After this hunt, I think ol’ Austin Davis needs to go buy himself a lottery ticket.
Why, you may ask?
Because the guy bagged himself a sandhill crane that was banded all the way back in 1989, which is one of the oldest waterfowl harvests of any kind… ever recorded. The bird was originally banded in Germfask, Michigan.
“When I looked at the band, it didn’t have a phone number or website on it, I knew it was an old one. I reported it and found out the bird was older than I am. I freaked out. Who knows what this bird saw in its life and how many hunters and predators it had to avoid before I shot it?”
With a two-crane tag, he and his friend Bradley Buchanan set up in Hiawassee Refuge on Lake Chickamauga in southeastern Tennessee. The public land spot hosts about 14,000 cranes every winter.
Davis weighed in on the decision:
“Outfitters have all the crop fields leased up around the lake, but we thought we could get into the public area between the refuge and the crop fields and decoy some cranes ourselves.”
We decided to take turns shooting, so we played rock-paper-scissors to see who got the first shot.”
Davis won the game of rock-paper-scissors, and they waited for the cranes to fly over. Although most flocks passed without stopping, one split away from the flock, circled the decoys, and came in.
Davis shot it, and went over to retrieve it. That’s when he noticed a plain red plastic band located on its knee, along with a metal band.
He returned back to the blind with excitement, where another single crane flew over, which Buchanan shot.
“After that, we waited. We could have shot birds passing overhead all morning, but we wanted to only shoot birds in the decoys. My second crane was a juvie. I shot the oldest and the youngest crane of the day.”
The U.S. Geological Survey states that the oldest waterfowl specimen ever recorded in North America was a 37-year-old sandhill crane that was banded in Wyoming in 1973, and found dead in 2010.
The lifespan of birds generally reflects size… with sandhill cranes being on the larger size, they tend to live longer. Swans and goose, also being larger, tend to live longer than ducks.
That being said, sandhill crane is arguably the tastiest waterfowl in the United States. Dubbed the “ribeye of the sky,” the meat of a sandhill crane resembles steak.