Take a walk on the wild side; become a master naturalist

If you are a lover of golf, you have undoubtedly watched the Masters Tournament a time or two. If you have a green thumb (on each hand) and have received some extra training in horticulture, you might be a Master Gardener. You may have earned a master’s degree, watched Masterpiece Theatre or have a Mastercard in your wallet. But do you know what a Master Naturalist is?

An Idaho Master Naturalist is a person who enjoys nature, outdoor recreation, supporting conservation and is interested in continually learning more about the natural world around us. It is someone who then channels their skills, interest, and energy to volunteer at nature centers, help biologists collect data, monitor wildlife, assist at parks and natural areas, help with fishing or hunting clinics, participate in habitat projects, give nature programs to children, or contribute to many other conservation-related efforts. An Idaho Master Naturalist can be a teacher, farmer, hunter, angler, birdwatcher, retired professional or homemaker — perhaps you!

To earn the title of Idaho Master Naturalist, an individual completes 40 hours of hands-on training in areas focused on Idaho’s ecology, plants, animals and natural systems taught by experts in their fields. You don’t need to have an education or background in science — just the desire to learn and the enthusiasm to volunteer.

The New High Desert Chapter of the Idaho Master Naturalists is now recruiting new members and will hold its first training on Jan. 24, led by Fish and Game Regional Wildlife Biologist Becky Abel, who will be presenting information on Idaho mammals. The class starts at 6 p.m. at the Southeast Regional Fish and Game Office located at 1345 Barton Road in Pocatello.

This first class is free of charge. Bring a friend, neighbor, co-worker, fellow outdoor-enthusiast or anyone who may be curious about this opportunity to give back in a unique way to our community and the wild world around us. For interested individuals who desire to become certified Idaho Master Naturalists, additional trainings/classes will be offered. The total cost for the certification process is $80 per person to cover supplies and materials. And, later in the year, much of the training will be spent outside in the great outdoors!

In the U.S., there are more than 30 states with Master Naturalists programs.

To date, Idaho has eight Master Naturalist chapters throughout the state, including the High Desert Chapter here in Southeast Idaho. And interest in starting new chapters is growing.

Though Idaho Fish and Game coordinates the state’s Master Naturalist Program, it is not solely a Fish and Game program. It is a program that belongs to the volunteers who drive it and donate their services, to the various partners who provide support, and to the communities who derive benefit from it.

So what does this program mean for Idaho?

The Idaho Master Naturalist program aims to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to actively work toward stewardship of Idaho’s natural environment — something we can all appreciate. Here in Southeast Idaho, Master Naturalists help with monarch butterfly monitoring, conduct wildlife surveys, give informed presentations to area schools, work information booths at environmental fairs, help with Fish and Game’s Trout in the Classroom programs, assist the Department of Environmental Quality and US Forest Service with water sampling and stream assessments, help with projects at the Edson Fichter Nature Area. But the possibilities are endless.

Furthermore, agencies like Idaho Fish and Game benefit from having skilled volunteers like Master Naturalists in the community. Volunteers are not only critical to completing important projects and tasks, their donated hours often serve as match for securing grants and other funding sources. Simply put, volunteerism helps Idaho Fish and Game and other agencies stretch their dollars further and do their jobs better.

If you would like more information on the Idaho Master Naturalists Program, the upcoming training in Pocatello, or if you have a need for these specialized volunteers, contact Tessa Atwood at the Southeast Regional Fish and Game Office in Pocatello at 208-232-4703 or visit the Idaho Master Naturalist webpage at idfg.idaho.gov/master-naturalist.

Jennifer Jackson is the Regional Communications Manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, southeast region.

Sportsmen Against Hunger event set for Jan. 26

CHUBBUCK — The 12th annual Sportsmen Against Hunger event will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 26 at C-A-L Ranch in the Pine Ridge Mall in Chubbuck.

Those who attend can help raise money for The Idaho Foodbank in Southeast Idaho by playing a fun corn hole game made just for this event with the high scorers winning prizes.

