The Outdoor Journal

Ancient, Wise and Tasty

That was the title of Andrew McKean's article on page 24 of the latest issue of Outdoor Life Magazine.  ( If you don't subscribe, you should give it a try. It's published four times a year now and is always crammed full of good writing and interesting articles. ) This particular story was about a hunt for Sandhill Cranes that the author was part of along the Red River in Oklahoma. I've never hunted Sandhills but just assumed they wouldn't be that hard to hunt.  When you see them, there are always lots of them. Right?

Wrong assumption according to McKean. Sandhill Cranes, “ though not quite as prehistoric as dinosaurs, sandhills are though to be the oldest living avian species on earth, with fossilized specimens dating to 2.5 million years ago.”  As McKean points out, “Over those roughly 250,000 generations, the birds have gotten pretty wary.”

Sandhills often mate for life, lay just two eggs per nest and on average have only one chick survive per year. Even with their low reproduction rate, Sandhill cranes have increased their numbers in recent years. Sandhill Cranes winter in the southern U.S. and northern Mexico, roosting on shallow lakes or rivers at night and spending the day in irrigated croplands, pastures, grasslands, or wetlands. 

To successfully hunt cranes, hunters use big spreads of hyper realistic decoys and spend time patterning the flock's movements.  They also equip their dogs with goggles because a wounded sandhill can spear anything that that gets close to it.

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