Hunters bag over 1,000 birds
Jason Barnes of Union Springs, right, checks in to have his crows counted by John VanNest of Moravia Sunday afternoon at Spinouts tavern. Glenn Gaston / Contributing Photographer

AUBURN - For the second consecutive year, the Crow Dogs of Stanley, Ontario County, took home the bragging rights as the most bountiful hunters during this weekend's crow hunt.

During the two-day event, the Crow Dogs - Von Strahan, Mike Ayers, Dave Polmanteer and Scott Oberdorf - knocked off 217 crows, more than twice the amount of the second-place team.

"It's easy pickings," Strahan proudly replied, declining to offer their winning strategy.

By the end of the hunt, the 52 teams of four killed 1,067 crows. The city's crow population is estimated to be as high as 70,000.

Last year, about 140 hunters killed 348 crows.

A local team, led by brothers Martin and Norm Quill, finished second. They brought in 70 crows in a large white garbage bag that they killed Sunday, which added to their impressive two-day total.

"Two more and it would have been 100. Too bad. I like round numbers," remarked Norm Quill.

The Quill brothers team started participating in the hunt long before it got its notoriety during the past two years, Norm Quill said.

The event has informally been held for years but now receives national media attention.

"We've had better days, way better than this," said Norm Quill. "We're some of the original crow hunters."

Organizers Tommy Lennox of Niles, taxidermist Jon VanNest and bar owner Lance Gummerson, who walked around Spinouts with a stuffed crow on his shoulder, were happy with the results. They're already talking about next year's crow hunt.

Not only will some of the city's crow population not be pestering residents, but the hunt raised $1,000 for charity, VanNest said. The money will be given to a needy family, he said. Teams paid $60 to enter. Organizers also sold an array of T-shirts, hats and bumper stickers during the party.

Some of the dead crows will be sent off to Cornell University, where researchers will test them for the West Nile disease and other viruses that kill the birds, Lennox said.

After the hunt, participants gathered at the Orchard Street tavern to trade stories, brag a little bit and celebrate the occasion. They drank some beer and had a chicken barbecue. For dessert, they ate a cake that featured icing that looked like a crow sitting on a branch surrounded by blue skies.

Lennox quickly pointed out that none of the hunters got into trouble. It was a protester who vandalized Memorial City Hall, he claimed.

"They cost the taxpayers money. We helped the local economy," VanNest said.

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Hunters from Alexandria Bay, Watertown and all over the state visited Auburn for the crow hunt, he said. They ate at local restaurants and stayed in Auburn lodging.

Lennox would have been happy with a 20 percent more in hunters from last year, but the turnout grew about 30 percent.

Yet he's worried about a bill that will be reintroduced Tuesday in the state Assembly by a Greenwich Village state legislator, who wants to ban such hunting contests. The organizers met with representatives of the New York State Conservation Counsel this weekend to discuss how to stop the proposed bill.

They plan to go to Albany and lobby legislators to stop the bill. Last year, the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee considered the bill but it was stalled in committee.

Lennox has agreed the protesters have a right to voice their opinions.

But don't expect him to attend a crow festival that pro-crow residents want to start this summer to celebrate the city's unique population.

"Absolutely not," Lennox said. "I don't believe in what they believe in or won't associate with what they believe in."

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