July 19, 2011 in City

Doug Clark: Bird calling device is something to crow about


Over the years I have presented plenty of hard evidence that the animal kingdom is out to get me.

My home invasions by box elder bugs, for example. Or the ant army that marched out of a light switch in my den.

And let’s not forget the hyperactive woodpecker that tried to turn Clark Manor into Swiss cheese.

But my close encounter with crows Sunday evening tops all of the above.

It happened after I puffed into a small wood “crow caller.” My lovely wife, Sherry, bought it for me earlier in the day in a Sandpoint crafts store.

See, we’ve had a lot of crows in our neighborhood lately. Sherry thought it would be funny to give me something to interact with them.

So on a lark, I decided to give it a try when we got back home.



A few seconds later – and I will swear to this biblically in court – the sky above our deck became a swirling caw-cophany.

I’m talking about 100-plus of the black-feathered fiends.

It was like being in a remake of that creepy old Hitchcock classic, “The Birds.” With the exception that no eyes were pecked out, thank goodness.

I kept on cawing, only now with my arms outstretched in a grandiose welcoming gesture. The birds seemed to respond by landing in the gnarled pine limbs high over my head.

“I am King of Crows,” I told Sherry, who was behind me and all but doubled over with laughter. If only we had been videotaping. I’d be more YouTube famous than Keyboard Cat.

Now I realize there are hunters and “birders” who claim to be quite adept at luring wildlife via imitating their chatter.

My corvine virtuosity is especially amazing considering that this fowl fooling was done without any practice.

OK. There was that one time when, for practical joke purposes, I disrupted a pal’s wedding by arming my fellow groomsmen with goose and duck calls.

PASTOR – “You may now kiss the bride.”

GROOMSMEN – “Honk! Honk! Quack! Honk!”

No wonder the marriage failed.

On Monday I called John Harbuck. The North Idahoan makes these crow callers as part of his company, Pack River Buttonworks.

The calls, he said, are based on a time-tested folk design.

Crows are legendary crop-eating pests. So farmers would use similar “cawing” calls to lure the critters into scattergun range.


They don’t call it a “murder of crows” for nothing.

Harbuck’s call is a small chunk of bark-smoothed branch. A small hole has been drilled through the middle of the branch lengthwise. A split dowel rod is then inserted into the hole, much the way a reed goes into an oboe.

“… so easy to use that a child could do it,” states the instructions.

Maybe. But could a kid hypnotize half the crow population of Washington?

Doubt it.

Harbuck said he has successfully used his product to commune with a few crows. But this was the first he’d ever heard of anyone who has managed such a mass attraction.

Obviously I’m a natural.

And while screwing with these avian loudmouths is quite satisfying, I’m already devising a three-step scheme to cash in on my gift.

Step One is to elect Barb Lampert as Spokane mayor.

I’ll admit I joined the snicker chorus when I heard that varmint control, including crows, is one of the candidate’s main mayoral concerns.

Step Two is to convince Mayor Wingnut to pay me to lead all the crows out of the city to Millwood. I’m thinking about a buck a beak will do it.

Step Three is to see if Millwood would like to hire my removal services.

You’ve heard of the Pied Piper?

I’m the Crow-Magnet Man.


Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.

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