Sandhill Crane Permits
Growing sandhill crane populations will provide 21 additional hunters with a hunting opportunity in Utah this fall.

At its meeting June 14 in Heber City, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a total of 121 permits for hunts in three northern Utah counties. The 121 permits are 21 more than the 100 issued in 1999.

Of the 121 permits, 54 will be offered for a hunt in Cache County, 45 for Rich County and 22 for Box Elder County.

The Box Elder and Rich county hunts will run Sept. 2 - 10. The hunt in Cache County runs Sept. 16 - 24.

Tom Aldrich, waterfowl coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said the later Cache County season will provide an opportunity to hold an early September sandhill crane viewing event for anyone who is interested.

"The two-week delay in Cache County will also provide an opportunity to hunters who may not be able to hunt in early September," Aldrich said.

A 1 mile by 11 mile area in and around Mendon in Cache County is among areas in the counties closed to crane hunting. Areas open and closed to hunting will be listed in the 2000-2001 Utah Upland Game Proclamation. The proclamation should be available by mid-July.

The board approved a two-year upland game proclamation at the meeting, which will keep sandhill crane hunting rules the same for the next two seasons.

Wet conditions on summer breeding areas is the main reason the Rocky Mountain population of greater sandhill cranes has increased the past five years, Aldrich said. Wet conditions provide good nesting cover and more food for newly hatched cranes.

Fall surveys in 1995 found 16,028 greater sandhill cranes in the region. A total of 19,501 were counted in the fall of 1999.

The Rocky Mountain population consists of greater sandhill cranes that breed in Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, and winter mostly in New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico.

The number of young cranes in the population also has grown. When drought conditions prevailed in crane breeding areas from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, about 5 percent of the fall population wintering in Colorado's San Luis Valley were cranes hatched that spring. That number grew to about 10 percent as wet conditions returned in the late 1990s.

Sandhill crane populations also increased in the three northern Utah counties where hunts were held last fall. A total of 1,772 cranes were counted in the fall of 1999, compared to 1,727 in 1998.

Sandhill cranes are beginning to expand into new areas in Utah, Aldrich said, with many of the birds moving into central Utah.

Because of the increase in crane numbers, the Pacific Flyway Council will allow 80 cranes to be taken in Utah this year. That's up from 69 last year.

Sixty-six percent of the hunters who drew a permit and hunted cranes in the three-county area in 1999 took a bird. If hunters have the same success rate this fall, the 121 permits approved by the board will result in 80 cranes being taken by hunters this fall.

Applications to participate in the hunts will be available by July 3 from hunting and fishing license agents statewide; Division offices and hunter education centers; and the Division's Internet web site (

Hunters are reminded that it will take a few days for their applications to arrive in the mail and to mail it as far in advance of the July 12 deadline as possible. Draw results will be posted by Aug. 7.

Sandhill Crane Season Forecast

Those who draw a permit can expect a good hunt, said Tom Aldrich, waterfowl coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. The success rate among those who draw a permit, and actually go afield to hunt sandhill cranes, is about 70 percent, Aldrich said. He said the key to a successful sandhill crane hunt is advance scouting. "If you can spend a day watching sandhill cranes in the mornings and evenings, when they
fly between their roosting and feeding areas, and can then acquire permission from a landowner to set-up in a field where they're feeding, you'll usually be successful," Aldrich said. Hunters may also find success pass-shooting birds as they fly between roosting and feeding areas. "Hunting success is pretty consistent from year-to-year and is not really affected by weather or other factors," Aldrich said. Aldrich reminds hunters that some areas in Box Elder and Cache counties are closed to
sandhill crane hunting. In Box Elder County, the western half of the county is closed, as are the Harold Crane, Public Shooting Grounds and Salt Creek waterfowl management areas, and the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. In Cache County, an 18 mile by 11 mile area in and around Mendon is closed.

Application Tips and Reminders

* Hunters must include a $5 nonrefundable handling fee with their application.

* Group applications for sandhill crane will not be accepted. Applications mailed in the same envelope will be accepted, but will be processed and drawn individually.

* Those who don't purchase their Habitat Authorization and small game or combination license prior to applying must submit the appropriate fees so their authorization and license can be issued to them, if they are successful in the draw.

* Those who apply for a Habitat Authorization or small game or combination license through their sandhill crane application will only receive them if they are successful in the draw.

Those with questions may call Hunt Application Office, the private contractor that handles Utah's hunting draws, at 1-800-221-0659; the nearest Division office; or the Division's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.

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