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Single Pot Sandhill Crane Leg and Thighs

I have for years wondered why people who hunt bird just breast them out and don’t take the thighs and legs.  I still don’t know. 

While on a recent trip with Outdoor Solutions Learn From Field to Table Team, I had an awesome opportunity to use the whole bird.  And believe me, there is so much to work with here.  Under the instruction of the fabulous Chef Albert Wutsch, we learned how to use the thighs to make some delightful dishes that were super-fast and easy.  We also Lolli popped out the legs (feet intact) and roasted them with each student’s favorite rub or marinade over the outdoor firepit on the last night with some farewell cocktails.  You really need to wash their muddy little feet for this though. 

The Sandhill Crane Migrates to Montana, Canada, Alaska and other more northern territory through the central flyway to have their chicks every year.  They live in pairs and family groups and form even larger groups when they migrate back to their southern wintering grounds.  Their migration groups feed, roost and fly together in groups sometimes in the thousands. 

Populations Control of cranes is opening up somewhat in the pacific flyway as the numbers are pushing the fringes of the Central fly way to include some of the Pacific flyway areas.  In our Southern States Crane hunting is well in force for the conservation of these magnificent and tasty birds. 

While I wouldn’t roast a whole crane.  Only because the Breast meat is some of the finest meat I have ever enjoyed.  Rib Eye of the Sky is no joke!  I am more than happy to use the whole bird. 

The Guides at the T Diamond Ranch in Texas were a little set back when I told them I wanted to take home a whole bird.  I gutted one, pulled up the legs and down with the head and neck wrapping the wings around the body and wrapped it up nicely in a garbage bag, securing with “100 mile an hour tape” (better known as duct tape) and into the freezer it went.  The guides also assured me they didn’t think I could just freeze a whole bird and bring it home in my suit case, but I have brought home a few whole turkeys and most of a deer in my suit case before with no problem.  They shook their heads.  Got it home, still frozen even after a flight cancellation and an unexpected night in Dallas.   Make sure you have your tags and written permission from the hunter if it’s not your game attached to the bird/game meat just in case. 

This recipe I made up using vegetables that I love, herbs that I had on hand and the legs and thighs of these magnificent birds.  Enjoy! 

Recipe by Margie Nelson (Wyld Gourmet)


  • Two thighs and two legs of one crane 
  • You favorite mild bird seasoning, or just salt and pepper 
  • ¼ cup Duck fat 
  • 2 quarts turkey or chicken stock 
  • 4 carrots chopped 
  • 2 parsnips 
  • 3 peeled and chopped Golden Beets 
  • One half fennel sliced, frond saved for garnish 
  • 3 stalks celery 
  • One large diced shallot 
  • 2 heads of garlic cut in half 
  • One sprig oregano 
  • One sprig tarragon 
  • One piece of sage 
  • One sprig rosemary 
  • 3 springs thyme 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch 
  • Your favorite mashed potatoes 


Use a roasting pot/dish with a lid and on the stove top heat the duck fat on high.  Season your legs and thighs well and sear them in the duck fat until well browned.   Add about a cup of stock to deglaze and scrape what ever bits from the bottom.  Add the rest of the stock, make a bundle with the fresh herbs and drop them into the pot.  Heat to boiling on the stove top and place into the oven with the lid on at 275F for 3 hours.  After one hour remove the herb bundle. 

At the end of three hours remove the legs and hold the drumstick meat end with a tea towel and pull the legiments out with a pair of pliers.  If you hold the meat in place they slide out nicely.  Return to the pot and add all the vegetables.    

Make a slurry of ½ cup cold water and 2 Tbsp corn starch and stir into the pot to thicken up the stock and make a sauce.  Turn the heat up to 350F and roast for one more hour. 

You can either pull the meat from the bone and mix into the pot or serve the whole legs and thighs.  Ladle the veggies and sauce over a nice buttery bowl of mashed potatoes.   

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