The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is announcing the Tennessee Elk Cam. Installation of the video cameras began on Jan. 30 at the Hatfield Knob elk viewing pavilion in Campbell County. The live streaming video should be online at www.tnwildlife.org in a matter of days. Viewers will be able to choose wide angle shots and a zoom for close ups. Watch for the debut soon.
The Hatfield Knob elk viewing platform overlooks a large field in the Tennessee elk restoration area; it is frequented by many elk and other animals year round. It is an excellent place to personally experience wild elk. Directions: I-75 north to Caryville, then take U.S. 25W to LaFollette and about 6.5 miles past. Immediately after topping the mountain turn left at the sign onto a gravel road and go about 4.5 miles to the parking area. The pavilion is about a one-third mile walk.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will hold the inaugural Young Sportsman Squirrel Hunt at Buffalo Ridge Refuge in Humphreys County on Saturday, Feb. 17. There is no cost to participate in the hunt for youth ages 6-16. The hunt will be limited to 30 participants. Breakfast and lunch will be furnished. The day will begin with breakfast and mandatory safety talk at 6 a.m. The hunt starts at 7 a.m. and lunch will be available at noon.
Buffalo Ridge Refuge has been the site of youth deer hunts, Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops, and Wounded Soldier events, but this will be the first youth squirrel hunt. For more information or to receive an application, contact Donald Hosse, TWRA Wildlife Education Program Coordinator at 615-781-6541 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Completed applications can be mailed to the following address: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Attn: Donald Hosse, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204, or by FAX to 615-781-6543.
A preview of the 2018-19 waterfowl and other migratory bird hunting seasons was presented at the January meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission. Seasons and bag limits for most migratory gamebirds, including sandhill cranes, will be similar to 2017-18.
Proposed changes include the increase of the daily bag limit for pintails and black ducks from one bird a day to two birds a day. There would be more days available for most goose hunting. The bag limit of white-fronted geese would increase from two birds a day to three a day.
The youth waterfowl hunts will continue to occur on consecutive Saturdays in February, but the age group would increase from ages 6-15 to ages 6-16. This would match other TWRA youth hunts and the new federal regulations. During youth hunts the adult chaperones would not hunt.
Approval of these waterfowl proposals should come at the next TFWC meeting on Feb. 27-28 in Nashville.
Deer hunting has ended but midwinter ushers in another popular season for deer hunters and nature lovers alike. It is shed hunting season, the time when bucks drop their antlers. The racks do not lie around for long, though. By springtime rodents and small critters will have devoured the bony material for the tasty minerals. Still, finding a shed – especially a matched pair – is a treasure for hunter and non-hunter alike; but it means even more for the former.
Winter sheds give some important clues to the deer hunter for next season. It means there is a buck in the area that survived the previous hunt. The location of the shed can reveal a favorite bedding area, feeding area, shelter, or the routes among these sites.
Dogs can help locate sheds and some people even train their dogs to excel at it. For more on shed hunting, and lots of other fishing and hunting topics, go to www.scoutlookweather.com.
The State-Fish Art Contest is entering its 20th year, bringing children, art and aquatic conservation together. The contest is for all grades from K-12. The young artists in four age categories will create an original illustration of any official state-fish and one page of writing (a personal one-page written essay, story or poem) detailing its behavior, habitat, and efforts to conserve it. Winners receive prizes and national recognition. Wildlife Forever created this award-winning program, and Bass Pro Shops is this year’s sponsor.
Educators nationwide can utilize a lesson plan for the contest called “Fish On!”, which is available for free on CD and for download. Entries are due by March 31st each year. Judging will be held in April and winners announced on May 8, 2018. For more details and to view the 2017 winning art and writings visit www.StateFishArt.org. Tennessee has two official state fish, the largemouth bass and the channel catfish.
Another major firearms company is moving to the South. Kimber Mfg., Inc., has announced that it has finalized plans to expand manufacturing operations to Alabama. Kimber builds some of the finest m1911-style pistols and hunting rifles in the world. It is a 21-year-old company based in Yonkers, N.Y. and has a facility in Kalispell, Mont.
