Tennessee hunters will get the chance to put another big bird on the table this holiday season. The Volunteer State became the 16th state — and just the second east of the Mississippi River — to allow a special hunt for sandhill cranes.
In August, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved a sandhill crane hunting season, which runs Nov. 28 to Jan. 1, 2014. Four hundred permits were made available by special drawing on Oct. 12. Hunters who drew a permit are allowed to shoot three cranes.
Hunters must pass a crane identification test before going afield so they can determine the difference between sandhill cranes and the endangered whooping cranes.
The process of establishing a crane season this year in Tennessee began when TFWC solicited support from conservation and hunting organizations after delaying a decision on crane hunting in January 2011. Delta Waterfowl responded with a letter of endorsement.
“The burgeoning eastern crane population is creating new opportunities for hunters throughout the flyway. These birds are sporty and wonderful to eat and will create a new unique hunting opportunity,” wrote John Devney, vice president of U.S. policy for Delta Waterfowl. “This provides a rare chance to create an incremental hunting opportunity as populations have expanded is consistent with the sound tenants of scientific wildlife management.”
TFWC received some opposition to the hunt, specifically from the Tennessee Ornithological Society, which pointed to sandhills as a highly coveted species for bird watchers. Commissioners made concessions by shortening the season length from 60 to 35 days, and dropping the number of permits from 775 to 400.
“I’ve hunted cranes in Mexico, and I do know they’re a wary bird and taste just as good as advertised,” said Tom Rice, a voting member of TFWC. “Thanks to the support of groups like Delta Waterfowl, Tennessee hunters will have the opportunity to have those experiences, too.”