Division of Wildlife
COLORADO CRANE HUNTING OFFERS UNIQUE EXPERIENCE AND VITAL DATA
Information from the annual Harvest Information Program is crucial for
the management of sandhill crane populations and maintaining hunting
The sandhill crane is one of Colorado’s less popular game species of
migratory bird, but the more than 150 hunters that annually seek a crane
hunting experience are asked to participate in a crucial survey. The Harvest
Information Program (HIP) survey provides critical scientific information to
both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Division of Wildlife
(DOW). Both agencies are asking hunters to cooperate, in doing so hunters
help the management of the state’s migratory bird species.
Crane hunters are only required to have a small game license and obtain a
crane permit number when they register with the HIP. The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service samples crane permit holders from every state where crane
hunting is permitted. Information on participation and hunting success is
used to establish management guidelines, season dates and bag limits.
According to Jim Gammonley, avian biologist for the DOW, information from
the annual harvest survey is crucial for the management of crane populations
and maintaining hunting opportunity.
“People who are asked to participate need to respond to these surveys,” said
Gammonley. “Since there are not many crane hunters to begin with, when they
fail to respond to the survey, the accuracy of the data is questioned. The
Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to increase the response rate on their
harvest surveys. Hunters need to respond to these surveys if we want to
continue having crane hunting opportunity in Colorado. Even those who didn’t
hunt cranes need to participate in the survey if they receive a
While there have never been more than 300 crane hunters in Colorado, the
bird is much more popular as a game bird in other Central Flyway states such
as Texas and North Dakota. The Central Flyway has 6,810 crane hunters per
year on average, with an average harvest of 13,780 cranes. Colorado hunters
harvest an average of 121 cranes per year.
Sandhill cranes migrate through the Central Flyway from their breeding
grounds in Siberia, Alaska and the Canadian Arctic to their wintering
grounds in Texas, New Mexico, southeastern Arizona and Mexico. The
population is estimated to be over 400,000. As the cranes migrate south,
historically they stop on Colorado’s eastern plains for a couple of weeks in
early October. Hunters most often attempt to harvest cranes with pass
shooting technique, but decoying the birds can also be effective.
Crane season runs from Oct. 4 through Nov. 30 in the Central Flyway portions
of Colorado. The daily bag limit on sandhill cranes is 3 with a possession
limit of six birds.
Sandhill cranes have a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet. They have long legs and long
necks and are gray with a red crown. Young birds are brownish in color and
lack the red crown.
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