Participants buy a game card to take to each of the booths stationed throughout the store. Once the game card has been stamped at each booth, participants can try their skills at the corn hole toss. Cost to play is $10 for one try and $20 for three tries. All proceeds will be donated to the Idaho Foodbank.

In addition to hosting the event, C-A-L Ranch is once again donating some amazing prizes. The top prizes this year will be a new Sig Sauer AR-15, a Liberty gun safe and a pellet gun specifically for kids aged 12 and under.

The event booths will be staffed by local sportsmen’s groups and community organizations dedicated to wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation, and fighting community issues like hunger. Booths will share information and displays, offer raffles, and provide some fun items and activities for kids, such as the Idaho Fish and Game’s laser shot simulated hunting game

Expect to see the National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Backcountry Horsemen, Gate City Shooting Association, Delta Waterfowl, Pocatello Animal Shelter, POW*MIA, Southeast Idaho Fly Fishers, KZBQ, Idaho Fish and Game, and others.

This event is a great way to have fun with the family, win some awesome prizes and make a difference for the Idaho Foodbank and those they serve in southeast Idaho.

Pebble Creek supports charities with Tuesday ski pass sales

POCATELLO — Now a stay-at-home mom living in Idaho Falls, ChaAnn Rodriguez is still troubled by an observation from her high school days that students with disabilities were missing out on a senior class tradition.

Rodriguez, who graduated from Pocatello High School in 2014, regarded exchanging senior photographs and graduation announcements as a special part of the local student culture. But during her senior year, she assisted six students with special needs as a peer tutor, and only one of them had senior pictures taken and announcements made.

Rodriguez finally sees an opportunity to right a perceived wrong that’s been nagging at her for years, thanks to a new program offered by Inkom-based Pebble Creek Ski Area. The ski area recently started donating $5 of every lift ticket sold on Tuesdays to a chosen philanthropic cause of the week.

On Jan. 22, lift pass sales will help support Rodriguez in her efforts to provide senior photographs for about 20 seniors with disabilities from Pocatello, Century and Highland high schools. Rodriguez discovered a high percentage of students with special needs lack the financial wherewithal to hire a photographer. She explained many of their families also face extra expenses, such as speech therapy.

Other seniors with special needs told her they found the process of getting senior photographs taken to be physically and emotionally taxing.

Rodriguez, who operates her own business called CR Photography, has agreed to personally take the students’ photographs outside of their high schools after classes let out. Any revenue raised from Pebble Creek will help her defray associated personal expenses such as photo editing software and travel.

“These kids get so little of a normal high school experience, and one of the reasons I wanted to do this was to give them a little piece of their youth that they can appreciate and also connect with others on,” Rodriguez said. 

Christian Colonel, special education teacher at Highland, estimates fewer than half of his school’s students with special needs get senior photographs. Colonel has found that income is an obstacle, as is a lack of confidence many students with special needs have in themselves.

“I’ve got a dozen kids who want to do it,” Colonel said. “I think it’s huge for a lot of kids in this demographic. … If we can do it in a comfortable setting, I think they’re all for it.”

Next fall, Rodriguez hopes to expand her program to cover students with disabilities in Idaho Falls, and possibly to also give students hard copies of her photos, in addition to digital versions.

She comes from a family of skiers and snowboarders — including her father, Mike Rodriguez, who works at Pebble Creek — and she and friends and family have promoted the fundraiser heavily on social media.

“I’ve had a ton of my friends and family share it — to go ski for an awesome cause,” she said.

In addition to donating a portion of lift ticket sales to charity, the ski area discounts tickets to $30 on Tuesdays, said Dana Kmetz, Pebble Creek’s marketing and guest service director. The normal cost of a lift ticket is $47.

