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July 20. 2013 7:59PM

John Harrigan: A new take on eating crow? 'Murder,' the maven wrote; but should there be a season?


 

Crow-hunting to "sharpen up skills" (to quote a long-ago press release) for hunting grouse and woodcock? As a lifelong hunter, spare me. It is hard enough explaining a heritage, a way of life, a passion, a pursuit - never a "sport." Betting the ponies or basketball are "sports."

This, crows, would seem to be another species-preference issue. We treat coyotes like rats at the dump, but revere and idolize their poster-child close cousin, the wolf, as a soulful call for all that is loved and wild. Ambiguity doesn't even come close to covering it.

Item: There is no closed season on coyotes, a species displaying increasingly wolf-like tendencies as it learns to hunt as a pack (family) and take down larger prey, a key to survival in a harsh climate. Think here "evolving brush-wolf."

Crows are an alleged migratory bird, although in my lifetime they've long since been harbingers of spring. These days, they tend to stay around through all five seasons (add Mud). When I was a kid, not long ago, crows showing up at Pollard's slaughterhouse just across Beaver Brook was a signal that the south-facing snowbanks were sure to melt soon.

Crows, being previously considered migratory, should come under the same huntable migratory birds as, say, certain ducks and woodcock.

This last sentence is confused (as are by now its readers) as to what constitutes "migratory." We have native woodcock in New Hampshire. They tend to be more flighty (all right, a pun), and a bit thicker, if not in numbers then in body. They hit their apogee faster, and then fly away like Sidewinder missiles.

Aside: In my early bird-hunting days, I tended to kick the launching woodcock away as interference, obscuring launching partridge (grouse). "They eat worms," I lamented to the lout Lanier, who professes to love woodcock, in the field and on the table, not mine, because I allow no insects. "You might as well go out into the garden and eat a shovelful of worms," I try to tell him, "and save the transportation, guns and ammo."

"I like them," he replies, totally in character, having much in common with insects, which says a lot about him, which is why I've been tempted to serve at the supper table, on which his elbows have worn ham-hock-like grooves, worms.

When I was in my teens living in hunting and fishing camps, I was told that sneaking up on and killing a crow were among the hardest things to do. And this was in a time when "sneak" and "kill" were much in my head, not that they still are not.

And so out I went into the alder swamp between the main cabin and the four camps on the other side of Clarksville Pond and belly-crawled through the swamp and alders for at least an hour until I crept into view of the field where I knew the crows were. I'd escaped the vision and alertness of the treetop watchdog crow. And so I drew my .22 rifle's bead on the nearest on-ground crow, and let fly, and brought the dead crow home, to no one's great praise. I'd broken some taboo.

Sure, I've had crows hop or fly into the garden and pull up just-sprouted corn from the ground. Sure, I've seen crows rob nests. And for sure, they've long been labeled dump birds.

But should New Hampshire have a defined hunting season for crows? No. For one thing, once you have a defined "season" for a creature I'd think (have to check on F&G game damage and control on this) you (we, you, me, government) become liable for any damages - corn, berries, sheep, lambs, chickens, fruit, and on and on. That is precisely why I think - potential damages - F&G does not have a controlled season on coyotes. Shoot at will (not mine).

Crows are migratory birds, designated as such under the ongoing and ever-revised Migratory Bird Act (Treaty) of 1914. They deserve better than being treated as a coyote, versus the wolf - in the crow's case, better than the hummingbirds that now zoom around my feeders, or the ravens that play in the sky.

I will, if I have to, shoot a crow, much as I love them. But like the coyote-wolf thing, I'd have a hard time explaining it to the ever more understanding and tolerant public, and don't want to.

John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576, or hooligan@ncia.net


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