It is time to watch out for skunks. Mid-winter is mating season. The males are extra mobile as they seek to establish new territory, and this increases their encounters with humans. More skunks are hit by motor vehicles in February than any other month, and they may lose the battle but you will pay through the nose.
Precautions: Skunks will try to move in under your porch, or will den in a pile of lumber or nearby clutter; so eliminate enticing access to such structures. You may or may not smell them when they are there. Skunks are nocturnal. Be careful letting your dog out at night. Don’t leave tempting pet food on your porch. Be alert driving.
Remedies: If a skunk has moved in, don’t try to lock it out until nighttime when it is likely to be gone marauding. To be sure sprinkle flour or sand at the entrance during the day and watch for tracks exiting. If you or something you love gets sprayed, don’t bother with that worthless, messy tomato juice cure. Here is the sure-fire, scientific solution (It really works, even on dogs):
Combine one quart of hydrogen peroxide (3%), a quarter-cup baking soda, and one teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap. Wash the malodorous items well, repeat if necessary, and rinse with plain water. That’s it. This mixture is topically harmless but it can irritate the eyes, nose and mouth. It is chemically unstable and cannot be stored, so use it up. By the way, it also works on dogs that have rolled in a smelly, decaying carcass, as they love to do.
Poachers are game thieves. Sportsmen hate them; state wildlife officers hate them; finally, state lawmakers hate them; and sometimes judges hate them enough to sentence these criminals to the fullest extent of the law. Following are two recent stories of Tennessee game thieves, and two judges, one commendable and one contemptible.
First case: On Thanksgiving Day morning last, Clarence Robertson of New Market saw an 11-point buck in his neighbor’s hayfield across the street from his home. He shot the deer from his driveway without permission and drove his truck into the field to retrieve the trophy animal. Robertson was charged and convicted under a new Tennessee state law that authorizes a $1,000 fine for poaching a big game animal, and additional fines if the animal is of trophy status. In this case a deer with 11 or more antler points earns an additional fine of $750 per point. Robertson has to pay $269 in court costs, an initial $50 fine, and $9,250 in restitution. Bravo, judge.
Second case: Two Morristown poachers, Ben Williamson and son Brett Williamson, illegally hunted elk in Colorado several times between 1999 and 2011. They used an illegal outfitter and hunted in a special trophy elk management area so exclusive that it takes the average hunter 20 years to win one permit for the area.
Over their multiple trips the Williamsons took many trophy bulls without the special permits. In 2004 Ben killed two bull elk (state limit is one per year). In 2009 Brett hunted without a license and killed a big bull; in 2010 Brett returned and killed two bulls. Last March a federal judge in Colorado convicted the Williamsons of misdemeanors under the federal Lacey Act (the oldest national game law) and each was assessed a fine of $6,500. They also were required to forfeit their trophy mounts.
Unfortunately, the judge ignored the much tougher statute called the Samson Law, which adds penalties for trophy animals. To wit, a bull elk with six or more antler points on one beam would costs an additional $10,000 – for each violation! Judge, so much for discouraging game thieves.
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission’s next meeting will be held Feb. 16-17 in Nashville at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Ray Bell Region II Building.
The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16 with committee meetings. The Friday, Feb. 17 regular meeting will start at 9:30 a.m.
Among its business at the February meeting, the TFWC will set the 2017-18 state waterfowl hunting season and elect its new officers for the coming year. A complete agenda will be announced about a week from the meeting dates.
Collegiate anglers, get ready. The Cabela's Collegiate Bass Fishing Series will kick off the 2017 national season here in Tennessee with one of the most diverse fishing tournaments in college fishing. The first event is the “Cabela's Collegiate Big Bass Bash”, presented by Berkley. It takes place on March 10-12 on Kentucky Lake; Henry County is the host.
In 2016 this tournament awarded more than $25,000 in prizes. Last year the Cabela’s Collegiate Series attracted 436 anglers from 78 schools. All college anglers are eligible. Register now for this tournament and get more information at www.facebook.com/CollegiateBassChampionship.
