The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s federal framework for the 2013-14 waterfowl hunting seasons and an in-depth presentation on a recent public survey on sandhill crane management were made to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission at its June meeting which concluded Friday.
Various presentations were given to the commission to provide members with as much information as possible before determining if Tennessee should move forward with implementing a sandhill crane hunt. Mark Duda, from Responsive Management, provided results from the public opinion survey which showed the vast majority of Tennessee residents are in favor of hunting in general, but a sandhill crane hunt is not strongly supported.
The survey also showed that most residents were not aware of sandhill cranes and often confused them with great blue herons. The majority of the public also agreed that sandhill crane viewing and sandhill crane hunting can co-exist.
The commission was then joined via teleconference by the commissioner of Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Dr. Jon Gasset. He advised the commission of the success of Kentucky’s sandhill crane season which has been held since 2011.
Following the teleconference, Dr. Gray Anderson, assistant chief of Wildlife and Forestry for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, provided technical information on the federal waterfowl season setting process. He also explained how sandhill crane populations have more than doubled since 1996 and are now at an all-time high with as many as 87,000 cranes in the eastern flyway. The commission also heard comments from representatives of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, who oppose hunting of sandhill cranes and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, who support the hunting of sandhill cranes.
The TWRA will be opening a public comment period to receive input on soliciting hunters’ preference to the start of the 2013-14 late waterfowl hunting season. Comments will also be solicited on the possibility of beginning a sandhill crane hunting season in Tennessee. The 2013-14 waterfowl seasons will be set at the TWFC’s August meeting.
Don Crawford, Information and Education assistant chief, gave an update on the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) and the new National Fishing in the Schools Program (NFSP).
The TWRA hosted NASP’s seventh state championship this spring in Murfreesboro with more than 70 schools and 1,225 students participating. What began as a pilot program with 12 schools in 2004, has grown to include more than 275 schools with 31,000 students annually participating.
The NFSP program is currently focused on fly fishing. More than 2,500 students are involved in the program which looks to expand in the future.
Don King, TWRA chief of Information and Education, and Betsy Woods, Boating Education coordinator, gave updates on the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) marketing campaigns for lapsed anglers and boating registrations. These direct mail campaigns were funded and facilitated by the RBFF.
Bobby Wilson, TWRA Fisheries Division chief, gave a report on Free Fishing Day which was June 8 and associated events held throughout the state. The TWRA supplies the fish for stocking for many of the events.
Mike Butler, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation gave an update on the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP). The program recently held its annual state championship in Nashville with more than 1,400 students participating.