Last year, Alabama saw its first sandhill crane hunting season in more than 100 years. The season returns for 2020-2021 with 400 permit holders having the opportunity to hunt sandhill cranes in north Alabama. Registration for the permits opens on September 8.
Norman Haley from Scottsboro, Alabama, has hunted sandhill cranes twice in Tennessee and was excited to have the opportunity to do so in his home state during the 2019-2020 season.
“Sandhill crane hunting is very unique,” Haley said. “The anticipation of seeing the birds approach from a distance is exciting. The slow and graceful circling as they land in a field is a sight to see.”
Today, that sight is more common in north Alabama thanks to the state’s conservation efforts and hunters who purchase their hunting licenses.
In the early 2000s, sandhill crane seasons in the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways were under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). By 2010, USFWS approved a sandhill crane management plan that included a hunt plan for the Mississippi Flyway, which includes Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Kentucky opened its season in 2011. Tennessee’s season soon followed in 2013. Alabama’s season opened in 2019.
“I’ve now been able to take part in the first modern day sandhill crane seasons in Tennessee and Alabama,” Haley said. “It’s nice to know that hunter dollars and conservation efforts have brought sandhill cranes to sustainable and harvestable levels in the state. Alabama’s sandhill crane season is just another example that conservation works.”
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (ADCNR) Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) receives no funding from the state’s general fund. The WFF’s Wildlife Section is primarily funded through a portion of hunting license sales that is matched on a three-to-one basis by the USFWS through the federal Pittman-Robertson Act. Alabama State Duck Stamp sales are also matched through the same process, but earmarked by state law to be utilized for wetlands and waterfowl conservation.
“Monies from these two revenue sources directly benefit sandhill cranes by providing habitat protection, management and restoration work in the areas of Alabama that cranes utilize as migration routes and wintering habitat,” said Seth Maddox, WFF Migratory Game Bird Coordinator. “Over the long term, conservation of habitat has played an integral part in the population growth of sandhill cranes.”
Those conservation efforts have benefited both sandhill cranes and hunters in Alabama like Haley.
“There was a time I thought the only way I would be able to hunt sandhills was by taking a trip to Texas or Oklahoma,” Haley said. “Now that I can hunt them in my home state, I don’t ever see myself passing up the opportunity as long as it’s available.”
Registration for Alabama’s 2020-2021 sandhill crane hunting season will open at 8 a.m. on September 8 and run until 8 a.m. on September 29, 2020. The WFF will conduct a computer-controlled random draw of 400 sandhill crane hunting permits on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at noon Central Time. To register, visit here during the dates listed above. A $10 registration fee applies.
Registration is limited to Alabama residents 16 or older or Alabama lifetime hunting license holders. Applicants must have their regular hunting license and a state waterfowl stamp to register.
If drawn, hunters must complete an online test that includes species identification and regulations. After passing the test, WFF will issue the permit and tags to the hunter. In addition to a hunting license and state duck stamp, hunters must also acquire a federal duck stamp and Harvest Information Program certification, and, if hunting on a Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a WMA license.
The season is restricted to north Alabama and consists of two segments. The first segment runs from December 4, 2020, to January 3, 2021. The second segment will be January 11-31, 2021. The daily, season and possession limit will be three birds per permit. Hunters can harvest all three birds in one day if they choose. Both state and federal wildlife refuges are closed to sandhill crane hunting.
For more information about Alabama’s 2020-2021 sandhill crane hunting season, click here.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visitwww.outdooralabama.com.
(Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources)