RUMFORD — Finding a crow this time of year is easier than finding a crow hunter despite being in the middle of the winter hunting season.

In all but the six wildlife management districts in northern Maine, the winter season on crows runs from Jan. 23 to March 31. The northern Maine season is from Feb. 7 to April 15.

Hunters participating in most of Maine’s hunting seasons for wildlife, game birds and waterfowl number in the thousands, but not so with crow hunters, Brad Allen said recently in Bangor.

Allen is the bird group leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“There’s only a small interest in hunting crows,” he said. “The number of crow hunters is not in the thousands, it’s in the hundreds. But those who hunt crow enjoy it very much.”

He said that according to a survey, one in 10 duck hunters said they hunt crows.

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Crow hunters, he added, tend to help farmers by hunting the birds on farm lands to try to reduce depredation on crops. However, “if hunters go hunting in February, they’re not saving any crops then, but they could be offending crows in the spring,” Allen said.

Maine’s summer season on crows is from Aug. 1 to Sept. 25.

“I’m in the Bangor area where the (crow hunting) focus is on dairy farm areas and where they plant crops,” Allen said.

Maine has had annual hunting seasons on crows since 1972 when the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was amended nationally. The act allows states to establish hunting seasons on crows before and after nesting season —when they are sitting on eggs and tending their young — for 124 days in a calendar year, Allen said.

In Maine, crows can only be hunted with bow and arrow, shotguns and trained falcons. “You can’t throw hand grenades at them,” he said.

Most people hunt crows with shotguns. To lure them into shooting range, hunters will use decoys and electronic calls. Allen said there are only a handful of falconers in Winterport and Scarborough who hunt crow with trained peregrine falcons that are captive-raised.

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An organized falconry group in Maine declined comment this month through a spokesman, who said they don’t want to be villified by the anti-hunting crowd.

“Most of them use falcons to hunt ducks,” Allen said. “They can train their falcons on crows, but they don’t. Falcons don’t distinguish between crows and ravens, which is probably why not many falconers hunt crow.”

Crow hunters must be able to identify their target. That’s why they need to know how to distinguish crows from ravens, which are illegal to hunt, Allen said.

“We have a significantly larger crow population than ravens,” which helps, he said.

Crows and ravens are both large and black, but ravens are much larger, have a different shape, longer necks and a huge beak. Ravens also exhibit different behavior, including mid air somersaults. They travel in smaller groups and their call is a low, croaking sound, compared to crows, which make a cawing sound.

“We’re expecting hunters to identify their target if they’re out participating in crow hunting,” Allen said. “There are a lot of cues if you are hiding in the bushes waiting for a crow. If you do shoot a raven and a warden sees it, there would be a fine. It might be a couple hundred bucks.”

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Maine typically runs its crow hunting season after the other hunting seasons have ended, which is in February and March and during the summer before waterfowl season, he said.

“It gives people that want to hunt crows the chance outside of other hunting seasons,” Allen said.

The MDIFW isn’t trying to manage or reduce crow populations with its hunting seasons, especially where the state doesn’t have many crow hunters, he said.

“Our crow population has been on a steady increase, so they’re doing very well,” Allen said.

“But Mother Nature has a way of keeping species in check. When we get large populations of birds like crows, there are natural diseases that keeps populations in check, like West Nile Virus.

“Crows are particularly sensitive to that. In 1999, there was an outbreak in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland, during which crows infected with the virus exhibited high mortality rates,” Allen said.

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The MDIFW doesn’t even count its crow populations, which fluctuate as some migrate. He said some crows in Bangor are from Bangor, but in the winter, they also could be from Quebec.

“Crows only fly as far as they need to,” Allen said. “They’re much more subtle. They could be in Bangor one day and three days later, in Hartford.”

Of Maine’s crow population, 99 percent are American crows, he said. The other one percent are fish crows, which are endemic to the southeastern U.S. “Occasionally, one will be in Maine.”

Crows are scavengers, which may be why nobody eats them, Allen said. Although, he said he knows people who have tried.

“Crows would rather be secretive and find a meal without telling their friends, but if they found a dead deer, all bets are off,” he said. “You can’t bait crows, but you can hunt them over cornfields and fields of agricultural grains.”

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