For those hunters that like to follow the big game harvest numbers for Tennessee, there is a setback in available data coming from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Previously one could go to the Hunting section on the TWRA website www.tnwildlife.org and select “Hunters Toolbox, Reports and Statistics”. Here there were lots of details on any period of the season, including say, for deer: Antlered, antlerless males and females, fawns, as well as a breakdown for each county’s harvest.
This reporter contacted a TWRA representative who explained that the previous reporting system was susceptible to many mistakes and was inaccurate; therefore, the Hunters Toolbox is being redesigned. Presently the Hunters Toolbox will only report gross totals for deer, bear, turkey, and sandhill crane. A map of counties is included and selecting a county will give you its total harvest number.
For the Youth Hunt on Oct. 26-27, the statewide harvest of deer was 3,470; two bear were taken in Sevier County total. For year-to-date the statewide deer harvest is 33,399; the bear harvest is at 301. The top five counties so far for bear are: Carter- 40, Polk- 37, Monroe- 35, Cocke- 34, and Sevier- 30.
When will the 2019 fall duck migration begin? The Ducks Unlimited Mobile App can tell you when and where. The app is a big help for hunters and it is free for your smart phone. You can track the fall migration of waterfowl so you know ahead of time where to go and when to go. There is a useful waterfowl identification gallery, plus breaking news, hunting reports, season and bag limit details, special DU events, videos, and hunting tips. Of course the website www.ducks.org has all that and more. Consider joining this fine waterfowl conservation organization.
After field dressing and butchering a deer from a possible CWD area, it is a good idea to thoroughly clean your knives and utensils. A major concern with chronic wasting disease is that standard sanitizing methods fail to kill the prions that cause the illness. Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have discovered that the CWD prions on stainless steel can be neutralized by a five-minute soak in household bleach. However, bleach only works as a surface decontaminant; it does not penetrate infected tissue.
Bad news? There is a full moon on Nov. 12; this will flood with moonlight the opening week nights of muzzleload deer season (opening Nov. 9). Everybody knows that the deer will feed all night and hole up all day, frustrating hunters. Everybody knows this. Except that it is not true.
A recent study by Penn State University monitored movement of female adult whitetails fitted with GPS tracking collars during the month of October for several years. These were wild, free-range deer on public forests. During full moon nights they moved less than on nights when the moon was dark (a new moon). Again, under the full moon deer moved less, not more. But the difference in movement amounted to an average of just six meters per hour.
More significant was when deer moved. They averaged about 60 meters of movement per hour until about 6 a.m., when movement spiked quickly to peak at about 125 meters per hour at roughly 7 a.m. It then declined to 45 meters per hour at 10 a.m. Evening activity showed a similar spike starting at about 3 p.m., peaking at about 6:30 p.m. and dropping sharply toward minimal movement at about 8 p.m. New moon, partial moon, full moon. It didn’t matter.
This makes perfect sense when you think about whitetail physiology. Deer are ruminants; they have more than one stomach. It takes them from one to four hours to fill up the first stomach, depending on forage abundance. Their maximum movement will be while transitioning from bedding cover to feeding grounds and back again.
After filling their rumens (first stomach) they bed and ruminate, i.e. regurgitate and re-chew what they took in. This process takes about four to six hours with, perhaps, some stretching and nibbling every few hours. Soon after, feeling hungry again, the deer travel back to a major feeding site. Like clockwork this cycle moves through the days, months, and years.
Deer movement is largely determined by their digestive systems coupled with their preferred initial foraging times, dusk and dawn. Moonlight or no moonlight, deer movement is slave to deer digestion; there is no way they can “feed all night”. So, continue to expect dusk and dawn deer activity. [Thanks to Ron Spomer, www.ronspomeroutdoors.com, of Sporting Classics for this revelation.]
