Kentucky’s second sandhill crane hunting season is underway.

When the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife first proposed a sandhill crane hunting season, it met with opposition from groups that argued the birds weren’t overpopulated or causing an environmental burden. There was also a worry that hunters could mistakenly kill an endangered whooping crane.

State officials say the bird is tasty, and populations have recovered enough to allow a limited hunting season. The season went ahead last year, and 50 birds were killed.

This year, 332 people were granted permits, and no one is permitted to kill more than two birds. The season ends on January 13, or when 400 birds are killed…whichever comes first.

Rocky Pritchert is a migratory bird specialist for the Division of Fish and Wildlife. He says the season will continue this year and for at least another year, but there are provisions to protect the birds if something unexpected happens to the population.

“And the fallback is always there, that if the population falls below a certain level…and I speak this way sort of facetiously because the population is more than twice above that level right now,” he said.

He estimates there are more than 84,000 cranes in the eastern population, and the level would have to fall to below 30,000 for Kentucky to call off the hunt.