Gifford roamed the farms and creeks of Maplewood with a 12-gauge, but things didn't get serious until 1986, when the first early metro goose season opened. He and a few buddies "were so amped up for geese, we'd jump the gun, shoot too early, break like a bad dog, miss all over, brother." They needed to practice, and the crows that used their goose field all summer long seemed like good (and legal) targets. Gifford made black silhouettes from 1-by-6 lumber and put a cassette of Johnny Stewart's 205 Fighting Crow on a boombox in July. "We annihilated them," he tells me. "Annihilated them!" And when the second goose season came the following September, his crew killed way more geese too.
He graduated high school in 1991 and then worked in the back of a Mexican restaurant. The owners heard he was a hell of a bird hunter and hired him to guide them on a hunt. They smoked a pile of crows. "Son," one of them told him as they were picking up, "you need to guide full time." He started booking clients. Before the year was out, he was hosting seminars on crow hunting at the local Sportsman's Warehouse. Walking in for his first talk, he spotted a flyer on the door: Meet the Crow Man.