Bald Eagle image is by Francois Portmann and is used with permission

You know, I’ve been thinking about this whole dustup over hunting cranes in Tennessee and now Kentucky. And my thinking has come around 180 degrees from where it was. I get it now, I really do. I think it’s time to hunt Sandhill Cranes. And while we’re at it, I think it’s time to open a limited season on Bald Eagles. Look at the facts, lay your emotions aside and listen to reason—exactly the same reasoning that’s been so persuasive in convincing me that hunting cranes is the right thing to do.

1. We’ve always hunted Bald Eagles.

Bald Eagles were nearly exterminated from the Lower 48 by the mid 1970’s. There was a lot of hunting for Bald Eagles—it is traditionally a game species.  There was a bounty on them in Alaska from 1917 until 1952—up to $2 a head! Yes, they have been an endangered species for as long as most of us can recall, but remember, they were traditionally a hunted species. Now they’re off the red list and bouncing back into the black. The total population in the continental US has risen to around 100,000 individuals. In my home state, Bald Eagles are breeding in 35 Ohio counties. Soon, they may overrun available habitat.

2. Bald Eagles are doing well enough now to support a hunt.

Each Bald Eagle pair has the potential to produce 1.7 young per year. All regional populations have nest success >50% and are showing the productivity required to produce stable populations. So there will be an ample supply of young birds coming up for harvest.

3. Bald Eagles will provide a sporting challenge for hunters.

Bald Eagles are big and slow-flying, and they will readily come in to bait. Hunters don’t even need to use decoys. However they are wary and have famously sharp eyes, so bagging eagles will be a true sporting challenge for hunters. The Bald Eagle has the potential to be the Holy Grail of game birds.

4. Hunting eagles will not hurt, but enhance non-consumptive wildlife viewing opportunitites.

Many people like Bald Eagles—it’s almost as if they consider them sacred. These passive wildlife enthusiasts like to go places, especially in winter, to watch them. Having a hunting season on eagles won’t affect those opportunities. In fact, hunting eagles will enhance the birdwatchers’ viewing opportunities by concentrating the birds in places where they aren’t being shot at. Imagine big flocks of Bald Eagles massing on our wildlife refuges. Birder viewing opportunities will be even more spectacular.

5. We need to give hunters new opportunities and new species to hunt.

Many people similarly feel sentimental about Bald Eagles, what with their being the national symbol, but that is just an example of misplaced emotion. No bird species should be exempt from harvest. It’s our right to hunt whatever wildlife is abundant enough to support the harvest. We need to give hunters new opportunities to hunt.

6. People who protest our proposed hunt are trying to strip rights from the hunting public.

Anyone who protests this hunt is making an assault on the American way, on our right to harvest our native wildlife—a right that we have held since the first colonist fired a blunderbuss in what was to be America.

6. Bald Eagles are delicious.

Some people say Bald Eagle doesn’t taste good, but they probably have never tried it. Most people who’ve eaten eagle say it is delicious. With the right marinade, Bald Eagle is indistinguishable from a good New York strip steak. With a rapidly growing population exceeding 100,000 birds, Bald Eagle fricassee could easily become our National Dish.

So I hereby propose a season on Bald Eagles in Ohio, with the anticipation that many other states will follow suit. Let Ohio be the first to re-open a season on this traditionally hunted bird. Now that we’ve almost succeeded in pushing a Sandhill Crane hunt through in Kentucky, the sky’s the limit.

Now that I’ve got your attention, here’s the final action alert for the Kentucky Sandhill Crane hunt proposal.  I’ve already summarized some reasons NOT to hunt Sandhill Cranes in this post:

Last Gasp for Sandhill Cranes


ACTION ALERT:  The USFWS has published its intention to approve Kentucky’s Sandhill Crane hunting proposal. The final deadline for comments is FRIDAY, AUGUST 5. The USFWS isn’t accepting emails, but you CAN comment online. Here’s how to do it.

Go to

Click on Submit a Comment

Type or paste  FWS-R9-MB-2011-0014-0204  into the keyword box & click Search

This will bring up the regulation page. You want “Frameworks for Early Season Migratory Bird Regulations.” Buried in the text at that link is the proposal to hunt Kentucky Sandhill Cranes, along with a bunch of duck hunting stuff. It’s interesting to look at it, especially the USFWS’ refutation of various organizations’ concerns about hunting cranes, under Section 9: Sandhill Cranes. If you want to cut to the chase and get your comment in,  click on Submit a Comment at the far right of this regulation. The idea being, despite the done-deal tone they take in the “proposal,” to let the USFWS know you’re out there, too.

Write your comment in the box provided (2000 characters or less)

Do it by August 5, 2011


Snail mailed letters make an impression, especially when there are piles of them. Send your polite, well-reasoned letter to:

 Attn: FWS-R9-MB-2011-0014

Division of Policy Directives Management

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

4401 N. Fairfax Drive

MS 2042-PPM

Arlington, VA 22203

As always, thank you for caring and thank you for acting.  The petition to the USFWS to re-evaluate its proposal to hunt eastern sandhills now has 2,732 signatures. Go to the link above, make your comment; sign the petition if you haven’t. Make your voice heard.

Written by Julie
Julie Zickefoose is an artist, naturalist and writer specializing in natural history. Her writing is based on keen observation of animal and human behavior, and she likes to interweave solid natural history information with larger philosophical themes to challenge and inspire the reader. Julie contributes three-minute natural history commentaries to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She illustrates her books and magazine articles with her own sketches and watercolor paintings. Letters from Eden (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) will soon be followed by a memoir about the birds she has raised, healed, studied and followed throughout her life. She lives at Indigo Hill, an 80-acre wildlife sanctuary in Appalachian Ohio with her husband, Bill Thompson III, their children Phoebe and Liam, and their Boston terrier, Chet Baker.