At the October meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, updates were presented on chronic wasting disease (CWD) and an ongoing turkey research project. Crockett and Gibson counties are now being classified as CWD high-risk counties. As a result, wildlife feeding and carcass expiration restrictions now apply there. However, the counties will remain in Unit L, not Unit CWD. Additional CWD public meetings are planned for Crockett and Gibson counties on Nov. 7 and 14, respectively.
During the 2019-20 deer season thus far, 17 CWD-positive deer have been detected in West Tennessee; the combined total, including those from the 2018-19, is 203. In a related issue, privately-owned landfills operators in southwest Tennessee have decided that no deer will be accepted at these facilities. Although TWRA does not have authority or legal responsibility for waste disposal, the agency will work with other state agencies to honor this decision.
A five-year study on turkey declines in southern Middle Tennessee has reached the half-way point. The preliminary report to the TFWC indicates turkey populations in the area are declining because of poor productivity. Experimental habitat management is being implemented to address limitations in nest success and brood survival. Hunters are very concerned about the status of turkey hunting and are willing to consider regulatory changes, according to surveys. Turkeys are being exposed to a variety of diseases but there is little evidence that these diseases are limiting populations. [Coyote predation?]
The next TFWC meeting will be Dec. 12-13 in Gatlinburg.
The 2019-20 fall duck hunting for Tennessee begins in the Reelfoot Duck Zone on Nov. 9-10 and continues on Dec. 5 – Jan. 31. The Statewide Duck Zone will again have its familiar 60-day split season, opening on Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 (Thanksgiving Day weekend) and continuing Dec. 7 – Jan. 31. The Youth Waterfowl Hunts are Feb. 1 and Feb. 8 for both zones.
The daily bag limit is six ducks, consisting of no more than four mallards (maximum of two females), three wood, three scaup, two redhead, one pintail, two canvasback, and two black.
The season for Canada geese in the Northwest Canada Goose Zone continues Nov. 9-10 and Dec. 5 – Feb. 14. The Statewide Canada Goose Zone continues Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 and resumes Dec. 7 – Feb. 14. The daily bag limit is three in all zones. Most of the other goose species are open Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 and Dec. 7 – Feb. 14. For more see the waterfowl section in the 2019-20 hunting guide, pp.22-27, or see it at www.tnwildlife.org.
It looks like another good season is in the offing for waterfowl and duck hunters. The 2019 Waterfowl Population Status Report, conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service since 1955, puts the breeding duck population at 38.90 million, a 6 percent decrease from last year’s population of 41.19 million, but still 10 percent above the long-term average (LTA). The 2019 survey marks the first time since 2008 that the estimated breeding duck population has fallen below 40 million.
Even though breeding duck numbers are down overall, the lower numbers are a reflection of last year’s dry conditions for nesting ducks. The U.S. prairies were incredibly wet from south to north, which will lead to strong duck production. Conditions remained wet and actually improved during the breeding season, with temporary and seasonal wetlands retaining water into July and August. This should also increase the number of more easily decoyed juveniles in the fall flight, compared to the savvy, adult birds. For detailed information on the various species of ducks, see this blogs full story on 8-28-19; for more general information on the seasons go to www.deltawaterfowl.org.
The muzzleload deer season runs Nov. 9-22 for all the big game units. The limit on bucks is the same for all units, two, which happens to be the annual maximum for the state. The antlerless limit depends on the unit: Units A and B are two each; units C and D are one each; Unit L is three per day. Note that the antlerless bag limits are per unit; a limit may be taken in each unit.
In Unit CWD the muzzleload season joins archery season on Oct. 28 – Nov.8; the gun portion begins early also, Nov. 9 – Jan. 5. See page 35 of the 2019-20 hunting guide www.tnwildlife.org for special harvest programs in this unit, such as Earn-A-Buck and Replacement Buck.
Can deer urine lures be used in Tennessee? The answer is “It depends”. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency on July 1, 2019 enacted a ban on natural cervid (deer, elk and moose) urine lures for use and possession by hunters; however, in the published details of the ban (see page 15 in the 2019-20 hunting guide) there are some conditions where natural urine lures can be used.
If the product is produced in a safe manner and federally approved, it is permissible in Tennessee. Currently on the market there are some deer urine lures that are certified by the Archery Trade Association (ATA), and these comply with the federal requirements. The TWRA accepts these ATA-certified lures. Hunters should be sure to keep the original container with them as proof of compliance.
Following is the amended section of Proclamation 18-05 (page 15 of hunting guide) concerning cervid urine:
“The use or possession of natural cervid urine while hunting is prohibited unless the product is clearly labeled bearing certification from the manufacturer that the urine was produced in a facility that:
i. Complies with a federal or a federally approved chronic wasting disease herd certification program and any federal chronic wasting disease protocols and record requirements;
ii. Does not allow importation of live cervids;
iii. Requires that all cervids exported from the facility be tested for chronic wasting disease upon death and the results are reported to the facility;
iv. Is inspected annually by an accredited veterinarian, including inspection of the herd and applicable records; and
v. Maintains a fence at least 8 feet high around the facility and, if the facility is located within 30 miles of a confirmed positive occurrence of chronic wasting disease, is double fenced to prevent direct contact between captive and wild cervids.”
For those concerned citizens who would like to beautify their communities, here is some state money to help. The TWRA has grant dollars available to assist community organizations, civic groups, watershed organizations, and conservation groups with riparian tree planting projects. The best tree planting season in Tennessee is December through March. The TWRA will accept proposals through Dec. 1, 2019.
Five grants of $500 each are available for each of TWRA’s four regional Aquatic Habitat Protection projects, a total of $2,500 per region. The grants require the group to have a nonprofit tax number. The projects are to be completed, the money spent, and a report submitted by June 30, 2020.
Applicants should have complete contact information in their request, including the leader’s tax number. The proposal should also include the name of the stream, county or counties involved, and the project area and description. For more information contact Della Sawyers at 615-781-6577 or by e-mail at Della.Sawyers@tn.gov.
Autumn ushers in more small game hunting. Rabbit and quail seasons open Nov. 2 and close on Feb. 29; Wilson snipe opens Nov. 14. and closes on Feb. 28. The daily bag limits are five for rabbit, six for quail and eight for snipe. Dove’s second segment closes on Nov. 3, but will reopen Dec. 8 – Jan. 15, a limit of 15 per day.
Last year the woodcock season was shifted two weeks later on the calendar to better match the bird’s southerly migration through Tennessee; and this year it is a split season: Nov. 9 – Dec. 1and Jan. 10-31. The daily bag limit is three. Remember that the Tennessee Migratory Bird Permit ($2) is required for dove, snipe and woodcock.
The truth, the whole truth – or less than half the truth! A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) touched off a wave of nationwide headlines about deer hunters contracting tuberculosis from deer; but most news coverage failed to provide a very important detail: Bovine tuberculosis is eradicated in white-tailed deer except in a small area in the northeast Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Outside northeast Michigan, there is no reason for deer hunters to be concerned about bovine tuberculosis (TB).
The CDC case involved one 77-year-old Michigan hunter who contracted tuberculosis in 2017, apparently while field-dressing a deer. Even in the historical detection area that includes 13 counties in northeast Michigan, bovine TB is rare in deer; only two percent of the deer tested for bovine TB are positive.
Still, since there is the possibility of transmission of some other pathogens when field dressing game, it is recommended to wear protection and take precautions.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking comments for its 2020-21 waterfowl and other migratory bird hunting regulations, including sandhill cranes. This is an opportunity for the public to provide ideas and share concerns about hunting regulations with TWRA staff. The comment period is open Oct. 21 – Dec. 2.
Due to changes in the timing of the federal regulation process, waterfowl and other migratory game bird hunting seasons are now proposed to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission at its January meeting and voted upon at its February meeting.
Public comments will be considered as proposals for regulation changes. Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include “Waterfowl Season Comments” on the subject line. For comments by postal mail, send to: 2020-21 Waterfowl Season Comments, TWRA, Wildlife and Forestry Division, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204.
Have you been seeing or hearing more coyotes lately? This report from the biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission explains why. October and November are the months when young coyotes — those born in early spring — are leaving their parents’ territory to find a mate and establish their own territory. Young coyotes often travel with their siblings during this time and can travel long distances — upward of 300 miles before settling down into their own territories.
During these wanderings, their characteristic yipping, howling and barking often can be heard as they keep track of each other, as well as other coyotes whose territories they are passing through. Because of the hollow tone of the howl, two coyotes often sound like a huge group and may seem closer than they actually are.
Contrary to popular belief, a coyote howling does not mean it has just taken down prey, although some people do find their howls unnerving. Fortunately, hearing or seeing a coyote, even during the day, is usually no cause for alarm.
“Coyotes rarely attack humans,” said Falyn Owens, the agency’s extension biologist. “Coyotes are curious, but wary whenever they are near humans; however, they can become bold and habituated to humans if people feed them, either purposely or unintentionally.”
For this reason, Owens recommends that people follow several tips to keep coyotes, and other wildlife such as raccoons, from being attracted to their homes:
• Secure garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids; take trash out the morning of pickup.
• Keep bird seed off the ground and bird feeding areas clean.
• Remove fallen fruit from trees.
• Feed pets indoors or remove food when a pet is finished eating outside.
Because coyotes view outdoor cats and small, unleashed dogs as a potential food source, people should keep their pets inside, leashed or inside a dog-proof fence at all times.
By having no unnatural food attractants available, coyotes are more likely to stay wary of people and avoid them and their homes.
Additional tactics can help them actively avoid certain areas. “Hazing, or standing your ground and scaring the animal off can be a good way to ensure these wild animals develop or maintain a healthy fear of humans,” Owens said. “You can effectively intimidate a coyote by throwing small objects toward it, making loud noises, or spraying it with a water hose. Keep it up until the coyote leaves.”
Delta Waterfowl, “The Duck Hunters Organization”, has expanded its efforts to increase the dwindling number of waterfowlers. First, in 2003 DW began “First Hunt”, now the largest hunter recruitment program in the U.S. To date DW chapters have introduced more than 72,000 new people to the ways of duck and goose hunting.
In 2017 DW began the “University Hunting Program”, designed to introduce wildlife management students to waterfowl hunting. DW is building partnerships with universities nationwide, 24 schools to date. Also in 2017 DW began another popular initiative.
The “Mentor Recognition Program” is designed to raise awareness of the critical need to recruit new hunters and reward people who share their love of waterfowl hunting with others. Here’s how the program works (By the way, membership in DW is not required):
Anyone who mentors a new waterfowl hunter is eligible to upload to DW a photo and short story about your hunt. In recognition, DW will send to the mentor a certificate of appreciation, Delta Waterfowl Mentor hat, special DW decal, and an engraved metal band to display on a call lanyard.
The new hunter will get a merit certificate, DW hat, two decals, and if successful at taking a duck or goose, they will earn a Delta Waterfowl First-Duck Pin. Again, you do not have to be a DW member to participate. For more information go to the “What We Do” section of www.deltawaterfowl.org. And join them if you like. Or contact Joel Brice, vice president of waterfowl and hunter recruitment programs, at 888-987-3695 ext. 5225 or email email@example.com.
Hunters, watch out for the color purple in the field. Just as a flash of hunter orange means “do not shoot”, a splash of purple on a tree or fence means “no hunting or trespassing”. In 2017 Tennessee joined a growing number of states with a new law that simplifies a landowner’s task of posting his property.
Once a traditional “No Trespassing” sign has been posted in a prominent place, the law authorizes property owners to provide notice that trespassing is prohibited on their property by marking trees and posts with purple paint as an alternative to posting signs. The purple mark can be an “X” or a vertical stripe at least one inch wide and eight inches long placed in the baseball strike zone (three feet to five feet high) for easy viewing. Trespassing in Tennessee is a Class C misdemeanor which can result in a $50 fine or up to 30 days in jail.
The later bear seasons continue in BHZ-1, BHZ-2 and BHZ-3 on Oct. 28 – Nov. 1 with dogs and all weapons (guns, muzzleloaders and archery); this area reopens on Nov. 23-26 for no dogs. The next season for BHZ 1-2-3 opens on Dec. 2 with dogs but the closing dates vary: BHZ-1 closes Dec. 21, BHZ-2 closes Dec. 26, and BHZ-3 closes Dec. 15. The final bear hunt is in BHZ-3, with dogs, on Dec. 26-29. The Transitional Zone and BHZ-4 continues through Nov. 25 for archery, no dogs.
The counties in BHZ-1 include Carter, Cocke (north of I-40), Greene, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington. BHZ-2 counties include Blount, Cocke (south of I-40), Jefferson (east of Hwy 411), and Sevier. BHZ-3 counties are McMinn (east of Hwy 411), Monroe and northeastern Polk. The Transitional Zone is all of the counties immediately east of BHZ 1-2-3; BHZ-4 is Morgan, Fentress, eastern Pickett, northern Cumberland, and western Scott counties. For more information go to page 40-41 of the 2019-20 hunting guide, also online at www.tnwildlife.org.
The Young Sportsman hunts for deer and bear are Oct. 26-27. Hunters ages six through 16 are eligible, and they must have a non-hunting adult at least 21 years old with them close enough to control the hunting weapon. Both need to wear the required fluorescent orange, but the adult does not have to have a license. Any legal weapon may be used: Gun, muzzleloader, bow, and crossbow.
Hunters ages six through 12 do not need a hunting license; hunters ages 13 through 15 must have the junior license; those age 16 (when the license is purchased) must have an adult license. Young hunters age 10 to 16 must have their hunter education certificate or the Apprentice License.
For deer: The season bag limit for bucks allows one antlered deer per day up to the state maximum of two bucks per year. The antlerless bag limit for this youth hunt is two for the big game units A, B, C, and D; Unit L and Unit CWD allow three does per day. Some of the TWRA wildlife management areas will also be open for this hunt. See the WMA list online or in the 2019-20 Hunting and Trapping Guide (a WMA permit may be required).
For bear: Young hunters will have exclusive use of these Bear Hunt Zones: BHZ-1, BHZ-2 and BHZ-3 (The adult archery bear season ends on Oct. 19). Dogs are not allowed but all weapons are (gun, muzzleloader and archery). The season limit is one bear (without cubs) per person.
SaveOurMonarchs Foundation has a good idea for the upcoming holidays. For a donation of $35 they will send you 100 milkweed seed packets holiday-themed for Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas. The packets make nice handouts for trick-or-treaters – but not in lieu of candy, of course – or simple gifts for holiday gatherings.
The various milkweed plants are perennial wildflowers that can grow anywhere in the U.S. and they are essential to the survival of all monarch caterpillars. Besides that, milkweed adds a lot to a wildflower garden and it requires no maintenance. Autumn is a good time to plant wildflowers, or you can wait for the spring.
Check out SaveOurMonarchs Foundation, a 501c3 charity; they offer free milkweed seeds to anyone requesting them, and larger quantities for a small donation. For seeds and more information go to www.SaveOurMonarchs.org; or contact Ward Johnson at 952-829-0600.
When buying your hunting licenses this fall, consider getting one of the collectible “hard-card” hunting and fishing licenses. It has a beautiful wildlife scene on the front of the card (driver license sized) and lists all of your current licenses on the back; it costs an extra five dollars.
The hard-cards began in 2017 with a woodland white-tailed buck, now retired. The second artwork issued is an airborne largemouth bass. The latest design to choose features a flock of mallards and a Labrador retriever in a flooded woods. Licenses are available at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency regional offices, license agencies, on the TWRA website www.gooutdoorstennessee.com , and at the TWRA “On the Go App.”