It is time to nominate your favorite high school angler for the Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team. Bassmaster recognizes the 12 best high school anglers in the nation, rewarding the young athletes for their performances in tournaments, leadership in their communities and involvement in conservation efforts.
Application deadline is Feb. 17. To be considered, students in grades 10-12 must be nominated by a parent, coach, teacher or other school official, and must have a current grade point average of 2.5 or higher. Other criteria include success in high school fishing tournaments (B.A.S.S. affiliation is not required), involvement in conservation efforts and other community service activities.
Judges will choose one or two anglers from each state and these will compete in the 2017 Bassmaster All-American High School Tournament in Lufkin, Texas this year. The best 12 will be the Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team. Adults can nominate students by filling out an online form at www.Bassmaster.com/allamerican.
On Jan. 29 Ducks Unlimited will celebrate 80 years of conservation. Started by a small group of sportsmen to save North America's waterfowl populations – and the continent's strong waterfowling traditions – DU was founded in 1937 during the Great Depression and one of the worst droughts in history.
Eight decades later, DU is celebrating the conservation success due to the tireless support and efforts of generations of DU members and partners. In that time DU has completed more than 100,000 conservation projects and conserved more than 13.8 million acres across North America, including Canada. DU's latest campaign is a $2 billion continental fundraiser called "Rescue Our Wetlands: Banding Together for Waterfowl”. Get more information on this and all the current DU projects at www.ducks.org.
A Parting Shot. It is traditional for a retiring U.S. President to issue pardons to any convicted criminals that he or she wants, no matter how controversial or self-serving the pardons are. The same goes for executive orders and directives to federal agencies. On President Obama’s last day in office he did plenty of all three. Here is one that flew under the radar of the national news media, but it is a vicious blow to American sportsmen.
On Jan. 19 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe issued Director’s Order 219, banning the use of lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle on all federal lands. The last-minute action revives an effort that the administration undertook eight years ago to ban the use of traditional ammunition. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting, and shooting sports industries, condemned the decision and issued this statement:
“This directive is irresponsible and driven not out of sound science but unchecked politics,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “The timing alone is suspect. This directive was published without dialogue with industry, sportsmen and conservationists. The next director should immediately rescind this, and instead create policy based upon scientific evidence of population impacts with regard to the use of traditional ammunition.”
Director’s Order 219 requires several initiatives to go into effect immediately. Regional directors are to work with state agencies to ban the use of lead in traditional ammunition and fishing tackle. It also ends the use of such lead products on federal land, including National Parks, tribal lands and national wildlife refuges in order to mirror policies in states (like California) where traditional ammunition is already restricted. The order “expeditiously” bans traditional ammunition “when available information indicates” that lead is harmful to wildlife, without requirement of a scientific threshold on which to base that action.
In addition the Directive requires creation of a timeline to restrict traditional ammunition for dove and upland bird hunting (apparently nationwide). True sportsmen know that a “parting shot” is reckless and unethical, whether from a deer hunter or a politician. See the entire Directive 219 at https://www.fws.gov/policy/do219.html. President Trump, your turn.
There will be two special youth hunts happening on Saturday, Feb. 11, one for ducks and one for small game and predators. Space is limited for both, so choose one and sign up promptly. Participants must have their own firearms, ammunition, appropriate licenses, and hunter education certificates.
First hunt: The seventh annual Daniel Greer Memorial Youth Waterfowl Hunt will take place at Cheatham Lake Wildlife Management Area (Cheatham County) for ages 10-15. In addition to the early morning hunt, participants will gather at the Ashland City Park at 11:30 a.m. for lunch and demonstrations of dog handling and duck calling.
This free event is held in honor of U.S. Marine Corporal Daniel Greer. Sponsors are TWRA, Delta Waterfowl, Safari Club International, and the Young Sportsman Foundation. For an application or more information contact Donald Hosse at email@example.com or phone 615-781-6541, or Don Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 615-781-6542.
