From the News Sentinel:
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously agreed Friday to allow limited hunting of the sandhill crane in Tennessee.
Members voted this morning on the second of two days of routine meetings, held at the Holiday Inn on Cedar Bluff Road in West Knoxville.
The vote was not unexpected.
The 14-member commission, responsible for setting Tennessee’s game limits and hunting seasons, was asked to rule on a proposal to stage the hunt beginning in November.
This is the second time in three years that the issue of hunting sandhill cranes has come before commissioners. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency argued for the hunt in 2011, but the proposal raised such an outcry that the vote was tabled to gather more information.
In the early 1990s, a recovering population of sandhills began stopping at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County to rest and feed on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Florida. Today, an average of 23,000 sandhills stay at the refuge all winter.
Biologists estimate the eastern population of sandhills at 87,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the population has increased to the point where it can sustain limited hunting.
Fifteen states, including Kentucky, allow sandhill crane hunting.
Tennessee’s hunt would be Nov. 28-Jan. 1, with the state issuing three-permit packets to 400 hunters who would be selected by lottery. The refuge would be off-limits to hunting, and hunters would be required to pass a test proving they can differentiate between sandhills and federally endangered whooping cranes that share the same eastern flyway.
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission — for the second time in three years — is considering a sandhill crane hunting season.
Further from The Tennessean report If the commission approves the hunting plan at its August meeting, Tennessee would become the 16th state to allow crane hunting. The commission delayed a decision in January 2011.
The central question in the current debate is not whether the sandhill crane population can sustain a level of hunting — biologists on both sides of the issue agree it can — but whether a hunt is the right thing to do given how they attract bird watchers to the state.
Organized hunting groups, led by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, support a sandhill crane season. But the plan has raised concerns among birders, and the Tennessee Ornithological Society says the cranes are too valuable a resource to hunt.
“What we want to see is the opportunity to hunt the cranes but do it in a wise and sustainable fashion and in a way that recognizes and helps promote the viewing opportunities as well,” Mike Butler, the federation’s CEO, told the commission in late June.
Melinda Welton, chairwoman of the Ornithological Society’s conservation policy committee, said Tennesseans oppose hunting the birds, the largest species found in the state. She said by allowing crane hunting, the commission and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which it oversees, risk a major public outcry.
“I think the agency is going to get quite a bit of grief,” she said. “It is a golden opportunity for the agency to gain a lot of goodwill by proclaiming this the most watchable wildlife species in the state and celebrating that.”
The sandhill crane population in Tennessee is estimated as high as 87,000. There are as many as 650,000 of the birds nationwide.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are among the prominent Republicans trying to put the brakes on a bill seeking to guarantee employees the right to store their firearms in vehicles parked at work.
The bill advanced to the full Senate last week. It would allow people with state-issued handgun carry permits to store their weapons in their cars.
The Judiciary Committee rejected efforts to exclude schools and colleges and added a provision to extend the measure to anyone over age 21 with a hunting license.
“That’s a little bothersome to us to be honest with you,” Haslam told reporters last week. “The hunting license is of particular concern to us.”
The state’s 350,000 handgun carry permit holders must undergo background checks and take safety courses. A hunting license carries no special requirements other than state residency and can be ordered online for a $27 fee.
Nearly 700,000 people have hunting licenses, though the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency doesn’t keep track of how many of those are younger than 21.
Ramsey said the proposal as currently written goes too far.
“Expanding it to hunting licenses — even though I can see why they did that — but that’s stuff that just doesn’t need to be done,” said Ramsey, R-Blountville. “It needs to be for gun carry permit holders only.”
Ramsey and Haslam also called for the bill to give more leeway to businesses that don’t want to allow guns on their property. Meanwhile proponents of the bill argue that the property rights arguments are equally strong for the owners of vehicles who want to store their guns in the trunks of their cars.
The measure is strongly opposed by business, higher education and law enforcement groups across the state.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville noted the proposal follows a number of gun rights measures in past years, including state laws allowing permit holders to be armed in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol and in public parks.
