In this March 15, 2018 image, sandhill cranes dance near Gibbon, Neb. Huge numbers of sandhill cranes stop in the Platte River basin for rest and food before resuming their migration north. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
It’s been a little more than a century since sandhill cranes were able to be hunted in Alabama. That will soon change.
It was announced Friday that sandhill cranes will be opened for the upcoming hunting season in December, making it the first species to be opened for hunting in the state since the alligator in 2006.
It will also be the first time the species of large birds has been opened to hunting in Alabama since 1916.
The question at hand for many residents is “why now?” What would possess Alabama to lift this 103-year ban? Additionally, how good would this bird taste at your next barbecue?
According to the National Audubon Society, the sandhill crane is scattered around North America, most notably in the Great Plains and the Southeast.
Despite being common in the wilderness, habitat and wetland loss caused the cranes to become endangered. This is a key reason why they have not been allowed to be hunted in the state since 1916.
However, after years of dwindling numbers, the sandhill crane population has been able to make a leap in population and once again become fair game.
“This sandhill crane season came about through the feedback of hunters,” said Seth Maddox, Migratory Game Bird Coordinator for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
“They started seeing increased numbers of sandhills while they were out hunting other species, especially waterfowl. Hunters wanted the opportunity to hunt this species in Alabama. They’d heard about the seasons in Kentucky and Tennessee from their friends. Hunters have paved the way for the species recovery of sandhill crane. We want to provide hunting opportunities when they are available,” Maddox added.
Many hunters are looking forward to the opportunity to turn a sandhill crane into a nice meal. Sandhill cranes are notable for tasting like pork chops or beef tips.
“They call them the ribeye of the sky,” says Logan Hammer, a hunter from Albertville who hopes to get a permit to hunt the birds.
“I would definitely cook it on the grill. Grilling would definitely get you the best flavors out of a bird like that because they actually have red meat rather than white meat.”
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will conduct a computer-controlled drawing to award 400 permits to hunt sandhill cranes. Registration will be held in September and those chosen in a drawing to receive a permit will be notified in October.
In order to register, you must be an Alabama resident 16 or older or an Alabama lifetime license holder. Those who are given a permit to hunt the species will only be able to catch three per permit.
Alabama becomes the third state in the Southeast since 2011 to allow the hunting of Sandhill Cranes along with Kentucky and Tennessee.