Second hunt: the eighth annual Maury County Youth Small Game and Predator Hunt for ages 9-15. The Ridley 4-H Center in Columbia is the event headquarters. Activities will begin at 6 a.m. with breakfast at the center. The young hunters will be teamed with hunting guides, dog handlers and safety officers before leaving to pursue their chosen quarry: Rabbits, squirrels or predators. Parents or guardians are welcome to accompany the hunters. Lunch and drawings for prizes will follow the excursions.
This free event is sponsored by the TWRA, the Tennessee Wildlife Officers Association, Columbia Noon Rotary Club, Sun Drop, Quail Forever, Foxpro, and several local businesses. To register or to get more information, send the following details to TWRA Officer Rusty Thompson at email@example.com or call him at 931-881-8241: Hunter’s name, age, address, email, phone number, and his/her preferred species (rabbits, squirrels, or predators).
TFWC January Meeting summary: The recommendations for waterfowl and migratory bird hunting for 2017-2018 have been delivered to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sets the framework for the states’ waterfowl hunting seasons based on the previous springtime surveys of breeding ducks and their habitat. The TWRA uses that federal framework to set Tennessee’s seasons.
Two significant changes were proposed, both with USFWS approval. First, the TWRA is recommending an operational statewide sandhill crane hunting season. For the past four years the experimental sandhill crane hunting season has been held in a limited area in southeast Tennessee.
Second, the agency is proposing a two-week shift in the American Woodcock season; this would better match the woodcock migration through Tennessee. Currently this season starts on the last Saturday in October and the shift would have it beginning on the second Saturday of November. The other migratory bird seasons, dove, ducks and geese, would be unchanged except for calendar shifts.
The TFWC wants the TWRA to review its big game check-in system, specifically to estimate the cost of two new programs: Implementing a tagging system for big game, and surveying hunters to estimate the big game harvest. The TFWC will set the above hunting regulations at its next meeting on Feb. 17 in Nashville.
Tennessee’s 2016-2017 deer season ended with the Young Sportsman Hunt on Jan. 15. The total harvest was 157,153 deer, comprised of 85,641 antlered and 71,345 antlerless. Last year the total harvest was 167,234 and in 2014-2015 it was 164,869. The record stands at 182,023 deer from 2006-2007.
Fayette County had the highest take this season with 4,233. As usual the counties with the largest totals were all in the western half of the state. Some of the honorable mentions include, in descending order: Hardeman (3,973), Giles (3,925), Henry (3,823), Hardin (3,453), Montgomery (3,415), and Wayne (3,408).
There are some interesting big game statistics in the “Hunter’s Toolbox”, a new feature on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website, www.tnwildlife.org, under the Hunting section. For instance, there were 70,190 hunters that took one or more bucks, and 43,100 hunters that took one or more does.
You can check the harvest numbers of your own county or favorite wildlife management area, the harvest by weapon type, hunter success by county, turkey harvests, bear harvests, and much more. Go to https://hunterstoolbox.gooutdoorstennessee.com and get comfortable.
Fly anglers, do not miss the Southeast’s biggest Fly Fishing Show on Feb. 3-4 near Atlanta in Duluth, Ga. The International Federation of Fly Fishers hosts the show and provides an extensive Learning Center with free fly fishing instructions, including basic casting, fly tying and knot tying continuously both days.
Besides the live auction and raffles of sporting goods, the Show will have many seminars, programs and classes led by nationally and locally renowned experts. Many manufacturers, dealers and outfitters will have exhibits for sales and information. The International Fly Fishing Film Festival returns on Friday night.
Hours for The Fly Fishing Show are 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Saturday. A single day ticket is $15 and a two-day pass is $25. There are discounts for children, military members and Boy Scouts. For advance tickets, a complete list of events and more details, go to http://flyfishingshow.com/atlanta.
