Pecan Grove Crow Shoot
Got a crow problem? Who you gonna call? Try Georgia's best-known crowbuster Jerry Tomlin, who provides the basics on how to hunt pecan-pilfering crows.
He is Georgia’s best-known crow hunter: Jerry Tomlin of Milledgeville has been hunting crows for more than 20 years. He has been guiding hunters for crows for about 13 years. You may have seen him at a Buckarama in his “Crow Roost” booth selling crow-hunting gear. He has been featured on nine television hunting shows, and he has sold more than 3,300 copies of his crow-hunting video.
Jerry actually got his start in GON. In the December 6, 1990 issue, we published a story by Jerry on crow-hunting basics. The next year he produced a crow-hunting video and began to guide hunters on crow shoots.
On Tuesday, December 16, I met Jerry in Milledgeville for a crow shoot. Hunting with Jerry were Ken Wolfe of Nuncia, Mich., and Lane Humphries of Ravenna, Mich. Ken and Lane have been hunting deer, geese and pheasants together for years, and they especially enjoy a good crow shoot.
“When you tell people that you are going hunting for crows, they look at you like you are crazy,” said Ken. “But it is a lot of fun.”
Ken had seen an ad for Jerry’s crow-hunting video and bought one. After seeing the tape, he booked a trip with Jerry. He has now been hunting with Jerry three times; Lane has been down twice. (Jerry has booked crow-hunting clients from as far away as New York, Rhode Island and Nevada.)
Our first stop was Toombsboro at a rye field next to a silage pit that had reportedly been mobbed by crows. Jerry placed two-dozen crow decoys on the ground and a couple of flying decoys on poles. We were all fashionably dressed for crow hunting in various mis-matched camos. Complete camouflage and the ability to stay still until the critical moment is important. We pulled on face nets and hid in fold-out blinds on a fence row.
Jerry wore seven crow calls on lanyards around his neck. He has one for every occasion. He uses Faulk’s, Mallard-tone, Gibson, and Crow Slayer calls, among others. The higher pitched calls carry farther, the lower-pitched calls sound more realistic, he says.
While he is completely conversant in crow, Jerry uses two basic calls. The first is a come-here call of three caws together: caaw, caaw, caaw.
The second basic call is a feeding call; six notes alternating short and long caws: ca-caaaw, ca-caaaw, ca-caaaw.
“The feeding call means ‘we have something over here to eat, why don’t you come join us?’” said Jerry.
When the first crows of the day began to talk, Jerry was talking crow with them, and he knows the lingo. Three crows appeared over some nearby pines barreling our way and cawing all the way in. One bird turned over the blind — a fatal mistake — and Ken folded him up.
The casualty was added to the decoy spread.
Jerry and his clients were shooting 12-gauge, high-brass No. 6s through a modified choke.
“When they are decoying right, most of the shots will be between 25 and 30 yards,” said Jerry.
Two dozen fish crows came over our spread, looking it over, but too high. Fish crows are slightly smaller than the standard-issue crow. They sound different, too. Their call doesn’t sound as much like “caw” as it does “auk, auk, auk.” The fish crows spiraled higher and circled several times before drifting on.
While Lane and Ken were getting occasional shots, many birds turned a deaf ear to Jerry’s pleading calls.
“I am seeing more call-shy birds because more and more people are hunting crows,” said Jerry.
Last year, Jerry’s per-hunt average was about 50 birds. This year, his average is running at about 29 birds per trip. He attributes the decline partially to a poor pecan crop and fewer birds hanging out in the pecan groves.
Over the past five or six years, Jerry has averaged between 40 and 45 guide trips for crows per year. On his best-ever hunt, Jerry and four other gunners killed 175 crows. This year, his two best hunts resulted in 72 and 70 birds.
Jerry hunts mostly in pecan groves, and permission isn’t usually difficult to obtain — if someone else isn’t already working on the birds. He said he has a file of about 40 pecan growers from Bainbridge to South Carolina where he has permission to hunt.
Twenty minutes after we started a pair of birds came straight over the decoys, then flare. A crow can turn on a dime, but this one was too late — Ken dropped one of the escapees.
The best time of day to shoot crows is early.
“Usually the first couple of hours in the morning when they come off the roost is when they are most active,” said Jerry. “By 10:30 or 11 it starts to slack off.”
The best hunting days are clear and still so that the calls carry and so you can hear crows talking, says Jerry. Crows don’t decoy well in rain or fog.
The reports of mobs of crows at the rye field were apparently exaggerated, and our day started slowly. After a long dry spell, a half-dozen crows winged in. Ken was in position on the right side of the blind, and he doubled on two side-by-side crows.
By 9 a.m. the action seemed to be over, so we picked up to move to another location. Six crows had bit the dust at the rye field.
For the next three hours we looked for crows. We checked a pecan grove in Davisboro, but we found no crows. We set up in another orchard north of Davisboro for only 20 minutes before moving again — “no crows that want to play crow shoot,” said Jerry. After one more crowless stop, we ended up at noon in a pecan grove near Mitchell in Glascock County. When we pulled into the trees, we ran off two dozen cawing crows.
This time the decoys were deployed on the ground in an opening between the rows of trees, and we scattered around, standing close to the pecan-tree trunks.
The middle-of-the-day shooting in the pecan grove turned out to be better than the early-morning shoot. Birds were cawing almost constantly in the distance, and sporadically a bird or four would respond to the calling and swing in for a look. Often a bird would thump into the ground after Ken and Lane’s barrage.
Crow No. 9 of the day crossed a pasture to check out the decoys but came too close to Lane. When Lane shot, the bird helicoptered down, spiraling on outstretched wings.
Usually, the birds announce their approach by cawing, but many birds came in silently, and often from behind — something they must have learned from watching doves.
The last crow of the day winged in silently and was about to land in the tree next to Ken. It may have seen Ken’s gun barrel swing just before it got dusted with a load of sixes.
For the day, Jerry’s hunters tallied 18 crows. The total was shy of Jerry’s season average, but the birds provided fairly steady shooting.
The crows went home with Jerry, and here’s his cooking
recommendation: Breast out the crow and peel each half off the bone. Marinate in Dale’s Sauce for 30 minutes. Then season with Tony’s seasoning or Greek seasoning. Skewer with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, etc. Grill 10 minutes on each side — and voila! Crow shish- kabob a la Tomlin. Jerry also recommends marinating and grilling the breasts like you would duck, and they taste similar to duck, he says. He has also made jerky from crow that tastes a lot like venison jerky — I’ve tried it.
Georgia’s crow season runs from November 2 until February 29. There is no bag limit. Outside of the season, crows may be shot if they are causing agricultural damage.
If you would like to book a crow-hunting trip with Jerry, the crow-calling maestro can be reached at (478) 968-5885.
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