Kmetz said Pebble Creek encourages the recipient organizations to recruit skiers for the Tuesday fundraisers, which boosts the donations they receive while helping Pebble stay busy on a typically slow day. The first Tuesday fundraiser, hosted Jan. 8, raised $150 for Idaho State University’s Cooperative Wilderness Handicapped Outdoor Group. The second fundraiser, hosted Jan. 15, benefited Pocatello Free Clinic.

Kmetz said Pebble Creek still has open Tuesdays on its schedule and invites potential beneficiary organizations to inquire about participating.

“We’re going to be able to get more guests up here, who will be able to purchase discounted lift tickets at the same time,” Kmetz said. “We’re going to donate to good causes, and we’re keeping it all local.”

Kmetz said Pebble Creek has also donated $5,700 worth of lift tickets in support of local organizations.

DNA of wolf declared extinct in wild lives on in Texas pack

Researchers say a pack of wild canines found frolicking near the beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast carries a substantial amount of red wolf genes, a surprising discovery because the animal was declared extinct in the wild nearly 40 years ago.

The finding has led wildlife biologists and others to develop a new understanding that the red wolf DNA is remarkably resilient after decades of human hunting, loss of habitat and other factors had led the animal to near decimation.

“Overall, it’s incredibly rare to rediscover animals in a region where they were thought to be extinct and it’s even more exciting to show that a piece of an endangered genome has been preserved in the wild,” said Elizabeth Heppenheimer, a Princeton University biologist involved in the research on the pack found on Galveston Island in Texas.

The work of the Princeton team was published in the scientific journal Genes.

The genetic analysis found that the Galveston canines appear to be a hybrid of red wolf and coyote, but Heppenheimer cautions that without additional testing, it’s difficult to label the animal.

Ron Sutherland, a North Carolina-based conservation scientist with the Wildlands Network, said it’s exciting to have found “this unique and fascinating medium-sized wolf.” The survival of the red wolf genes “without much help from us for the last 40 years is wonderful news,” said Sutherland, who was not involved in the Princeton study.

The discovery coincides with similar DNA findings in wild canines in southwestern Louisiana and bolsters the hopes of conservationists dismayed by the dwindling number of red wolves in North Carolina that comprised the only known pack in the wild.

The red wolf, which tops out at about 80 pounds, was once common across a vast region extending from Texas to the south, into the Southeast and up into the Northeast. It was federally classified as endangered in 1967 and declared extinct in the wild in 1980. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1970s captured a remnant population in Texas and Louisiana that eventually led to a successful captive breeding program. Those canines in 1986 became part of the experimental wild population in North Carolina. That group has been declining since peaking at an estimated 120 to 130 wolves in 2006. A federal report in April said only about 40 remained.

An additional 200 red wolves live in zoos and wildlife facilities as part of captive breeding programs.

A federal judge in November sided with environmental groups that argued in a lawsuit that efforts by federal authorities to shrink the territory of the wild group in North Carolina were a violation of law. The judge ruled U.S. Fish and Wildlife also violated the Endangered Species Act by authorizing private landowners to kill the canine predators even if they weren’t threatening humans, livestock or pets.

The debate over red wolf protections could take on new dimensions with the discovery on Galveston.

Sutherland said the Galveston canines have effectively quashed a decades-old impression that red wolves were a feckless predator overwhelmed by the numerical superiority of coyotes. He adds that the Galveston group has DNA that can’t be found in the animal’s captive population.

“From a practical conservation biology standpoint, these animals have special DNA and they deserve to be protected,” he said, explaining that conservation easements that restrict development along parts of the Gulf Coast are an essential first step.

A spokesman for U.S. Fish and Wildlife said the agency is unable to comment during the partial government shutdown. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said in a statement that the Galveston discovery is “interesting,” but “we do not anticipate any regulatory changes or implications in Texas at this time.”

Kim Wheeler, executive director of the North Carolina-based Red Wolf Coalition, cautioned that further study of the Galveston pack is needed.

“We can get excited, but in my mind, we really need to let science do its due diligence to determine what this animal is,” she said, noting that red wolves can evoke strong feelings in people with livestock or who have other concerns with their predatory nature.

Conservationists, meanwhile, say policymakers need to have a greater appreciation for hybrid animals. When the Endangered Species Act was implemented in the 1970s, conventional wisdom was that hybridization between species — such as the wolf and coyote — was rare and to be avoided. But experts say the thinking on that has changed.

“Now we know hybridization is relatively common in natural systems and does not always have negative consequences, but the policy hasn’t quite caught up with this notion,” Heppenheimer said.

Thoughts on predator hunting

I have always used the winter months from January to the end of April to ski and maintain all my firearms and make sure they are cleaned, repaired if necessary, and in good working order for the target shooting, sighting in and the scouting for game I do from May to the end of July. During August, I begin to get ready for the hunting season, which for archery season opens about the end of August and goes through September. I then have 10 days to get ready for any-weapon season, which usually starts on Oct. 10. If I haven’t harvested any game by the end of October, there are still some hunts available for elk in November. So far in my life, I haven’t done much hunting in December except for jackrabbits on the Arco Desert back in the 1950s and early ’60s with my father who loved jackrabbit hunting.

At the first of January this year, I received an email from Fish and Game suggesting I renew my hunting license. While I was considering the pros and cons of renewing my hunting license now, instead of in April when I am getting ready to scout for game in three different areas, I got another email from a local sporting goods store telling me that I could hunt predators this winter and spring bear hunting was coming up.

The second email from the local sporting goods store reminded me that all hunters are not of the same mind when it comes to what we hunt and which hunting seasons we take advantage of during the year. For example, I don’t hunt bear. I don’t have a problem with those hunters that do, and I understand that in this day and age we have to manage the game and habitat carefully to ensure that there will be enough wild places and animals for future generations to enjoy. Hunting is certainly an important tool for wildlife management, and hunting seasons have been established for each species of wildlife. I just have never hunted bear because I have no justifiable reason to kill one unless it was in self defense. So far, when I have run into bears in the wild, both grizzlies and black bears, they have never given me any reason to think I was in any danger, nor were they threatening any livestock my father or anyone else owned.

The same is true concerning wolves and mountain lions. I don’t eat their meat, and I am not in the fur business, and so far I have never felt threatened by them, and they have seemed to not want to have anything to do with me. Many years ago, a mountain lion and her offspring took up residence close enough to my father’s horse ranch that we were concerned that they might cause a problem. A call to Idaho Fish and Game resulted in a relocation operation that proved to be successful. I was pretty happy Fish and Game had the equipment and resources to relocate them without having to injure or kill them.

Coyotes are a little different. I have no reason to hunt them unless they are threatening me or livestock. We did have a few coyotes come around the horse ranch, but they scattered and disappeared when we showed up with our shotguns. We never had a coyote attack any of the foals or mature horses on the ranch. A relative of mine who has a cattle ranch near Spring Creek, Nevada, has a real problem with coyotes and has invited my son and I to come with our AR-15s and rid the place of the coyotes. We may take him up on the offer as soon as we check with Nevada Department of Wildlife and make sure what our parameters are. We have been told by my relative that we don’t need a license if we just leave the coyotes where we shoot them and inform the department where to pick up the carcasses, which they will collect. Sounds great to me, but I want to verify that with Nevada Department of Wildlife to be sure we haven’t been misinformed.

In Idaho, there is no coyote season. They can be hunted year around, but one must have a hunting license.

Nonresidents can hunt coyotes with an Idaho three-day small game license that costs $35.50. Spot lighting for coyotes is an issue that can be taken up with Idaho Fish and Game and requires permission.

In my case, if I don’t plan to eat it, or donate it to Idaho Hunters Feeding The Hungry, and it isn’t a threat to me or livestock, I probably won’t hunt or shoot it. Even the jackrabbits my father and I hunted were at the invitation of farmers whose crops the rabbits were feeding on.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at mokeydo41245@hotmail.com.

