Hunters bag at least 118 sandhill cranes in first open TN season

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee officials say hunters took at least 118 sandhill cranes during the state’s first season, which ended Jan. 1.

Biologists told WTVC-TV ( that a handful of additional harvest reports would likely filter in.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Chief of Wildlife Daryl Ratajczak said the state provided 1,200 harvest tags. He says that’s roughly a 10 percent harvest rate.

Hunting was restricted to an area south of Interstate 40 and east of Tennessee Highway 56.

Opponents of the hunt had expressed fears that allowing the hunt might scare the birds away from the Hiawassee Refuge, where they winter, but Ratajczak said there’s no evidence that occurred.

Tennessee resident Tony Sanders said his endeavors to hunt the birds were unsuccessful.

“They are the hardest bird to pattern I’ve ever seen,” Sanders said. “We were hunting an area right beside the refuge. But one day, they would fly one direction, the next day, another. There were about 10 of us hunting the area, and I think we got a total of five birds.”

Ratajczak said state officials will decide later whether to make any changes before the next hunt.

“The zone where we are allowed to have sandhill hunting is set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” he said. “We did choose to cut back the season length and number of permits that would have been allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. So we could potentially increase the number of permits allowed or the season. But there have been no decisions made. That’s something we’ll be looking at.”