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Crow ping-pong and the hunt for glory

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  • Who invents a game called crow ping-pong anyhow? Next time someone claims that America has cornered the global market on the unusual, the Germans should step up and at least claim responsibility for Crowbusters — a group of Bavarian bird hunters waiting for the apocalypse.

Farmers sometimes spread liquid manure on the ground and wait for crows to arrive — not exactly bees to honey, but it works. In one particular case, crows had been damaging plastic wrap covering silage bales. When the crows showed up for the manure feast — boom, boom, Goodnight Irene.

Nothing so strange with that scene, admittedly manure isn’t a typical hunting bait, but killing pesky crows has surely been going on since the dawn of agriculture. But there’s more to the story: A game of crow ping-pong, a group of Crowbusters, and a crow-killing controversy in Germany.

Who invents a game called crow ping-pong anyhow? Next time someone claims that America has cornered the global market on the unusual, the Germans should step up and at least claim responsibility for Crowbusters — a group of Bavarian bird hunters waiting for the apocalypse.

OK, the apocalypse bit might be a stretch, but the Crowbuster devotees do come with a hint of zealotry. Spiegel recently ran an article on the crow-killing group that is facing a mounting backlash for their enthusiasm.

The self-dubbed Crowbusters dress in military fatigues, shoot with semi-automatic rifles, wear face masks and well … love to kill crows by the hundreds. They maintain an online presence and trade stories about their exploits with a good deal of fervor. From Spiegel: “Drove 1,651 kilometers (1,030 miles) in three great days, slept six hours. It was a hell of a lot of fun.”

One thousand miles to kill some crows?

The Crowbusters often trade excited utterances about their kills via cell phone with each other while the hunts are going on — that’s the back-and-forth mobile appeal of crow ping-pong.

Confused yet? Maybe this killing frenzy is some kind of revolt against insanely tough and tangled hunting laws in Germany. Dunno. A good number of Americans hunt crows; I never have, but if given the opportunity, I’d grab a shotgun and take my turn. The crows wouldn’t have much to fear from me — during dove season each year I burn boxes of shells in exchange for a sore shoulder and wounded ego.

It’s no secret that in the U.S. crows ravage tree nuts and fruit crops, as well as raiding waterfowl nests. It’s also true that the crow is a phenomenal bird, one of the most clever creatures in the entire animal kingdom. The video evidence of their high intelligence is remarkable as seen is this clip of a crow baiting fish with bread crumbs:

And equally striking:

• Examples of crows using tools; here and here.

A crow dropping walnuts in traffic to get the meat.

The Crowbusters cite the “nuisance” factor when criticized in the German press, blaming overpopulation of crows for small game declines, but their argument comes up hollow when contrasted with the online glee, braggadocio and crow ping-pong. Spiegel reports that “… the conservative German Hunting Association has recently decided that the ‘excesses’ and ‘questionable images’ associated with the Crowbusters’ actions could hurt the image of hunting in general.”

Five thousand years past, some young boy got tired of standing sentry over his father’s fields and draped his cloak over a stick. He then snuck off to play, having just invented the scarecrow. Five thousand years later, German Crowbusters are running around in military clothes giggling about their exploits on mobile phones. We’ve come a long way, baby.

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