Eating crow is one of those old sayings nobody really knows where it came from, and few people are interested in finding out. There was a time though, that people did really cook and eat crow, and believe it or not crow hunting is still regulated in many states, just like deer hunting and turkey hunting.
If you’ve followed this site for a while, you know I’m not squeamish about cooking up the hunt. I’ve got plenty of squirrel recipes, a groundhog recipe or two, and I even told y’all a story about the time a friend served us roadkill coyote at a gathering. Hunt what you eat, eat what you kill, simple enough.
Then I found myself scrolling through our local fish and game website, and I came across crow season…
Crow season?!?! Really??? That’s a thing?
Honestly, it had never even occurred to me to actually eat crow, let alone that there’d actually be a regulated crow hunting season.
Do people really eat crows?
How do you cook crow?
How much meat is on a crow anyway?
And why on earth can you only hunt then certain days of the week?!?!
Now I just have to know…
Basics of Crow Hunting
A bit of research and I learned that crow hunting is actually serious business, largely because crow are actually pretty difficult to hunt.
Crows are incredibly intelligent, and they can recognize and remember human faces. Studies also show that they can convey that dislike to other crows, warning them to stay away from you or areas that are frequently hunted. Shoot and miss a crow, and you likely won’t get another chance with that individual (or any of his friends).
Hunters use blinds and setup crow decoys, using basically the same strategy as any other bird hunting trip. Still, they’re not just any type of bird.
It seems like the most devoted crow hunters are trophy hunters, that setup 200 to 300 yards from their targets.
One article talks about a local crow hunter not far from us here in Vermont:
“Rodney Elmer says he’s been wearing the same black baseball cap for more than 20 years. Just above the brim, nine tiny black talons protrude from the worn cotton. They’re hunting trophies. ‘These are the back toes of every crow I shot at more than 300 yards,’ he says.”
Yet another article notes the same sharpshooting prowess in a hunter in Maryland:
“I was carrying along a superbly accurate Anschutz rifle loaded with .22 long rifle hollow points in case I spotted a groundhog during my evening’s walk. The range was well in excess of 175 yards, but I had a safe backstop and the temptation of all those feeding crows was more than I could resist.
Now this was an unusually long shot for a .22, so I held about three crows high on the largest one I could spot through the 4x scope and gently squeezed the target quality trigger.
The rifle cracked as the bullet left the muzzle, and then there was a long, long pause. And then the unluckiest crow in the world fell over dead. I paced the shot at 227 yards and was hooked on crow sniping on the spot.”
Why Can You Only Hunt Crow Certain Days of the Week?
I’ve yet to pin down the exact reason for the regulations, but the general consensus is that it has to do with Mexico and the Migratory Bird Act.
One version of the story is that US hunters felt that Mexican hunters were taking too many ducks, and not leaving enough to hunt (or to breed). As part of a treaty, both US and Mexico limited their total hunting days, and for some reason, Mexico insisted that crow hunting also be limited.
Another source has the story slightly different,
“Crow hunting took it on the chin, not for any lack of birds, but via diplomatic blundering in the late 1960s.
While working on a treaty with Mexico that had virtually nothing to do with hunting, a Mexican diplomat mentioned that a certain species of crows was rarely seen in Mexico anymore. Presto! All crows in America were placed on an endangered species list.
That caught everyone by surprise and states rushed to correct the error.
That is why Maryland has this stupid crow season that runs from Aug. 18 to March 19, but only on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday — unless you spot a crow that is eating “or about to depredate a crop,” which makes it a fair target regardless of the day, time or month.”
Due to the Migratory Bird Act, crow hunting is limited to no more than 124 days a year, and lawmakers maximize the total length of the season by limiting it to days around the weekend. Basically, when people are most likely to hunt anyway.
The season is split, also as part of the migratory bird act, which stipulates that birds can’t be hunted during their nesting season:
“The International Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which covers the American crow and its relatives in the Corvidae family, allows states to set their own crow-hunting season while dictating that no season can surpass 124 days per year. The treaty also requires that crows not be hunted during peak nesting periods.
