Over a century in the making, Alabama waterfowlers holding special tags got a shot at sandhill cranes in a zone covering the northern third of the state during December and part of January. WATCH for a post-season report in our print edition. — Editor
For the first time in 103 years, lucky Alabama hunters are enjoying the opportunity to legally hunt a sandhill crane for the table.
Beginning on Dec. 3, Alabama’s hunters got the opportunity to shoot a limited number of this large gamebird once again. A limited quota draw program put seasonal tags in the pockets of 400 hunters. The season is split into two segments with the first one ending Jan. 5. A second segment will be Jan. 16-31. The season limit is three birds per permit, and hunters can harvest all three birds the same day if they choose.
Surveys over the last few years show about 15,000 of the big cranes — informally known as “ribeye of the sky” for their delicious steak-like meat — are now wintering in Alabama. The open hunt zone covers roughly the upper third of the state, focusing on the Tennessee River corridor and Wheeler NWR.
About half the permit holders are expected to go the full route with blinds, calling and decoy setups specifically for cranes.
Interestingly, some enterprising guides have started offering their services to those who hold sandhill tags but lack the know-how, the place or the gear to decoy-hunt for them.