Sandhill crane hunting season will open Wednesday, 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 Wildlife and Parks office.
Hunters who are uncertain about identification of whooping cranes should go to the Wildlife and Parks Web site (www.kdwp.state.ks.us) and type "sandhill crane" in the search box.
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 takes only a few minutes. The test is optional this year, but next year all Kansas sandhill crane hunters will be required to pass the exam before obtaining a sandhill crane hunting permit.
Changes in sandhill crane regulations have been 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 Nov. 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 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary, available wherever state hunting licenses are sold.