This Beyond BOW takes women muzzleload hunting. The 2019 Beyond Becoming an Outdoors Woman Muzzleloader Workshop will be held on Nov. 8-10 on private property in Humphreys County. Women age 18 and older are eligible and the sponsor is the TWRA.
The private farm for the event has more than 2,000 acres of prime deer habitat with a variety of wildlife management projects. Besides actual hunting time, a variety of clinics are scheduled including, deer biology, deer management and hunting ethics.
Registration for the workshop is on a first-come basis; however, two weeks priority will be given to first-time participants. The workshop fee is $250, which includes meals and campsites, if participants wish to camp. Participants must have the appropriate licenses and hunter education cards (or the apprentice license). Some treestands will be available.
There will be two hunts on Saturday and one Sunday morning. For more information and a registration application, contact Donald Hosse at Don.Hosse@tn.gov or phone 615-781-6541. Applications are also available on the TWRA website www.tnwildlife.org under Outreach.
The early Canada goose season is the first phase of Tennessee’s migratory waterfowl hunting. The Statewide Zone is Oct. 12-22, then Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 and Dec. 7 – Feb. 14. The Northwest Zone is Oct. 12-22, then Nov. 9-10 and Dec. 5 – Feb. 14. The daily bag limit is three.
For more information on the Canada goose seasons, see the 2019-20 Tennessee Hunting Guide on page 23 at www.tnwildlife.org. The earliest opportunity for duck hunting in Tennessee is Nov. 9-10 in the Reelfoot Duck Zone. More here on the duck seasons later, or go to Page 22 of the hunting guide.
Upland game opportunities: Tennessee’s grouse season opens Oct. 12 – Feb. 29 for areas east of I-65 only. The bag limit is three per day. The second dove segment reopens on Oct. 12 – Nov. 3 with a daily limit of 15. Crow season changes to daily hunting on Oct. 5 – Jan. 1, with no limit. Previously crow was open June 1 – Aug. 18 on Friday-Saturday-Sunday only.
Here is a unique sports banquet not to be missed. The Tennessee Muzzleloading History Banquet will be held on Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Smyrna Event Center in Smyrna.
Some of the attractions: A collection of Tennessee ML rifles; a historical exhibit of ML in Tennessee from 1769; Sergeant Alvin York guns and memorabilia; Civil War reenactments with Whitworth rifles; vintage barrel-making machine demonstration by Rice Barrels; Q&A with national champion ML shooters; Stephen Tucker with his world record Tucker Buck; Knight Rifles and other ML vendors onsite.
The activities go all day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with reenactments, shoots and fun ($10 activities fee). Evening socializing, viewing the exhibits, cocktails, and then dinner will be 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. Dinner tickets are $30 each and $15 for under 18 years. Pre-register at www.nmlra.org.
Time is running out for new hunters to get a hunter education certificate – that’s anyone born after 1968. Normally you must go online to sign up for a hunter education class. The TWRA lists the upcoming classes on its website at www.tnwildlife.org in the hunting section.
Students must be at least nine years old to earn a certificate; they should bring a pencil and their Social Security number (mandatory). Do not bring a gun. Other classes may be added at any time, so check often.
Are you having trouble scheduling the time for a hunter education class? There is an online alternative with an online written exam and a required field day for live shooting; but, now there also is an exemption to the field day for those 21 years or older. The following steps are required:
Complete one of the online classes at www.tn.gov/twra/hunting/hunter-education.html. These courses cost $29 and are interactive, narrated, and offer daily (including weekend) live customer service via email or telephone. Complete the form provided for the field day exemption and mail, fax or email it with required documentation and payment ($12) to the address listed on the form. To request a form offline contact the Hunter Education Coordinator at 615-781-6538. Your certificate will arrive in three to five business days after submission.