A wildlife biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife [says that], “We find [crow] eggs in the nest around April 9 to May 15, and nestlings from June 3 to June 21.” After last year’s hearing, the state altered the dates of its crow-hunting seasons to better reflect that nesting period. They now extend from January 15 to April 11 and from August 19 to December 19, Fridays through Mondays only. (source)“
So here in Vermont, there’s a late summer through late fall crow season, then a break for Christmas (when fewer people would hunt crow anyway), and a second season from January until crow nesting season.
Crow Hunting Regulations
Perhaps you’re tempted to think…who really cares about crow hunting regulations? Is anyone enforcing this anyway?
Since crows are protected under the Migratory Bird Act, it’s actually a big deal to hunt them without a hunting license and out of season.
A local man here in Vermont was charged with hunting crow without a license, and due to their protections, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. To be fair, they only busted him because he took many different animals out of season, and actually posted grinning photos of himself online gutting a pregnant deer out of season. (That, ironically, comes with a much smaller fine and about 1 year in jail. Clearly, they’re taking this crow season thing seriously…)
If you’re curious and want to make sure you’re hunting crow to the letter of the law (lest you see the same charges brought against you), here’s a summary of the federal crow hunting regulations. Remember to check with your state too!
Why Do People Hunt Crow?
Now the million-dollar question…why do people hunt crow?
Logan from the Backwoodsman’s Institute produced a video on the basics of crow hunting, and discussed the reasons people crow hunt:
“Crows are a nuisance animal and they can hurt crops and trees. There’s really no natural predator to crows, so if no one hunts them to control the population then there’s going to be more damage.
That’s why they have a hunting season on crow, and that’s why people like myself go out and manage the population. It’s for wildlife conservation. I wouldn’t eat a crow, they’re a scavenger.”
It seems like his position is the most common. Hunters are shooting crow, largely at the request of local farmers, to help reduce their populations and avoid damage to crops.
One farmer notes that crows ravage his corn plantings in the spring, pulling the seeds right out of the ground as they germinate. “One year we had to replant 10 acres of corn [because of crows], and we had to do it three times to get the stand established,” he recalls.
Clifford notes that he would be open to crow hunting on his property, but he doesn’t think it would do much good. For now, he uses a nontoxic chemical called Avipel on his crops; its bitter taste deters crows.”
In theory, crow hunting would help prevent extra chemical sprays on corn crops…but in practice, the crows just evade the hunters and destroy the crop anyway. Crow populations are actually increasing, and at least here in Vermont, studies show that there are considerably more crows than 20 years ago.
Still, others have more practical reasons for hunting crow….Dinner.
In Lithuania, crow has been part of the traditional diets for centuries. Hunters host a centuries-old crow feast each year, where they’re deep-fried for a full hour.
The extra-long cook time completely sterilizes the meat, and the diners say that the meat is exceptional, with a taste like quail. What’s more, there’s a local belief that eating crow will increase a man’s sexual potency, which gives extra incentive for the tradition.
Honestly, I can’t imagine it’s not part of the traditional cuisine somewhere else as well, and the internet just doesn’t know about it. (Please leave any leads in the comments, I’d love to find more traditional crow recipes.)
While I understand that people may have many different reasons for hunting crows, if I’m going to even consider it, I plan on actually eating crow. So that begs the next question…
How do you cook crow?
Scott Rea, a British Butcher that’s become something of a youtube celebrity for his traditional recipes, cooked crow in multiple different ways. He was skeptical when he started, but in the end, he loved the flavor of the meat and said it tastes like pigeon. You can actually hear him moaning a bit with delight as he bites into the crow meat…
Total outdoor programming used a similar process, breading and frying crow breasts. While they spent the whole video mocking the idea of eating crow, they actually really enjoyed the meat.
They compare it to goose or duck meat. It’s like eating duck meat, but even a bit better because it’s not nearly as greasy as fatty duck meat.
Besides breaded and fried, crow pie is another common preparation. There’s a reason for the song, four and twenty blackbirds baked into a pie…and bird pies were not uncommon historically. I found an article discussing the popularity of crow pie suppers in Brittan, at least up until WWII.
Outdoor life actually has a modern recipe for crow pie, featuring potatoes, carrots, apples, and peas. Given that crow meat tastes like goose, duck or quail, I imagine crow pie is downright delicious.
So what do you think about eating crow? Are you willing to try it?
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