On a Texas Crane Hunt with MeatEater’s Steven Rinella

Image courtesy of Ed Arnett.

Last December, I had the opportunity to join Steven Rinella, the host of the popular Sportsman Channel show MeatEater, for a sandhill crane hunt in Texas. I’d connected with Rinella at a few TRCP events and learned that he’d never hunted or eaten cranes, so I invited him to join me and biologist Mike Panasci, a Texas Tech University Ph.D. student I got to know as an adjunct professor. Rinella’s longtime friend Ronnie Boehme rounded out our group. Rinella’s been a great supporter of the TRCP and conservation, but besides that, he is my kind of hunter.  I knew he’d appreciate the experience of hunting and tasting cranes for the first time.

Panasci did all the nitty gritty work of lining up lands to hunt on and making our “stuffer” decoys – skinned birds filled with wood and Styrofoam that draw other cranes toward our positions. He and another friend, Jon McRoberts, were responsible for exposing me to crane hunting after I joined the faculty at Texas Tech in 2009, and we’ve hunted together every year since. Hunting cranes is a lot like hunting geese: It’s all about scouting and patterning the birds, setting up the decoys just right, then hiding well in blinds and natural cover, and letting the birds work into the spread—when they cooperate, of course.

Image courtesy of Ed Arnett.

We had a few struggles on the front end of the hunt, as we quickly learned that hiding a couple of guys from wary cranes is pretty easy, but hiding three cameramen and four hunters is a bit more challenging. After testing a couple of setups and finding a prime location with better cover, we actually had a really successful hunt, as you’ll see in the resulting episode of MeatEater. We even bagged a rare banded bird—you’ll have to tune in to learn more about where that bird has been.

The Texas crane hunt airs on MeatEater this Thursday, August 20 at 8 p.m. on the Sportsman Channel.

Video: Driftless Areas and the Farm Bill

Steven Rinella, host of the hit TV show “MeatEater” discusses the importance of private lands conservation programs in the Farm Bill and their role in ensuring hunting and fishing opportunities.

  • The conservation title of the Farm Bill is the single-largest source of federal funding for conservation on private lands in our country.
  • Farm Bill conservation programs assist farmers, ranchers and other landowners in running economically sustainable operations while conserving important fish and wildlife habitat, safeguarding clean air and water, stabilizing topsoil and enhancing recreational opportunities on private lands.
  • Given the effectiveness of these programs, proposed reductions in their funding would undermine the effectiveness of efforts like those Rinella profiles in the Driftless Area.
  • Every five years when the Farm Bill’s renewal is considered by Congress, American hunters and anglers must fight to ensure that these critical conservation programs are strongly funded.
  • If funding levels for private lands conservation programs are not maintained or bolstered in the next Farm Bill, key habitat for fish and wildlife could be severely compromised.

Learn more about The Driftless Area Initiative.

Learn more about the TRCP’s work to secure conservation funding in the next Farm Bill.

Learn more about the TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group.


DON’T MISS: Senate Tackles Colorado River Management

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is holding a hearing on Tuesday, July 16, at 2:30 p.m. ET to receive testimony on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. This study is a landmark analysis of water supplies in the basin over the next 50 years that will be a critical tool for water managers at all levels as they plan for future water use.

Sportsmen need to be aware of this important planning activity and what it means for hunting and fishing. You will be able to watch a live webcast of the hearing on the committee’s website.

In the first season of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes,” our friend Steven Rinella discussed the importance of managing water in the western United States, including in the Colorado River basin, and what it means for fish and wildlife. Check it out, and stay tuned for more updates on the Colorado River study.


Conservation Funding = Economic Growth on TRCP’s CFN

How do hunting and angling benefit the national economy? Watch “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes” as Steven Rinella explains the many ways sportsmen enable a strong economic future for America.

  • Outdoor recreation has a substantial positive impact on the U.S. economy, with figures of $120.7 billion in product sales and $524.8 billion in trip and travel related spending.
  • Congress is considering damaging cuts to critical conservation programs that will not only affect hunting and fishing opportunities, but could have a detrimental effect on the outdoor recreation economy as whole.
  • Investments in our natural resources comprise a mere 1.26 percent of the federal budget, and current cuts under consideration are disproportionately weighted on conservation and recreation.

To learn more about conservation funding, please visit the below sites:

Outdoor Industry Association
US Fish and Wildlife Hunting and Fishing Survey-2011

Federal investments in conservation support more than 9.4 million American jobs ranging from manufacturing to retail to service. Tell Congress to support the outdoor recreation economy.

Wetlands, Waterfowl and NAWCA

Everybody loves waterfowl. Those winged and web-footed creatures find their way into the hearts of sportsmen and anyone who spends time near bodies of water.

Waterfowl are so universally revered that the North American Wetlands Conservation Act was passed to fund wetlands and waterfowl conservation efforts in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Learn more on this week’s episode of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes.”

Join Steven Rinella of the hit TV show “MeatEater” as he hunts in Mexico and discusses how NAWCA conserves waterfowl, fish and wildlife resources across North America while producing a variety of environmental and economic benefits.

Be sure to tune in Sundays at 9 p.m. E/P on the Sportsman Channel to catch the latest episode of “MeatEater.

Recipe: Quail Stir Fry with Steven Rinella

Watch, learn and salivate as Steven Rinella, host of the hit TV show MeatEater fries up a quail with salt pork over open fire.

Video: Backcountry and Big-Game Conservation in the Coronado National Forest

In early 2012, the TRCP joined forces with Bass Pro Shops and Steven Rinella of the hit TV show “MeatEater” to produce a video series highlighting conservation issues key to our fish, wildlife and hunting and angling traditions. Each episode of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes” follows Rinella to far-flung destinations where he talks about critical conservation issues related to the hunts and regions featured on “MeatEater.”

In this episode, Steven discusses the importance of backcountry roadless areas in securing valuable habitat for species like Coues deer in the Coronado National Forest.

  • While ensuring access to existing roads is important, building new roads can result in reduced cover for big game, leading to shorter hunting seasons and decreased hunter opportunity. Too many roads also can diminish the quality of fish spawning habitat, curtailing angler opportunity.
  • The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule ensures that backcountry areas will continue to provide unfragmented habitat for big game, clean water for wild trout and places where sportsmen can escape crowds and pursue their quarries in solitude.