Tennessee’s 2016-17 duck hunting season ends on Sunday, Jan. 29. The Youth Waterfowl hunting season will follow on two Saturdays, Feb. 4 and Feb. 11, for the Statewide and the Reelfoot Duck Zones. Hunters ages 6-12 are eligible and must be accompanied by an adult (21 years or older), who cannot hunt ducks but can participate on other waterfowl seasons. One adult may supervise more than one hunter. The usual daily bag limit of six ducks applies.
Canada goose season ends on Jan. 29 in the Statewide Zone and Feb. 11 in the Northwest Zone. For most other goose species the Standard Season ends on Feb. 11. The daily bag limit is 20.
For blue, snow and Ross geese there is an extra Conservation Season that runs Feb. 12 – March 10. But, there is now a free Light Goose Conservation Season Permit required to hunt during the Conservation Season, available in late January on the TWRA website https://gooutdoorstennessee.com/. No Federal or state waterfowl stamps are required but a license is required, and it can be from any state. In this season there is no daily bag limit; also, unplugged shotguns and electronic calls are allowed. Get all of the details at www.tn.gov/twra/article/waterfowl-hunting. You can track the fall migration of waterfowl with real time hunting reports from Ducks Unlimited at www.ducks.org.
Do you have some ideas to improve the hunting in Tennessee? Are you happy with the new definition for antlered deer? Do you have observations on the new licensing of hunting and fishing guides?
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is ready for input from the public to make improvements in the 2017-2018 hunting seasons. Comments are welcome on many issues, including season dates, bag limits, hunting methods, and other regulations for big game and small game.
Your suggestions can be contributed via e-mail as well as surface mail, but no phone calls. All proposed changes need to have justifications with them. The final recommendations will be previewed by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission at its April meeting and voted on at its May meeting.
Public comments will be considered by the TWRA Wildlife Division staff and may be presented as proposals for regulation changes. The deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 15. Email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Hunting Season Comments” on the subject line. Submissions by mail: Hunting Season Comments, TWRA Wildlife and Forestry Division, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204.
“The Art of Conservation”. Students and teachers, the 19th annual State-Fish Art Contest is underway, sponsored by Wildlife Forever. Students in grades K through 12 are eligible and can win prizes and national recognition while learning about state fish species, aquatic habitats, and conservation. Entries must be postmarked by March 31. Winners will be announced early in May.
Contestants will create an illustration of any of the state fish, plus a short, written essay on its behavior, habitat and conservation needs. There is another category called "Silent Invaders" that focuses on the problems of invasive species in our nation's waters. Educators, see the “Fish On!” lesson plans available to help teach students about aquatic conservation.
Tennessee has two official state fish, the largemouth bass and the channel catfish. Complete contest details, including an educator’s lesson plan for the contest, are available at www.statefishart.com.
2017 Reminder: The deadline for applications for the spring turkey quota hunts is Jan. 18. Sign-ups must be done online or at any license agency; they cannot be mailed. The turkey quota hunt instruction sheet is also available at license agencies or online at the new TWRA license website https://gooutdoorstennessee.com.
The 2017 regular spring turkey season will run April 1 – May 14. The Statewide Youth-only Hunt (ages 6-16) will be March 25-26. The new bag limit for the youth hunt is one bearded bird PER DAY. The bag limit for the regular season is one bearded bird per day, not to exceed four per season. Turkeys taken on wildlife management area hunts are bonus birds.
It is now official: After the 60 day curing period, the 47-point non-typical Sumner County whitetail taken in Tennessee’s muzzleload season is now the Pending World Record. The original B&C score of 312-3/8 (308-3/8 after deductions) did not change. It is classified “pending” until the Boone & Crockett officials re-measure and confirm it at their awards banquet in 2019.
Nicknamed the “Tennessee Tucker Buck”, it is the prized trophy of Stephen Tucker, 26, of Gallatin, Tenn., taken on the third day of the season on his own farm in Sumner County. Tucker stalked it for several days before taking it with a 40-yard shot. Tucker estimated the deer to be 3.5 years old and 150 pounds field-dressed. The previous record was a 37-point buck from Iowa in 2003 that scored 307-5/8 (after deductions). Congratulations to Stephen Tucker.
