Entertaining, informative test voluntary this year; mandatory in 2006

PRATT -- The sandhill crane hunting season opens Nov. 9, and hunters pursuing this large, wary game bird should be aware that the endangered whooping crane may be present during the sandhill crane season. Whooping cranes use the same habitats as sandhill cranes, and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area are two of their favorite stops in the Central Flyway. Sandhill crane hunters -- and all migratory bird hunters, especially in central Kansas -- should expect to see whooping cranes and be sure of their targets before shooting.

Hunters who see a whooping crane are asked to report it to the nearest Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) office. Hunters who are uncertain about identification of whooping cranes should go to the KDWP website . This takes the reader to a page containing information about sandhill crane hunting, including a map of the open unit.

This page also contains a link entitled "Online Test for Sandhill Crane Hunters." Click this link to take an online test that provides information about identifying whooping cranes, sandhill cranes, and look-alike species, as well as the hunter’s ability to choose safe shots. The test is both entertaining and informative and only takes a few minutes. This year, the test is optional, but in 2006, all Kansas sandhill crane hunters must pass this test before obtaining a sandhill crane hunting permit.

There have been changes in the sandhill crane hunting regulations for this year. These changes were enacted in response to the shooting of two whooping cranes by a party of sandhill crane hunters in 2004. Opening day has been delayed until the Wednesday following the first Saturday in November. This will allow more whooping cranes to pass through Kansas before the sandhill crane hunting season begins. Shooting hours have also been changed to one-half hour after sunrise to 2 p.m. through November 30. On or after Dec. 1, shooting hours will be sunrise to 2 p.m. Changes in shooting hours are intended to minimize the chance that a whooping crane will be accidentally shot due to poor light conditions.

More information, as well as photos of both species, can also be found in the 2005 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary , available wherever licenses are sold.