how to catch a crane bird

These wary birds present a unique waterfowling challenge and make excellent table fare

Large, pointed-billed birds could resemble a scene cut from Jurassic Park rather than a waterfowl hunt as they descend in a procession accompanied by trumpet-like calls.

However, that scene repeats itself year after year in many parts of North America as a small but committed group of hunters hunts a rare bird: the sandhill crane.

You’ve undoubtedly seen sandhills, which are tall, long-legged, long-necked birds with red foreheads, gray-brown plumage, and dark, prominent bills, depending on where you live. With a total population of over 650,000 (comprising six subspecies), they are common to abundant throughout much of North America. Occasionally, they migrate in large, whirling flocks, frequently mingling with geese or ducks to feed in fields. But not many people are aware of how much crane hunting is available in North America, and even fewer are aware of the best ways to go after these magnificent birds.

Thats where experts like Tony Vandemore come in. Vandemore began guiding for sandhills in Saskatchewan in the fall of 2015 as co-owner of the Habitat Flats and Habitat Flats-Central Prairie lodges. He claimed that the crane game presents a special challenge.

He remarked, “They’re a huge bird that almost look prehistoric.” Seeing them approach, it appears as though they can move like a more agile duck. They are really neat to watch decoy.

Heres how to get started with crane hunting.

Although they usually roost in bogs, damp meadows, shallow marshes, or other similar places, cranes enjoy feeding on fields of harvested crops. Hunting them is therefore comparable to hunting other waterfowl on dry land.

Similar to a duck or a goose, Vandemore remarked It has to come off the roost to feed. Any bird moving about to feed is vulnerable to hunting.

Naturally, you can’t just pick a field and start shooting cranes. Finding preferred feeding areas is critical.

Successful hunts are greatly facilitated by being in the right location, just like with ducks and geese, according to Vandemore. When hunting dry fields, scouting is essential. Being on the X makes it much easier to run traffic by getting in the way of cranes, as they tend to fly low and really string out in the same lines off the roost.

This typically entails spending a lot of time behind the wheel, searching for birds in fields or the sky. Once you’ve located crane concentrations in a huntable area, you need to devise a strategy to capitalize on them. That’s a lot like hunting ducks or geese, only with cranes you have to take extra precautions. Vandemore typically deploys his incredibly lifelike full-body crane decoys in groups of three to six blocks. Additionally, with sharp-eyed cranes, concealment—which is always crucial in field hunts—is extremely crucial.

Going above and beyond to regularly clean the blinds with natural vegetation was essential because cranes have extraordinary vision,” he said. Because cranes are standing up while feeding in the field rather than lying down, they would flare up and stop coming in if you failed to pick up a dead one that was on the back side of a wind row of grain. That demonstrates their intelligence and excellent vision.

Six subspecies of sandhill cranes are recognized by biologists: greater sandhills, which nest in the northern United States and southern Canada from the Great Lakes west to the Pacific; lesser sandhills, which breed in the arctic and stage heavily each spring along the Platte and North Platte rivers in Nebraska; resident Florida sandhills; endangered Cuban sandhills; endangered Mississippi sandhills.

Alabama, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Idaho, Minnesota, Arizona, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alaska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the seventeen states that allow crane hunting. Many seasons are limited and require a special permit. Moreover, hunters can go after sandhill cranes in parts of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Mexico.

The only state in the Central Flyway without a crane season is Nebraska.

According to Vandemore, he and his customers typically fire 3-inch loads of No 2 steel, which he said was an abundance of crane medication. Large and with enormous wingspans, sandhills are relatively easy to bring down because of their long necks.

However, when recovering downed birds, hunters should exercise caution, especially if they are using dogs.

Cranes can be extremely mean when wounded, Vandemore said. They will attempt to peck at a dog’s eyes or a hunter’s hand if they feel like grabbing them with their large, long beak. They have three claws on each foot once the neck is fastened. Their feet are the first to appear, trying to claw a dog or a hunter’s forearm. I would only let my dog run on obviously dead cranes as a result. In the unlikely event that my dog tried to stray toward a wounded person instead and would have let off a sit whistle, I always made sure to run an e-collar.

After a successful hunt, though, the rewards become apparent. Hunters will have taken what could be one of the best-tasting waterfowl species and a bird for the bucket list.

As for the moniker, they really go by “ribeye of the sky,” according to Vandemore Theyre extremely fine table fare; lean, tender and grain fed. “.

Vandemore emphasized that although crane hunting may appear somewhat complicated, anyone can do it.

They have to leave the roost to feed, just like a duck or goose, as I previously mentioned, he said. Both hunting and scouting are essentially the same. Place some crane decoys there, move to where they want to be, and make sure you are completely hidden.

Or, if you want to experience a once-in-a-lifetime hunt, contact or Cooper Olmstead at (515) 835-2223) about a Saskatchewan sandhill outing.

The variety is the best thing about hunting them in Canada, according to Vandemore. Cranes will eat ducks, and you can witness them interacting with Canada geese. It’s another chance to add to the rich assortment of Canadian prairie experiences.

Sandhill cranes offer a singular chance to see one of the most distinctive birds in the world, no matter where you chase them. After all, waterfowlers enjoy a variety of experiences, and hunting cranes might be at the top of anyone’s bucket list.

Click here for more Realtree waterfowl hunting content. And check us out on Facebook.

They add, “Although effective, the clap trap was not flawless.” Setting up the traps took a lot of time, and if we weren’t careful, they wouldn’t set off the way they should have. ”.

Let me start by offering the University of Nebraska at Lincoln a hearty tip of the hat. “Techniques Employed to Capture Whooping Cranes in Central Florida” is the report they produced, which was presented at the 2008 North American Crane Workshop Proceedings.

I have several thoughts on this trap. Initially, it appears that it could be constructed using quick materials. I believe you could build one of these if you had a tennis net, volleyball net, fruit tree protective netting, or even lightweight wire mesh. The authors admit that in order to hide it, they colored the rope and net. I anticipate using leaf litter or other plant material.

This six page document, with complete instructions on building and use is available here.

Speaking about the clap trap design, the authors state that “its most appealing feature was its ability to safely catch multiple cranes at once.” The traps cost less than $40 apiece and were reasonably simple to construct.


What attracts cranes?

Cranes are attracted by open settings (mowed grass) and the availability of foods such as acorns, earthworms, mole crickets and turf grubs.

How do I get rid of cranes in my yard?

If a divine habitat has been created, it needs to be disassembled if sandhill cranes are not welcome garden guests. This is not about harming the cranes. It’s about undoing what you have created. Take down bird feeders for a period of time to cut off the free bird seed.

How do you catch a sandhill crane?

A variety of techniques have been uti- lized to capture wild cranes capable of flight, during all stages of the annual cycle: rocket-netting (Wheeler and Lewis, 1972; Ramakka, 1979; Tacha et al., 1982; Urba- nek et al., 1991); walk-in trap (Logan and Chandler, 1987); night-lighting (Drewien and Clegg, 1992); helicopter …

How do you catch a bird without a trap?

If a hose is readily available, spray the bird with large amounts of water in a short period of time. This will make it heavy so that it cannot fly off. Grab it in a way that will secure it in your hands, without applying too much pressure; birds are delicate.