Field and Stream

How to Shoot Crows

- BY ED ZERN

A NUMBER OF READERS HAVE written, asking me to provide them with my crow-shooting system. As both are regular subscriber­s I can’t afford to ignore their request.

The system is based on a study of crow behavior by biologists at Phelps University which showed that crows are actually able to count, but only in multiples of three or less, so that the convention­al procedure for fooling crows—by sending several men into a blind, then having all but one leave—is not likely to work except with very young birds. Thus, even if six crow hunters go into a blind and only five come out, the crows will have counted off the hunters in trios and will realize that one of the groups is short a man; as a result they will stay the hell away.

My system is childishly simple, and consists of the following steps:

1. Build a blind overlookin­g a cornfield frequented by crows.

2. Assemble a group of twenty-five hunters, all dressed alike and of nearly equal height and build. All the hunters should be clean-shaven, but twelve of them should be wearing false mustaches. The group should assemble in a barn not less than 350 yards from the field.

3. As soon as a flock of crows comes into the area, eleven of the hunters are dispatched from the barn to the blind, running at top speed. The instant they arrive, seven turn around and rush back to the barn.

4. When the seven hunters get back to the barn, they are joined by six other hunters and the thirteen of them sprint back to the blind; on arrival, ten of them turn around and dash back to the barn.

5. Before the ten arrive, eight more hunters are sent from the barn to the blind. When they meet the ten returning from the blind, all of them switch hats and false mustaches and resume running.

6. As soon as the eight hunters arrive at the blind, five of them turn around and rush back toward the barn; on the way they meet nine hunters running from the barn toward the blind, whereupon the hunters divide into two groups of seven, one of which runs back to the barn while the other rushes to the blind, changes hats and mustaches, leaves two of its members there, and dashes back to the barn.

7. Of the twelve hunters now in the blind, nine now rush across the fields to the barn while twelve of the thirteen in the barn charge en masse to the blind; on arrival they immediatel­y turn and sashay back to the barn taking two of the three hunters still in the blind with them, leaving a single hunter concealed in the blind.

8. Eventually the crows will learn to count faster, so that the system must be modified occasional­ly. It may be necessary to introduce false beards and quick-change toupees, and to build a second blind on another side of the field so that the traffic will be triangular instead of simply linear, requiring the crows to start working on trigonomet­ric permutatio­ns and geometric progressio­ns in order to cope. In severe cases the hunters may be equipped with numbered jerseys from 1 to 25 but with the number 17 omitted and two number 21s. (This can also be done with Roman numerals, when birds are very wary.)

August 1973