Hunters interested in obtaining a special permit to hunt sandhill cranes in the Sweet Grass, Wheatland, Golden Valley counties portion of the Central Flyway, as well as in four areas of western Montana in the Pacific Flyway, must apply by July 25.
The five limited permit areas proposed for sandhill crane hunting in Montana are:
The commission will consider tentative sandhill crane seasons and permit quotas at its July 10 meeting in Helena.
Prospective crane hunters must use an official FWP application form and apply online, by mail, or at a regional office. Applicants must have a 2013 Conservation License and ALS number and they must pay $5 for the non-refundable drawing fee.
Online applications are available at fwp.mt.gov under Online Services and must be completed by 11:30 p.m. on July 25. Mail-in applications, which can be found on FWP's website, must be sent to: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; License Section; Sandhill Crane Drawing; P.O. Box 200701; Helena MT 59620-0701. The mail-in applications must be received by 5 p.m. on July 25.
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 north and east of I-90 in the Central Flyway hunters must obtain a free permit. The hunting season in this area is proposed for Sept. 28-Nov. 24. Permits will be available in early 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. In Sweet Grass County, the area south of Interstate 90 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.