Kimber will begin its Alabama operations in early 2019 with a design engineering and manufacturing facility in the city of Troy, about 35 miles south of Montgomery. The new Troy facility will cost $38 million and will double Kimber’s manufacturing capacity. See the company’s website at www.kimberamerica.com.
James Cox, Kimber’s chief financial officer, commented, “Due to an unprecedented year-over-year growth in demand, every time the company has embarked upon a planned expansion, the newly created capacity is exhausted before the expansion is complete. As we continue to move into uncharted waters in regards to Kimber product demand, it was important to us to build a facility that will allow us to secure a significant new plateau of capacity. This expansion, in conjunction with our existing manufacturing facilities, talented and experienced employees, and best-in-class products provides for exciting times here at Kimber.”
Here is a special opportunity for citizens to contribute to the management of Tennessee’s elk herd for the near future. The TWRA is seeking comments on its draft version of the Strategic Elk Management Plan. This 33-page document summarizes the elk restoration activities, the current status of elk management, and identifies the direction of the elk program for the next 10 years. The emphasis is on healthy populations, habitats and public involvement. Broad program goals are provided as the basic framework of the plan, and specific objectives and strategies have been created to meet these goals.
Two public scoping workshops were held in spring 2017 to gather local public input regarding the elk program and potential components of the plan. Based on information from these workshops and input from the TWRA Elk Team and other staff, a draft Strategic Elk Management Plan was written.
This draft plan was subsequently provided to partner non-governmental organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, Campbell Outdoor Recreation Association, and the Tennessee Farm Bureau. Their collective input was utilized in developing the final draft of the plan.
The entire Draft Management Plan is available at https://www.tn.gov/twra/strategic-elk-plan.html. Email comments to TWRAElkComments@tn.gov with "Elk Plan Comments" in the subject line, or mail them to: Attn. Elk Plan Comments, TWRA, 3030 Wildlife Way, Morristown, TN 37814.
Young hunters should not miss this opportunity to hunt live quail with a good retriever. Quail Forever’s Smoky Mountain Chapter is holding another special quail hunt and youth event day on Saturday, March 3. The event will be held at the McGhee Carson Wildlife Management Area south of Vonore, Tenn. (off Hwy 360). Hunting will begin at 8:00 a.m. Other activities will include skeet shooting, .22 rifle shooting and a hot lunch .The TWRA is a co-sponsor.
Participation is for ages 10 to 16 and all must have proof of a hunter education certificate or an Apprentice License. Ages 13-16 will need the 2017-18 small game license. Shotguns and ammunition used for the hunt will be provided by TWRA. Space is limited so pre-registration is required. To register call Brandon Wear at 423-884-6767 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., or email Brandon.Wear@tn.gov. Please leave the Young Sportsman’s name and address along with a telephone number.
Do you want to see some changes in the hunting regulations? The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is ready for the annual input from the public to make improvements in the 2018-2019 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 should be presented as proposals for regulation changes; they will be considered by the TWRA Wildlife Division staff. The deadline is Thursday, Feb. 15. Email your suggestions to email@example.com 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.
Some winter anglers are welcoming the recent cold weather. It means hot fishing for certain species. Mid-January is the beginning of the best sauger fishing, peaking in early February. Dark, overcast days are often the most productive, and the best places to go are the tailwaters below dams. The river variety of walleye is right there with them. Sauger, a close cousin to the walleye, often crossbreeds into a saugeye, and all three are delicious.
The statewide daily limit on sauger and saugeye is 10 fish at least 15 inches long. The walleye limit is five fish 16 inches or longer. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency fishing guide has a good identification for these fish, and more information at www.tnwildlife.org.
This is also the prime season for smallmouth bass on nearly every lake and river. Unlike largemouths, smallmouths love water temperatures in the low 40s. They go for many kinds of lures and are found at all depths, depending on water clarity and weather conditions.
