my camouflage headnet and cap and began waving my arms and yelling did the raging rapscallions finally decide they had urgent business elsewhere. That experience, while not a murder of crows, certainly must be reckoned one to justify the title of this tale. It was a craziness of crows, and honesty forces me to admit that for a brief time sheer, abject, almost wet-your-britches fear was a close companion of mine.
I hope you enjoyed Jim’s story as much as I did!-Jim Casada is a full-time freelance writer who has written, edited, or contributed to close to 100 books. His articles have appeared in most of the major regional and national hunting magazines. He is Editor at Large for Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine. He considers this the strangest of all his experiences in the sport. You can learn more about Jim or sign up to get his free monthly e-newsletter at www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com.
Drop back by tomorrow for more crow as The Week of the Crow continues.