An Eye For An Eye

Ravens have a thing for the taste of the eyeballs of newborn calves. Is that OK with you?

"If it's big and black and flies … kill it," the rancher told me when I asked for permission to shoot crows.

"Especially ravens,” he continued. “I think I hate them worse than coyotes. You can only shoot crows if you kill ravens, too." His was a response that didn't surprise me, because I've heard cattlemen express those kinds of sentiments before. And the reasons are always the same.

Ravens, like coyotes, are opportunists that can survive on just about any kind of food, with one of their favorites being carrion. However, like coyotes, the critter doesn't have to be dead—just helpless—for a raven to start in on it.

And ranchers tell me the thing that enrages them most about ravens is their taste for the eyes of newborn calves. Ravens will swoop in on young calves and, using their Bowie-like bill, peck out the eyes. Of course, the rancher then has to destroy a valuable animal, turning it into carrion. Considering the intelligence level of these birds, I can't help but wonder if they've learned this cause and effect relationship.

An Eye For An Eye
Whatever the case, the best solution is for us varmint hunters to help keep the raven population in check. So, when a local farmer asked for assistance last week because he had far too many ravens hanging around his cattle, I made the drive to one of his remote pastures.

Using the same setup I utilize for crows, I put out decoys consisting of an owl and three crows. And because ravens can see color and are attracted to blood, I also put some bits of red fabric near the base of the owl. Of course an e-caller sat next to the owl as well, in this case a Western Rivers NiteStalker Pro.

The sounds I play for ravens reflect the tastes of the quarry and are widely varied. Usually a rabbit distress sound comes first, and after 5 minutes of that I'll switch to crow sounds, including crow discovery, crow in distress and a crow/owl fight. The Western Rivers library includes raven sounds, and those are effective, too. In short, lots of sounds work.

The trick to calling ravens is patience because they respond much more like coyotes than crows, their close relative. By that, I mean ravens tend to show up in singles or pairs. I've never had them respond in large flocks like crows will do.

They’re also slower to respond, and it's worth sitting and calling in one spot for up to an hour because ravens can trickle in during the entire time, as they did last week when I killed five over the course of about an hour.

I try to set decoys up along a fenceline or in a blown-down tree, then I hide myself in the shade of a nearby treeline. Ravens have great eyesight, so that old rule about crow hunting applies to them as well: There's no such thing as too much camo! As for guns, any good 12-gauge will work. I'm using a Remington Versa-Max Tactical these days with a modified choke, and it's working great. Ammo is whatever lead pellet loads I have on-hand and that need to be used up. Shot sizes anywhere between No. 4 and No. 7 seem to work fine.

Lastly, before targeting ravens, check your local laws to make sure shooting them is legal. In my area, ravens can be shot on private land with the permission of the landowner—but that might not be the case everywhere.