Right now there are tens of thousands of migratory birds wintering at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. One of the best ways to see them is at the 27th annual Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival on Jan. 14-15 in the community of Birchwood in Meigs County. This is an impressive spectacle of many other species of wildlife besides the sandhills, including bald eagles, golden eagles, white pelicans, whooping cranes, and some land-based mammals. Events and programs will run from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on both days.
The Festival is a two-fold celebration: First, visitors can experience many thousands of sandhill cranes that migrate through or spend the winter in and around the Hiwassee Refuge; secondly, it is an opportunity to focus attention on the rich Native American history of the area, especially the Cherokee Removal Memorial.
A full schedule of music, family entertainment and educational programs will be held at the Birchwood Elementary School, including children’s activities, vendors, festival sponsor exhibits, food, and storytelling. Don’t miss the live raptor show on Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.). The school library will offer continuous films and presentations about Tennessee wildlife. For more information go to www.tn.gov/twra/article/sandhill-crane-festival#sthash.bcHeiEP4.dpuf
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will hold its January 2017 meeting on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid in Memphis. The one-day meeting is open to the public and begins at 9 a.m. in the Flyway Room of the Big Cypress Lodge.
Among the items on the agenda, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Wildlife Division staff will present the proposed 2017-2018 waterfowl and other migratory bird hunting seasons, including sandhill cranes. Due to recent changes in the timing of the federal regulation process in regard to the waterfowl and migratory game bird hunting, the annual proposals are now made in January. They will be voted upon at the February TFWC meeting to be held in Nashville.
Other items: There will be a presentation from Ducks Unlimited on the organization’s partnership with the TWRA. DU’s Dave Kostersky and Tim Willis will be present to discuss Tennessee’s efforts with Duck Unlimited and prairie Canada to create and enhance wetlands. A review of the big game tagging/harvest reporting will be made by assistant chief of wildlife and forestry, Joe Benedict. Wade Bourne will be honored by the TFWC with a resolution for his long-time communications efforts in helping promote the outdoors. He was an outdoors journalist from Clarksville who recently passed away.
Crappie anglers, no matter your level of expertise, learn even more at the Crappie University. It is coming soon to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Chattanooga State Community College. In just its second year Crappie U. has grown from three colleges in two states to 15 colleges in 10 states. It is sponsored by Bobby Garland Crappie Baits.
Crappie University is not a seminar. It consists of a full eight-hour curriculum, composed of four classroom sessions of two hours each. It is modeled after the iconic Bassmaster University and was designed by the same person, Gary White. A staff of fishing experts instruct on crappie topics ranging from specific techniques to local seasonal patterns. The instructors are fulltime crappie guides, top tournament pros and local experts. The enrollment fee for the entire four-week course is $89.
The 2017 Crappie U. schedule runs from January to March and includes colleges and universities in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. For more information on Crappie University, including enrollment contacts for each school location, visit www.crappieuniversity.com. For more information on Bobby Garland, visit www.bobbygarlandcrappie.com.
The class dates for the University of Tennessee are: Feb. 9, 14, 21, 28; the dates for Chattanooga State C.C. are: Feb. 6, 13, 20, and March 1.
The 2016 Tennessee bear season ended on Jan. 1 with a harvest total of 412 (late filings may increase it). This will rank as the fifth largest harvest for Tennessee; also, it is the 12th consecutive season to top 300 bears.
Again this year Cocke County had the highest harvest with 78 bruins, followed by Carter with 55, Monroe with 50, Greene with 36, and Polk with 32. There are 16 counties in five zones eligible for bear hunting.
The record Tennessee bear harvest was 589 in 2011. The following year the TWRA lengthened the season by 14 days. The next highest kills were 573 in 2009, 533 in 2015, 507 in 2013, and 412 in 2016.