My brother drew a 2015 Wyoming Non Resident Sandhill Crane tag for the Bear River/Smiths Fork area. I didn't draw a tag but offered my services to him as a guide and photographer. I promised my brother some shooting but couldn't promise any of the photos would be in focus.
The day before the opener we scouted the lower end of the unit and found some birds in a barley field just across the Utah/Wyoming border north of Randolph. The rancher was out combining the barley and there were cranes everywhere. I've known the rancher for years and hunted his place often. We drove out to the rancher who was in his $350,000 John Deere combine. My brother, who recently retired from the John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline Illinois, struck up a conversation with the guy complimenting his combine. After looking at the serial number my brother confirmed he had help build that very combine just before he retired! After 45 minutes of farm implement jibber-jabber they were buddies for life.
From a distance we studied the birds behavior for awhile and came up with a game plan for the following morning. It looked as though riding in the combine would be the best strategy.
But we opted for second best; to set up on a pivot irrigator in the middle of the grain circle.
The following morning, opening day, we were an hour late and by the time we got up there the rancher was out in the field harvesting barley. A hundred cranes had already moved into the field and were feeding in and around the pivot where I wanted to set up our decoys. My brother struck up another conversation with the rancher and after a half-hour I told him "Hey, if you don't want to go crane hunting I'm going down the river and shoot doves" He took the hint and, finally, we walked down to the pivot, scaring away all the cranes, and set up the decoys.
After 20 minutes the hungry cranes started to fly back into the grain field but a little out of range. Another 20 minutes went by. The cranes took little interest in my decoy spread and less interest in my brother and I standing upright drinking coffee and talking out loud 40 yards from the decoys. :-?
So we moved out into some waist-high barley and hunkered down. I'd left my crane calls in the truck, a good thing, my crane hunting buds would say. In less than 10 minutes some cranes flew over and my brother filled his tag, a clean one-shot kill with a 12 gauge #2 hevi-shot load.
On the way out we stopped and thanked the rancher for letting us on his property. Again, my brother and him talked and talked; plows, cows, combines, banking, weather, politics....good grief, it ended up being a long day. I don't think the rancher finished combining the field.
That's the Crawfords (Rich County Utah) on the horizon, left side in the picture below. There's not much cover out in a barley field:
Check out the 5 cranes flying over my brother's head:
Life is good: