Date of this Version
Dubovsky, J.A., and A.C. Araya. Hunting success for mid-continent sandhill cranes in the Central Flyway: comparing current and historical results. In: Folk, MJ and SA Nesbitt, eds. 2008. Proceedings of the Tenth North American Crane Workshop, Feb. 7-10, 2006, Zacatecas City, Zacatecas, Mexico: North American Crane Working Group. pp. 58-64.
Sport hunting for the Mid-continent population of sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) in the United States resumed in New Mexico in 1961 after a 45-year moratorium. Interest in crane hunting continued to increase and by 1975, 8 states were participating in sandhill crane hunting. Currently, hunting seasons have been established in all Central Flyway states except Nebraska. Efforts to collect information on the annual harvest of sandhill cranes began in 1975 when hunters were required to obtain federal sandhill crane hunting permits. The permits included a hunting diary whereby hunters were asked to record information about their daily hunting activity. Some of these hunters were later mailed a questionnaire asking for the information reported on the diary. To assess whether success rates had changed since an earlier assessment in 1983-1984 (Miller 1987), we acquired 4,408 harvest questionnaires from the 1997-2001 hunting seasons. From the 12,582 days hunters spent afield, we found that on average hunters were unsuccessful at harvesting a crane on only 28% of the days hunted. Further, the proportion of days on which hunters harvested 2 or 3 cranes increased by 4.7% and 7.8%, respectively. These results corroborate other information suggesting that hunters’ efficiency at harvesting cranes has increased. We estimated that the seasonal harvest of cranes would be reduced by 12% to 45% if bag limits were reduced by 1-2 birds per day in the U.S. The increase in hunting success may be attributed to many factors, including improved techniques and equipment by which sandhill cranes are harvested and increased knowledge of crane biology and behaviors by hunters. The ability to measure the effect of changing bag limits can be a useful tool for managers to adjust harvests in response to changing abundances of cranes.