For the Birds Radio Program: Crow Hunting Season

Original Air Date: Nov. 2, 1988

Today Laura Erickson talks about Minnesota’s crow hunting season, which ended yesterday.

Duration: 4′02″


(Recording of a American Crow)

Yesterday marked the end of this year’s crow hunting season in Minnesota. My brother hunted crow as a boy, and so I’ve never been opposed to a crow season, as long as it is managed in a responsible manner. All killing sports are distasteful to me, but I have a great deal of respect for some hunters. The hunters I respect don’t enjoy the kill itself—it’s the chase and the thrill of playing the role of noble predator, kin to eagles and wolves, that excites them. These are the hunters that aren’t shooting many ducks this year, the hunters that eat everything they kill, knowing that their meat was obtained honorably.

So I can accept at least some forms of hunting. But I can’t accept crow hunting along a major hawk and raven flyway. I run into so many people at Hawk Ridge that can’t tell a crow from a Turkey Vulture, much less a crow from a raven, that I just don’t believe there aren’t going to be a lot of other birds shot mistakenly. And for the state to have such confidence in an unlimited supply of crows that they make absolutely no effort to keep track of crow population numbers or assess the effect of hunting during the breeding season is short-sighted—haven’t they ever heard of the Passenger Pigeon?

The state is imposing no limits on the number of crows killed, and doesn’t even require a Minnesota small game license. They have put some limits on the guns used—nothing larger than 10 gauge shotguns and .22 caliber rifles and handguns using rimfire short, long, or long rifle ammunition. Yet last week I read an article in Minnesota Out-Of-Doors Magazine recommending, quote, “Another sporting way to take crows is to shoot them with long-range varmint rifles. These are the 22/250, 220 Swift, .243 Winchester calibers and others.” These powerful rifles are prohibited for use in crow hunting, yet so-called sportsmen are already encouraging people to exceed the few rules of the hunt.

The only other restriction on crow hunters is that they dispose of their bodies properly. Thus the state recognizes that people will not eat or in any other way use them. This gives people the signal that somehow crows are “varmints,” worthless and not deserving of any protection, taking us back to the dark and savage days of shooting whole species to the verge of extinction.

Crows are not the varmints that some so-called sportsmen would have you believe. They certainly do share man’s appetite for fresh eggs, but do not raid and destroy one-third of the duck nests in marshes the way the Minnesota Out-of-Doors writer would have people believe. Crows have been here for millennia, yet it was only after the white man came and drained the marshes and shot far more ducks than he needed that duck populations began to drop. Now that ducks are in trouble, though, people refuse to take responsibility for their excesses—it’s easier to blame the crows, and then to shoot them with the same excessive zeal that decimated the ducks and geese in the first place.

I don’t know–there is something wrong about this law. But apparently not many people really care. A listener in Meadowlands wrote to Governor Perpich asking him to veto the legislation, but he pointed out that she was the only person who has expressed any opposition at all to him about it. And the D.N.R. has apparently gotten such strong pressure for a season in Northeastern Minnesota that they refused to consider Duluth Audubon’s request to keep the season closed along the hawk flyway during migration. But if no one except us eccentric lady birdwatchers says anything about it, the crow season will be with us for a long time to come.

(Recording of a American Crow)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”