HUNTING TIPS & TACTICS
There are two sub species of Sandhill Cranes, the Greater and the Lesser. Although their plumage is very similar, they do vary in size. The “Lesser” Sandhill Cranes breed in the Arctic and are the smaller of the two. The “Greater” Sandhill Crane breeds in the northern U.S and Canada.
When hunting the Sandhill Crane similar strategies can be used as hunting Canada geese. First of all, they feed in agricultural fields and migrate in family groups, as do Canada geese. In addition, using a spread of 4-6 dozen Sandhill crane decoys is sufficient in many early season situations.
Due to the fact that the Sandhill Crane is an early migrator and normally on the move as soon as early September each fall, they can be specifically targeted on a hunting trip. Scouting these magnificent creatures is also very similar to scouting geese. The birds fly from a roost pond in the morning to a feeder field. However unlike geese, most times the Sandhill Cranes will only feed one time a day and will stay in the field most of the day and not return to the roost pond until around sunset. Thus most hunters only get one crack at the birds in a day.
Several aspects of hunting Sandhill cranes that are different than Canada geese are: the birds, although many times less pressured from hunters, are much more wary. In fact they are known for avoiding hunter’s goose decoy spreads all together even if they are in their flight path. Thus hunting with a specific spread of Sandhill crane decoys is very important. Additional concealment is a must, the Sandhill cranes are known for having extremely good eye sight and avoiding hunters. Setting up a decoy spread in a feeder field along a fence row can be beneficial when crane hunting, unlike hunting geese.
And finally, most hunters have heard the old adage that a crippled Sandhill crane can be dangerous and are known for poking out a dogs eye. Is there any truth to this? The answer is simple, the adult Sandhill crane can be very aggressive and intimidating, not only towards retrievers but hunters as well. It is not uncommon for a crippled crane to turn on a hunter and actually chase the hunter, if they feel severely threatened. Thus taking precaution prior to sending your dog on a retrieve makes good common sense.
The Sandhill crane is a very family orientated bird and normally flies in smaller family groups. Hunting these magnificent birds can become addicting and with a little trial and error, can be very successful and rewarding. These birds better known as the “Ribeye of the sky” make for a great table fare and can be a very rewarding add on to a specific hunting trip or a season overall.