Texas sandhill crane hunters must have permit to pursue ‘ribeyes in the sky’

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Sandhill cranes are dubbed
A federal sandhill crane hunting permit -- in addition to a valid hunting license with migratory game bird endorsement -- is required to hunt sandhill cranes.

Sandhill crane hunting in Texas is a pursuit unlike any other, but for hunters to be legal they must possess a federal permit to hunt the species dubbed the “ribeye in the sky.”

Texas sandhill crane hunters are advised to visit one of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement offices across the state to obtain a free permit, or obtain a permit online or by phone, since private hunting license retailers no longer provide the permit.

A federal sandhill crane hunting permit — in addition to a valid hunting license with migratory game bird endorsement — is required to hunt sandhill cranes, and failure to have the permit can result in a citation and fine. The permit, available at no cost, is an important tool since it helps wildlife managers estimate hunting pressure and decide how to set sandhill crane hunting seasons and bag limits.

Beginning in the 2009-10 season, private license retailers no longer provided the permits because it became clear to game bird program managers at the state and federal levels during preceding years that many retailers indiscriminately were providing the permits to hunters, regardless of whether they hunt sandhills, rendering permit data useless for wildlife management purposes.

Hunters can obtain the free sandhill crane hunting permit at TPWD law enforcement offices in Abilene, Amarillo, Austin (headquarters) Beaumont, Brownsville, Brownwood, College Station, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Fort Worth, Freeport, Garland, Houston (two locations, north and south), Kerrville, LaMarque, Laredo, Lubbock, Lufkin, Midland, Mount Pleasant, Rockport, Rusk, San Angelo, San, Antonio, Temple, Tyler, Victoria, Waco and Wichita Falls.

Hunters also can obtain sandhill crane permits online, but online transactions charge a $5 convenience fee covering shipping and handling. Hunters can bundle multiple license purchases into a single online transaction and still pay only one $5 fee. Hunters also can get sandhill crane permits by phone at 800-792-1112. License phone center hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, closed Saturday, Sunday and most holidays. Each phone transaction also charges a $5 convenience fee.

If you receive a permit and hunt cranes, keep a detailed record of your activities as roughly a quarter of those given permits are selected for a federal harvest survey.

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Will Leschper is founder of The Texas Outdoor Digest. He has been recognized for Excellence in Craft by the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Texas Outdoor Writers Association. He is Conservation Editor of Texas Fish & Game Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Journal of the Texas Trophy Hunters, in addition to writing for plenty of of now-defunct publications.

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