Scout Days at Pebble Creek set for Jan. 21, Feb. 18

INKOM — Scout Ski Day is scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21, at Pebble Creek Ski Area in Inkom. Another Scout Ski Day is scheduled for Presidents’ Day, Feb. 18.

This program assists Boy Scouts who already know how to ski or snowboard in obtaining their Snow Sports Merit Badge.

First-time beginner lessons are offered for Scouts ages 10 and up who have never skied or snowboarded before.

Scouts who already have their merit badge can just have fun on the slopes. This allows troops with Scouts of varying abilities to participate together,

To complete the merit badge program, Scouts should be able to make linked turns and ski or board groomed runs. All requirements for the merit badge will be covered during this one day program.

Scouts should register downstairs in the lodge by 9:15 a.m. for the merit badge clinic and first-time beginner lessons, which start at 10 a.m. The program fee is $25 for the lift ticket and the merit badge clinic or first time lesson. Rental skis and snowboards for this program are available for $15. Helmet rental is $5.

For more information, call Pebble Creek at 208 775-4452 or visit www.pebblecreekskiarea.com.

Tradition of winter elk-viewing rides continues at Hardware Ranch

Annual elk-viewing rides are underway at Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area in Blacksmith Fork Canyon in northern Utah.

Manager of the ranch Brad Hunt said the rides are an opportunity for people to interact more closely with wildlife.

“Wildlife is often something that we see from a distance,” Hunt said, “not necessarily up close.”

According to Hunt, the horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides will last about 20 to 25 minutes. Visitors will be taken through the herd of elk.

A presentation from their driver will address elk biology, some of the research done at Hardware Ranch and some of the management area’s history.

Hunt said the tradition of elk-viewing rides at the management area began in 1950 and has evolved over the years.

As people are able to view the animals and learn about them, Hunt said he hopes this encourages people to be more conscientious about how they use the landscape.

“Now they are thinking, ‘I share this with elk,’ or ‘I share this with deer,’” Hunt said.

Hunt said understanding the shared nature of the land may cause people to modify their behaviors in a way that helps protect and conserve spaces for wildlife.

Tickets for the rides can be purchased at the visitor center. Ride tickets are $3 for those ages 4 to 8 and $5 for those ages 9 and older. Children 3 and younger are free.

The visitor center at Hardware Ranch will be open noon to 4:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday until Feb. 10.

Monday through Thursday the visitor center is closed and elk viewing rides are not offered.

Rides begin every half-hour when visitation numbers are lower. When the number of visitors is higher, rides will run constantly throughout the day.

The ranch area can be used for other winter recreation, such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing throughout the week, as long as the signs with information directing proper use are followed. A pit toilet is also available outside of visitor center hours.

Hardware Ranch is located 15 miles east of Hyrum in Blacksmith Fork Canyon. More specific directions to get to the ranch can be found on wildlife.utah.gov by searching “visit Hardware Ranch.”

Passion for ice: Eastern Idaho anglers love to fish when water gets solid

It takes a fierce passion to get avid anglers outside in the cold to sit for hours and stare at a hole in the ice.

“It’s because I’m Swedish, I don’t know any better,” said Arn Berglund of Idaho Falls. Berglund is a retired marine biologist who was fishing on the frozen Ririe Reservoir recently.

“Ice fishing is pretty laid back,” he said. “You should be out here when the old folks club is here drinking their homemade brandy. They get philosophical and a lot of the world’s problems are solved out on the ice.”

When the temperatures turn cold in eastern Idaho, hardy anglers head to lakes, ponds, reservoirs and frozen bends in the Snake River to bore holes in the ice and dip a lure or bait. The payback is trout, perch, kokanee and possibly a catfish.

The tools of the trade include miniature spinning rods, an auger, a slotted ladle to keep holes ice free, a chair to sit on, plenty of warm clothes, a shelter (especially on nastier weather days), a heater and a sled to pull everything across the ice. Some people enjoy using a fish finder showing what depth the fish are hanging out.

