February’s offbeat seasons offer great hunting
Two birds that give hunters some entertaining and offbeat opportunities — crow and snipe — are legal to hunt through Feb. 28.
There is no limit on crows, and the daily limit on snipe is eight.
Crows are considered a nuisance, especially in the pecan industry. Mature crows can damage up to 15 pounds of pecans a month, and they usually form huge flocks in the winter.
It’s no wonder pecan farmers despise them.
“I’ve seen those videos of guys who can communicate with crows using calls as they would ducks, but I’ve never learned that technique,” said Don Jackson of Natchez. “We just use the CD that mimics a crow and owl fight and with modern electronics, there’s portable gear that can throw that sound out there for miles.
“You get a flock of crows passing by and they’re going to come and check it out. One thing I read when I started crow hunting that I’ve found to be very true is that you have to kill the first crow, the leader of the pack, on each pass, regardless of the number in the flock. You miss him and he leaves, all the others will go with him. You knock him down and it’s almost funny how the other crows might spook but they usually just circle back and you just keep hitting the new lead crow.”
The conventional wisdom is to use high brass No. 6 shells in 12 (preferred) or 20 gauge shotguns. Crows are tough.
It’s also wise to put out a spread of crow decoys and at least one big owl decoy in a tree.
“We usually start out with about a dozen crow decoys and the one owl on a limb,” Jackson said. “By the time the hunt ends, we have about 30 or 40 crow decoys because each bird we knock down becomes another decoy.”
(Note from the writer: From personal experience, and trust me on this, use some kind of sound suppression for your ears and take plenty of your favorite headache cure. The roar of shotguns isn’t the big problem. Nope, it’s that danged recording. At some point, you will consider blasting your friend’s speaker system, and, again trust me on this, that can be expensive.)
Contrary to popular misconception, snipe hunting is a real sport and can be fun. Sadly, the first mention of snipe hunting brings thoughts of the practical joke where you take friends out in the woods at dark, leave him/her/them with a bag and instructions to just grab the snipes and put them in a bag while you push the birds toward them — then you leave them there.
Real snipe hunting is done in marshy areas, similar to duck hunting habitat. The birds are considered marsh birds, and they will be in shallow wetland habitat, and where you find a few they are likely to be in big numbers.
“Bird shot, like No. 8 or 7½ is plenty, whatever you’d use dove hunting,” said Sidney Montgomery of Ridgeland, who hunted snipe regularly when he worked as a marketing director for Tara Wildlife near Eagle Lake. “Snipe are small and quick, and are a good challenge to shoot, but they have this habit of not wanting to fly very far. If you jump them up out of a marshy area, they will go right to the next one.
“That sets up an interesting possibility if you can find them in a situation where there’s high ground between two marshy areas. You can position shooters on the ridge and then have hunters walk the marshes and jump shoot them. We’ve had days when the snipe would fly back and forth across the ridge going from one marshy area to another, and I mean hundreds of them. One day we had 12 hunters limit out in about two passes.”
Montgomery loves eating snipe as much as hunting snipe.
“Tender, tasty red meat like a dove, only smaller,” he said. “They are delicious.”
Harold Watkins of Greenville usually hunts them with a single partner.
“We walk them up in the marsh and that means we’re tromping through some serious Delta gumbo mud,” he said. “Hip waders or at least a good pair of knee boots are necessary, and a lot of time full chest waders. We use 20 gauge shotguns because they’re lighter to carry and let me tell you, in gumbo mud, every ounce counts.”
Watkins said jump-shooting snipe is fun once you find a concentration.
“When you jump them, a lot of times you can’t get a shot, but if they are travelling with other snipe, they tend to circle and come back,” he said. “We usually just squat down and wait, and in a minute or two, they’ll come back.”
Federal regulations require a plugged shotgun, but non-toxic shot is not required.