August 03, 2023
When Tennessee resident Austin Davis got a notion to try crane hunting, he did what many wily waterfowlers do when breaking new ground; he hired a guide. After learning the ropes on several guided hunts, he gained enough confidence for a DIY hunt, which would prove both challenging and rewarding.
“The day before our hunt, my best friend, Bradley Buchanan and I went out on a scouting trip on Chickamauga Lake,” said Davis. They scouted public land all day and found plenty of birds, but access was limited. “All the private land around the Lake is leased by guides, so we thought the little strips of mud flats between the refuge and private land was the only way to go.”
While setting up the decoys, the duo decided to take turns shooting as Tennessee’s lottery system only allows two tags per hunter. But they quickly doubted their confidence when the birds started flying—none were decoying.
“We didn’t wanna sky blast, so we waited,” Davis said.
Fortunately, they didn’t have to wait too long before a single broke from a high-flying group, cupped its wings and glided neatly into the decoy spread. And Davis wasted no time in dropping it. He was elated with his first DIY crane, but even more excited when he saw it was banded. The hunters were still admiring the band when another single came in and Buchanan had his first.
The day wore on with lots of birds but no more takers for their spread. “We were happy to get one each and decided to hunt until 1:00, then call it a day,” said Davis. Just before their appointed quitting time a group of birds decoyed and Buchanan had his limit, and five minutes later Davis filled his.
Before picking up, Davis decided to report his band.
“It was so worn, I figured it was old, maybe 10 or 12 years,” he said. Like those high-flying cranes, he was a long way off. It turned out the crane was banded in 1989, making it 33 years old!
“It was definitely a special bird and one I’ll never forget,” he added. “I knew it was old, but never thought it was going to be older than me.”
- BAND #: 0788-06011
- SPECIES: Sandhill Crane (M)
- HUNTER: Austin Davis, Lebanon, TN
- BANDED: 08/26/1989, near 7 W of Germfask, MI
- RECOVERED: 12/03/2022, 3 mi SW of Dayton, TN