“I tell the kids it’s like a video game,” Jason Bush said of his fish finder. Bush was spending a couple of hours at the Becker Pond at Ryder Park recently. “I caught a couple trout, but I threw them back. I’ve eaten my share of trout growing up so I just put them back. My wife doesn’t care for trout.”

James Brower of Idaho Department of Fish and Game said Becker Pond is home to a variety of fish popular with ice fishers. Other popular ice fishing areas include Henry’s Lake (until it closed Jan. 2), Island Park Reservoir, the Jim Moore Pond at Roberts and Mackay Reservoir. Anglers seek trout, kokanee and perch.

Nearby Berglund at Ririe Reservoir was a couple, Corey Raichart and Sunny Hartgraves, sitting about 15 feet from each other with five ice holes, rods and a fish finder in between them.

Raichart pulled a small perch out of a hole, then released it back into the water.

“We’re hoping for some kokanee so we can have something for dinner,” Hartgraves said. She stood and approached Raichart to rebait her lure.

Raichart gave her a wary eye thinking she might use his ice hole.

“That’s where I draw the line,” he said. “I’m going to marry you but you can’t have my fishing hole.”

Sometimes the ice isn’t all that thick. That was the case Jan. 4 on Ririe Reservoir where six people were fishing on 3-inch-thick ice.

“I’m a little nervous,” Hartgraves said looking at the ice hole in front of her.

Brower said 3 inches is about the minimum for safe ice, but thicker is better. Ririe Reservoir is often the last body to freeze over. Other ponds and lakes were already several inches thick.

“Come out here tomorrow,” Berglund said of Ririe Reservoir, “and you’ll probably see a few wingnuts on four-wheelers breaking through the ice. It’s entertaining.” Fish and Game recommends 10 inches of ice to support an ATV or snow machine.

Brower said the best-reported ice fishing is currently at Mackay Reservoir.

“They’re pulling in a lot of kokanee,” he said.

Brower said Mackay Reservoir attracts elaborate shelters put up by anglers that sometimes stay up too long and fall through the ice in spring.

Brothers Kade Schaots and Kelton Beahm were spending most of their day fishing the Jim Moore Pond inside a warm shelter. At their feet on the ice were more than two dozen small perch. The pile continued to grow.

“We like to come out here and clean out some of the little perch,” Schaots said.

He said besides comfort, a dark shelter allows a fisherman to see the fish down in the ice hole.

“You can see the fish come up and take the lure,” he said.

Rules allow anglers to use up to five rods/lines at a time. The daily trout limit is generally six fish. There is no limit on perch, bluegill or crappie. There can be special limits on other fish depending on the waters. Fishing is allowed only through a hole up to 10 inches in diameter. If you leave a shelter unattended overnight on the ice, it must have the owner’s name, address and phone number on it.

For more specific regulations for specific waters, consult https://idfg.idaho.gov/fish/ice-fishing.

Snowmobilers rescued from Southeast Idaho backcountry

Two snowmobilers were retrieved from a snowy and dangerous situation Monday evening.

Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was notified at 5:40 p.m. Monday that two snowmobilers were missing and that they were stuck somewhere near Copenhagen Basin, which is between Preston and Montpelier in Southeast Idaho.

The Franklin County Search and Rescue unit was activated, as was the Bear Lake County Search and Rescue. It was unclear whether the exact location of the snowmobilers was in Franklin County or Bear Lake County.

Air Idaho Rescue out of Soda Springs was also called. With the coordinates given, they were able to fly in and pick up one of the separated snowmobilers.

“The other was stuck in a harder-to-get-to location, but the Franklin County Search and Rescue unit was able to make their way to the other one and get him out safely also,” Franklin County Sheriff Dave Fryar said.

Earlier in the day, avalanche warnings had been issued by the Utah Avalanche Center because of the heavy wet snow that had piled up from the weekend storm onto layers of light, dry snow.

