Sandhill cranes are becoming more and more plentiful. This year Alabama will introduce a crane season, joining Tennessee and Kentucky as the first three states east of the Mississippi River to reopen their harvest. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division began conducting crane counts in 2010 as part of their annual aerial waterfowl surveys. Sandhill crane numbers in Alabama have increased an average of 16 percent per year over the past 10 years, with the latest five-year average of 15,029 birds.

The seventh Tennessee sandhill crane hunt for the Southeast Crane Zone will have its in-person permit drawing on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Rhea County High School (885 Eagle Lane, Evensville). The 2019-20 season dates for the Southeast Crane Zone are Dec. 7 to Jan. 31, but closed for the Sandhill Crane Festival on Jan. 17-19.

Registration for the permit drawing begins at 8 a.m. and the drawings will follow at 10 a.m. Applicants must be at least 13 years old and have a current Tennessee hunting/fishing license (Type 001) and a waterfowl license (Type 005) or equivalent. This year there will be 513 permits issued, with three birds per permit allowed.

Any leftover permits will be included in the computerized waterfowl drawing for the statewide crane season on Sept. 4-25, which will offer 710 more crane permits (two birds per hunter) for the statewide season. All crane hunters must take the Sandhill Crane Test, available online, before hunting. For more information go to www.tn.gov/twra/hunting.html.

GUIDE: The 2019-2020 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide is now published and delivered to a license agency near you. Better yet, the Guide is now offered in a new interactive, mobile-friendly, e-regulations form at www.eregulations.com/tennessee/hunting and the entire booklet is online as usual in PDF form at www.tnwildlife.org. Again this year the Waterfowl Guide is included in the Hunting Guide. The changes in regulations and seasons for this year can be found on page 2. Some changes of particular note follow.

Since chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in southwestern Tennessee in December 2018, the new big game Unit CWD was created, and with it some new opportunities and regulations, including: Earn-a Buck program; Replacement Buck program; stricter regulations on moving deer carcasses and check-in. Testing for CWD is recommended before consuming deer from this area.

Statewide, deer and elk lures with natural urine are no longer allowed in use or possession. Sportsmen can now use the new-improved TWRA On the Go app and quickly report harvests with or without cellphone service. Duck season dates and bag limits have been updated.

SNAIL DARTER: The future appears bright for the famous snail darter. The Center for Biological Diversity, former federal biologist Jim Williams and law professor Zygmunt Plater have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lift Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection from snail darters.

Thanks to government and citizen efforts, the little fish has now successfully achieved recovery and is no longer in danger of extinction. This news comes on the heals of another proud ESA success: The recovery and delisting of the Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear.

The three-inch-long fish gained fame in the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case Tennessee Valley Authority vs. Hill. The court upheld the newly passed Endangered Species Act at the request of conservationists and others who sought to protect the fish and its free-flowing habitat from the construction of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s controversial Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River.

When Congress later exempted the Tellico Dam from compliance with the ESA, scientists introduced the endangered fish into other rivers. Because of the Act’s habitat protections and improved dam management, which includes pulsing for minimum flow and measures to increase oxygen, populations of the fish have now expanded to waterways in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.

STAMPED OUT: The Tennessee Ammo Tax Stamp has been repealed. The little green ten-cent stamp is no longer required for every box of ammunition sold in Tennessee. The Tennessee State Legislature passed the repeal of the special privilege tax on April 30 and it went into effect on July 1.

The revenue from the ammo tax stamp went directly into the Wildlife Resources Fund, which is the general bank account of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The TWRA receives no tax support from the state; its entire operating budget is derived from license sales and some matching federal wildlife funds, plus some other sources such as fines and penalties, advertising sales and this privilege tax on ammo.

One drawback to the end of the ammo tax is a significant reduction in the money the TWRA has to spend on wildlife in Tennessee.

Email wiest.tom@gmail.com to share your news with Tom Wiest.

Tom Wiest is a long time columnist on all matters outdoors. He welcomes news, questions and comments from readers.

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