I'm not opposed to hunting for food, nor hunting things whose apex predators we've eliminated (deer) or who are a danger to our food supply (wild boar) or pets (coyotes) or whose dead body would settle things one way or another (sorry, Bigfoot). But I will never, for the life of me, understand why anyone would want to hunt a sandhill crane.
They're not dangerous. They're not good eating. And, while I think it's fine if it's legal to shoot them, I think it's embarrassing anyone bothers. Sure, according to this WTVC story, there's some challenge to it—
"Those birds kicked my butt," said Tony Sanders with Tony Sanders Outdoors.
Sanders said he went hunting sandhills at least a dozen times but was never successful in taking a bird.
"They are the hardest bird to pattern I've ever seen," Sanders said. "We were hunting an area right beside the refuge. But one day, they would fly one direction, the next day, another. There were about 10 of us hunting the area, and I think we got a total of five birds."
—but, damn, if I were Tony Sanders, I wouldn't be admitting to it. They're a big, slow-moving bird that settle in one spot and you can't hit even one of them? And look at the picture with the WTVC story. Those guys spent money on special outfits, ear protection, decoys, and firearms to shoot two birds? It's not like there's a reward. They could have bought that much meat just for what they spent on boots.
And at least those two got two. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency handed out 1,200 tags and had about a ten percent return rate. Those guys in that photo? Account for almost 2% of all the sandhill cranes hunters managed to get in the whole state in 35 days.
Nothing about this isn't stupid. It serves no purpose to hunt them and the people who hunt them suuuuucckkk at it. The guys who tried to hunt sandhill cranes this year should do us a favor next year and hunt some things that 1) really need hunting and 2) they can hit.