“They just keep reaching,” Turner said. “When they get something they have to put the goal out a little further. After this they’re going to want you be able to carry your guns into work and put them into your locker, saying you don’t want them stolen out of your car.
“And next thing you know, we’ll be able to carry them in the cafeteria,” he said.
The House version of the bill is up for a committee vote on Wednesday. A full Senate vote has yet to be scheduled.
Read SB3002 at http://capitol.tn.gov
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Thursday he believes the advancing guns-in-lots legislation goes “too far” as it’s currently written, according to TNReport.. He spoke to reporters at his weekly media availability about Sen. Mike Faulk’s bill, SB3002, which moved out of a Senate committee earlier this week and is headed to the Senate floor. The bill, which would allow employees to store firearms in their cars parked on company lots, was amended so that it applied only to gun carry permit holders and licensed hunters aged 21 or older.
“I do think they go too far, and I’m as big of a Second Amendment rights person that’s ever lived,” Ramsey said. “But I think expanding it to hunting licenses — even though I can see why they did that — but that’s something that doesn’t need to be done. It needs to be gun carry permit holders only.”
The Cumberland County Commission has approved a resolution urging the Legislature to enact a “private act” for the county allowing the hunting of wild hogs with dogs, reports the Crossville Chronicle. The resolution passed unanimously and will be forwarded to state Representative Cameron Sexton requesting a private act be passed for Cumberland County.
County Commissioner Carmin Lynch, 9th District, asked what difference the private act would make.
“It’s confusing and I wonder what difference a private act will make,” Lynch said.
Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner, said he also wondered the same thing and spoke with TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency) about the matter and invited TWRA Region III Wildlife Program Manager Kirk Miles to come to the meeting to answer questions.
Miles explained the main difference between the current law and the private act, or resolution, would be that hunters or landowners would not need a permit to hunt the wild hogs with dogs.
The other significant difference is that, with the private act, there would be no limit as to how many designated hunters could be used to capture or eradicate the hogs from a landowner’s property. The discretion would be up to the landowner, who could designate any means necessary to protect their land and property from destruction from free running feral hogs.
The current law sets a limit of 10 designated hunters to help.
Wild pigs are no longer considered big game for hunters, under a new state law taking effect this month, reports WPLN. Officials say they’re hoping the move will make it easier for farmers and landowners to keep Tennessee’s feral hog population in check. Feral hogs are basically escaped farmyard pigs that have turned back into wild animals, with longer teeth and tails. They’re considered a major nuisance in parts of East Tennessee because they’re insatiable eaters as well as prolific breeders. State Representative John Mark Windle compares them to small bulldozers.
“They’ll just make row after row after row through the woods and through the pastures, and it looks like somebody’s taken a submarine and driven through the ground, or a giant mole or some other type of disturbance.”
Windle (and Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown) sponsored a new law (it was HB947) which paved the way for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to change its rules on killing wild hogs. Chief of Wildlife and Forestry Daryl Ratajczak says what they had been doing – issuing hunting licenses – was making things worse.
“Folks that wanted to hunt hogs would trap them illegally, transport them illegally, and release them illegally into different parts of the state. And so this idea of sport-hunting was kind of detrimental to our hog-control management.”
So instead of giving people big-game permits to hunt pigs, now Ratajczak says property owners can kill them without asking permission. And they can get the OK over the phone for a group of up to 10 to help. They can also go to lengths normal hunters couldn’t – they can kill pigs in traps or over bait, as well as at night.
A Knox County man has been charged with shooting a penned domestic turkey at state Rep. Frank Niceley’s Jefferson County farm, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Niceley said a flock of hens and two tom turkeys, kept by his daughter, were penned with a herd of sheep alongside hen the shooting occurred Wednesday.
“He just stopped and killed the biggest tom. He didn’t kill him with the first shot and had to shoot him two more times,” said Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. “My wife (Cynthia) said it was just a mess.”
Niceley was at the Legislature in Nashville when the shooting occurred and related events as told him by his wife, daughter and a nephew who was visiting the family farm at the time.
The legislator said the man told family members that he thought the birds were wild turkeys. Wild turkey hunting season is currently underway.