The number of Sandhill Cranes killed this fall in Minnesota's first hunt for that species is expected to be announced in a few weeks. One-thousand nine-hundred and sixty-two hunters paid a $3.50 fee to hunt cranes. Limit was two birds per day and four in possession. The hunt was limited to a portion of the northwest corner of the state, an area where some cranes breed and others use as a migration resting spot.
The hunt was announced last summer by the DNR commissioner. No public hearings on the proposed season were held. Public comments were not solicited. There was a brief burst of complaint from some members of the birdng community when the announcement was made. Some thought hunting inappropriate for a bird that brings so much pleasure when simply seen.
Sandhill Cranes can be legally hunted in 14 states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, and now Minnesota. Most of these states are in the center of the country -- the Central Flyway, a migratory route. Texas and North Dakota account for 88% of the Sandhill Cranes shot on the Central Flyway. Presently, around 20,000 cranes are harvested in the U.S. every year. Hunting became legal in the 1960s.
Sandhill Cranes are hunted as they migrate, but hunters are not required to purchase the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, better known as the duck stamp. Duck and goose hunters must purchase the stamp, since ducks and geese are migratory birds. I guess there are migratory birds and then there are migratory birds.
The duck stamp, by the way, at the low, low price of $15 makes a wonderful holiday gift for the birder on your gift list. Easy to wrap, too. Money raised from sale of the stamp is used to purchase and lease land for national wildlife refuges and waterfowl management areas. The national refuges are wonderful places to watch birds. Hundreds of bird species use this land. Far more non-game birds are helped with purchase of the stamp than ducks or geese. Buy two, one for yourself and one to give away.
The Sandhill Crane in this photo was not hunted, as far as I know. It was photographed at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Wisconsin, a state where you cannot legally shoot a crane. Beautiful, isn't it?