Sunday, January 16, 2011


 Would you like to gaze in wonder at a the amazing sight of a graceful sandhill crane in flight or would you rather see it being held up by the neck in death by a proud, smiling sportsman?

He's writing a biased and one sided entry here, you say.  Here's how I see it.  A little bit about me;
I was raised on a farm in Western Pennsylvania and come from a family who not only looked forward to hunting season but, in the early years, actually relied upon hunting to supply meat for the ice box.  Farmers didn't make much back in the late fifties and early sixties.  I have been an avid hunter up until about eleven years ago.  I traded in my shotgun, rifle and pistols for a camera.  There came a time in my life when I couldn't justify killing wildlife for the sake of a participation in an annual season called Hunting Season.  I gain far greater satisfaction photographing the wild things in the wild places rather than killing them.  I lost the justification for pointing a gun at wildlife.  That's just me.  I, however, would not deny any person his privilege to hold a valid hunting license and take game legally according to law.  The process of participating in the practice of hunting is each individuals right.  This is still a free United States of America.   I have friends who are hunters and I do not condemn  the legal practice of hunting that they enjoy.  Now;  about this proposed crane hunt that Tennessee is proposing; why I am against it and how I view the term "hunting" when applied to the killing of cranes.  A brief history may be in order here.  I won't apply dates or any solid numbers as I don't have time to research right now.  But, I do know the background well enough to create the scenario of what has happened here in Tennessee concerning sandhill cranes.

Some time ago, 18 years I believe, a refuge for ducks was designed at Hiwassie, Tennessee.  Grain was planted for the ducks and the area was protected from human intrusion.  I believe something like 40 acres of grain was initially planted.  This is a good thing.  The Eastern flyway for the sandhill cranes, however,  is directly above the new duck refuge and, the grain directly below the flyway.  The cranes started stopping off at Hiwassie while on their migration routes to eat the ready available food.   TWRA says Whoa!  The cranes are eating all the grain for the ducks.  We gotta plant more.  And, more they planted.  The grain fields were increased to twice the size.  80 acres of grain was now offered.  Again and again the cranes stopped off at Hiwassie for the rich feast.  Something new began to happen.  Fewer and fewer cranes were leaving to continue their journeys on the migration route.  Now the food source was really taxed with the addition of these "reluctant to leave" cranes.  They were staying months longer than they should have.  When the refuge grain was depleted;  they started in on the farmers fields.  This brief, off the top of my head history brings us to today.  TWRA now states that the cranes are of a number that will allow them to be hunted.  They use the farmers complaints as a strong justification for the hunt.  The sportsmen, as I understand it, are for the hunt.  Not all are for it but, enough to weigh the scales in favor of the hunt.  TWRA states that the kill will only deplete 2% of the total number of the flock.  Ok;  if the cranes are devestating the farmer's fields to the point of ruination;  what is a 2% reduction in cranes going to solve?   What's 2% of 40,000 cranes?   800 cranes or near that.   The answer to the issue is simple.  Stop feeding the cranes and they won't stop anymore.  They'll go away.   But the hunting option appears to be the more savory decision. 

The hunters do supply TWRA with the revenues to operate with.  State taxes are not diverted to the agency.  The non hunters, however, do not invest funds with TWRA.   Who do you think the resource managers will really listen to?  There's more to this but, I'm reluctant to write a book here.  It's an overview if you will.

I say the following in summary:  I absolutely can not see how the word "hunting" can be applied to the taking of cranes.  Slaughter is a more appropriate term to describe the killing of this amazing bird.  They are big and ungainly on land and very slow when taking flight.  Once underway in the sky their speed can only be rated as ultra slow.  They gain elevation slowly and fly about as fast as a great blue heron.  I'm sure everyone is familiar with that wetlands bird.  To point a shotgun at these birds is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Where is the sport?  Where is the glory and the bragging rights?  How can a "sportsman" feel any pride in the killing of one of these magnificent birds?  I have found pictures on the internet of multiple hunters standing in line holding up dead cranes by the neck, dozens of dead cranes,  and actually smiling and acting proud about their accomplishments.  No, hunting does not apply in this case.  Shooting this slow moving ancient bird with a modern shotgun is slaughter.  The pellets will hit the bird, feathers will fly off, and the great bird will crumple to earth.   End of story.   I have considered myself a sportsman all my life but, if this crane hunt is approved and grown adult men, who call themselves sportsmen,  go afield and wantonly slaughter sandhill cranes in this state then I will gladly relinquish my association with the term sportsman.  The willful killing of these birds by men with guns is nothing less than shameful!  And shame on TWRA for not having the management ethics to "just say no" for once to the hunters.  Hunters already have a full plate of wildlife to eat.  And, cranes really suck on the cuisine list as a desirable meat.

TWRA will accept comments up to and including Wed this week from the public regarding opinions concerning the upcoming hunt that will run concurrent with the duck season.    Mailing and emailing addresses are below in the blurb I copied from the TWRA web site.  I would suggest to continue the mailings and emails even after the end date of opinion acceptance from the public.  Remember the following:

These imperiled cranes belong to the public of the state of Tennessee.  They are mine.  They are yours.  They are your children's.  They belong to us!  They do not belong to any one faction just because that group funnels money into the organization responsible for stewardship of "our" wildlife.  I am not known for diplomacy and I can guarantee I've upset a lot of folks with this blog entry.  The thought of killing sandhill cranes is shameful!   The idea of it casts a very dark shadow on the organization we all trust to preserve our wildlife and habitat.  And if the killing starts;  that organization will lose trust and validity in the eyes of people who wish to preserve wildlife;  not slaughter it.  And so it should....

Tennessee crane hunting
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will continue to accept comments through Wednesday on a proposed 2011-12 hunting season for sandhill cranes.
The breeding, migration and wintering range of the Eastern Population of sandhill cranes is located within the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. That population has seen significant growth during the past 30-40 years, and the birds are beginning to cause significant damage to agricultural lands.
The 2010 midwinter count documented more than 40,000 sandhill cranes in southeastern Tennessee. Some believe a hunting season is necessary to keep the birds' population and their effects on agriculture in check.
However, some bird enthusiasts are opposed to a hunting season for cranes.
Comments may be submitted by mail to: Sandhill Crane Comments, TWRA, Wildlife Management Division, P.O. 40747, Nashville, TN 37204 or e-mailed to Be sure to include "Sandhill Crane Comments" on the subject line of your e-mailed submission.