“Avalanche danger was very high and caution was used to not cause any problems with that,” Fryar said.

Snowmobiler riders Bradley Reese of Smithfield, Utah, and Landon Carter, of Preston, were returned safely.

Avalanche danger is still considerable, according to the UAC. Avalanches in the higher elevations can be triggered from a distance, states a UAC forecast.

A free snowmobile-based avalanche awareness presentation and companion rescue clinic has been set for Friday at the Robinson Building in Preston at 6 p.m.

A field class will follow Saturday at 9 a.m. at Copenhagen Basin parking lot.

Crow hunting

To me, crows are the smartest birds in the world. As a kid, I never could outsmart them. I had a hand call but didn’t really know what I was doing. Years later, I finally learned the system. Like I said, crows are smart. But if you learn to call properly, you can smoke them.

With all of the recent crow problems in Nampa, I thought this might be a timely article. In fact, you may have seen me lately standing in front of the local grocery store holding the sign “WILL SHOOT CROWS FOR AMMO.”

Here’s how I like to hunt crows. Hide behind a super thick clump of cedars. You don’t want them to be able to see you until they’re within 20 yards or less. If they see you, they’re going to scatter.

You want to only have an opening above you. Being this well concealed makes it tough to always get a shot but if you’re exposed, they spook. So in the perfect set-up you’ll only have a hole above you. If you don’t have a perfect set-up, at least sit back in the shadows.

It’s best to be in a short clump of trees. If the trees are too tall, when they fly in skimming over the trees, they’ll almost be out of range even if they’re straight over the top of you.

You’ll also want to be camouflaged. Especially your hands and face. I wear a net over my face and at least some green army gloves. They can see your bare face if it’s not hidden and your hands are the source of most of your movement.

Like I said, I’ve used a hand call a lot, but an electronic call is by far the best. With a hand call, there’s only one of you; my electronic call sounds like there’s a whole Army of them swarming something.

I place the call about 20 yards from me in a clump of brush. I like to start off with a hawk whistle or an owl hooting. Then go to a crow/owl/hawk fight and then into your crows calling. Many times, they’ll be cawing when they come in, but a lot of times they’ll come in silently.

I also like to use a MOJO Crow decoy with the spinner wings. It comes with a 3- or 4-foot stake but it’s better to hang it up higher, so they see it better. It has a hook on it so you can tie up on a branch.

As long as they don’t see you and you don’t miss them, they’ll keep coming in. And if you happen to wound one, they’ll really come in.

So where should you set up? I don’t want to state the obvious but wherever you’re seeing crows. Find some good brush, set up and call. If you park and hear some off in the distance, you’re more than likely to have them zip right over.

So how far should you move between set-ups? I had one 50-acre spot and I did two or three set-ups on it. You can get on the north side of the place and point your speakers north and then go to the south side and point your speakers south to cover new turf.

What do you use for a gun and shells? I like my Mossberg 12-gauge semi-automatic. Crows aren’t exceptionally hard to kill and your shots will be semi close so I used Aquila low-base 6-shot.

I favor electronic calls, but how many times have you had a malfunction? Or your batteries died? So I carry a Quaker Boy hand call as a backup. Plus, it’s easy to throw one in your pocket if you’re out doing some kind of other hunting in case you run across some crows.

It seems like every time right at daylight when I’m calling varmints, crows come in. I never shoot them because I don’t want to booger up my setup, but obviously calling with a varmint call at daylight works.

So if you want to enjoy a little shooting in the off season and at the same time help the wildlife environment, grab your shotgun and go blast a few crows. They are not good neighbors. They’re death on ground birds (quail, chukars, grouse etc.). They eat their eggs.

And for the life of me I can’t figure out why Idaho protects ravens. There sure isn’t a shortage of them and they’re really bad neighbors! If we’re so worried about sage-grouse, why don’t we manage ravens? Go down in the Owyhees and look around. There’s a raven every 100 yards. It’s a miracle that one sage-grouse nest even survives.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.