The Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks Commission recently approved proposed regulations for sandhill crane hunting in Montana, including a new hunting area and an expansion of another.
Hunters interested in obtaining a special permit to hunt sandhill cranes this fall must apply by July 26.
The five limited permit areas proposed for sandhill crane hunting in Montana are:
Central Flyway: Sept. 8-30
• Wheatland/Sweet Grass/Meagher/Golden Valley county areas—50 permits. Each permitted hunter will have a two-crane bag limit. Golden Valley County is a new county added to this hunting area.
Pacific Flyway: Sept. 8-30
• Deer Lodge County Area (Warm Springs)—5 permits
• Ovando/Helmville Area—40 permits
• Dillon/Twin Bridges/Cardwell Area—100 permits. Each permitted hunter will have a two-crane bag limit.
• Broadwater County Area—10 permits. This is a new hunting area.
Prospective crane hunters interested in these permits must apply by mail using an official application; at a regional FWP office; or online. Applicants must have a 2012 Conservation License and ALS number, and they must pay $5 for the non-refundable drawing fee. Successful applicants will receive a permit to hunt sandhill cranes during the season.
Online applications are available at fwp.mt.gov under Online Services and must be completed by 11:45 p.m. on July 26. Mail-in applications must be sent to: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; License Section; Sandhill Crane Drawing; P.O. Box 200701; Helena, MT 59620-0701. Mail-in applications, which can be found on FWP’s website, must be received by 5 p.m. on July 26.
The sandhill cranes that inhabit the five limited-permit hunting areas in Montana are part of the Rocky Mountain sandhill crane population, which is smaller than the mid-continent population of lesser sandhill cranes that migrate through eastern Montana. Hunting for both sandhill crane populations is regulated by federal management plan guidelines.
To hunt sandhill cranes in other parts of the Central Flyway north and east of I-90, hunters must obtain a free permit. The proposed hunting season in this area is Sept. 29-Nov. 25. Permits will be available in August from FWP offices in Billings, Helena, Glasgow, and Miles City or from the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge near Malta or Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge south of Plentywood. The area south and west of Interstate 90 in the Central Flyway portion of the state will remain closed to crane hunting.
A Montana Migratory Bird license is required to hunt sandhill cranes. Montana residents 12-14, and 62 or older, or holders of a Resident Person with Disability Conservation License need only their conservation license to hunt sandhill cranes.
The public has until July 30 to comment on the proposed early season migratory bird hunting regulations.