Tailwater fishing is enhanced dramatically when the dams are generating. The heavy flow of water chums the area downstream and excites the fish. Know before you go: The water release schedules for TVA dams are posted at www.lakeinfo.tva.gov or call 800-238-2264. Keep in mind the discharge can make for treacherous waters, and state law requires boaters to wear life jackets within 1,000 feet below a dam.
Tennessee’s 2017-2018 deer harvest has turned out to be the lowest kill in the past ten years. Deer hunting ended with the Young Sportsman Hunt on Jan. 14. The total harvest was 143,858 deer, comprised of 81,450 antlered and 62,408 antlerless. Last year the total harvest was 157,153 and in 2016-17 it was 167,234. The record stands at 182,023 deer from 2006-2007.
Fayette County had the highest take again this season with 4,028. 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: Henry (3,691), Giles (3,644), Hardeman (3,562), and Montgomery (3,443).
This season’s paltry harvest can be attributed to two special events. First was the extremely warm weather during the muzzleload season, and hunters do not go out since it is difficult to properly care for their kill. That harvest was down 23 percent.
The second reason was fewer available deer due to this year’s heavy outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). EHD is an often-fatal viral disease that is around every year but manifests heavy fatalities some years. Region IV (East Tennessee) had 724 carcasses reported and Region III had 574 reported; it is presumed that hundreds more went unreported.
There are some interesting big game statistics in TWRA’s “Hunter’s Toolbox”. It is under the Hunting section at www.tnwildlife.org. 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.
The Tennessee Fur Harvesters Association offers many services to trappers and varmint hunters. One of the most popular TFHA activities is fur auctions, where you can sell your pelts locally. This season there are two auctions: Feb. 17, at the Ottway Ruritan Club in Greeneville, and March 3 at the Cumberland County Fair Complex in Crossville. Start times are at 9 a.m. Have all bobcats and otter pelts tagged prior to sale. See their website for table signups and more information, www.tfhaonline.net.
Here are some upcoming trapping clinics sponsored by TFHA: Feb. 3, Beachel's Fur Handling Workshop, 711 McGinnis Rd. in Crossville; Feb. 23-25, Buffalo Ridge Refuge Trapper Training Camp, 2040 Cuba Landing Rd. in Waverly; March 23-25, Hiwassee Refuge Trapper Training Camp, 545 Priddy Rd. in Birchwood. See the above website for more information and more services, or email John Daniels at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 423-595-0986.
Trapping is not easy. It takes a lot of knowledge of the animal and nature. Whether you hunt coyotes or trap them, you are helping our populations of deer, turkeys, quail, and grouse. Stockmen and farmers appreciate you, too.
Crappie anglers, no matter your level of expertise, learn even more at the Crappie University. Tennessee will have two classes this year, one in Knoxville and one in Memphis. In just its third year Crappie U. has grown from three colleges in two states to 17 classes in 11 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 2018 Crappie U. schedule runs from January to March and includes colleges and universities in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, 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, Knoxville are: Feb. 8, 15, 22, March 1. Call 865-974-0150; the dates for the Southwest Tennessee Community College, Memphis are Feb. 6, 15, 20, 27.
Tennessee’s 2017-18 duck hunting season ends on Sunday, Jan. 28. The Youth Waterfowl hunting season will follow on two Saturdays, Feb. 3 and Feb. 10, 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 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.
Canada goose season ends on Jan. 28 in the Statewide Zone and Feb. 10 in the Northwest Zone. For most other goose species the Standard Season ends on Feb. 10. The daily bag limit is 20.
For blue, snow and Ross geese there is an extra Conservation Season that runs Feb. 11 – March 19. 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. 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. For more see the waterfowl section of www.tnwildlife.org. You can track the fall migration of waterfowl with real time hunting reports from Ducks Unlimited at www.ducks.org.
Reminder: The deadline for applications for the 2018 spring turkey quota hunts is Jan. 17. 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 2018 regular spring turkey season will run March 31 – May 13. The Statewide Youth-only Hunt (ages 6-16) will be March 24-25. 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.
Tennessee has a special wood duck season in September because local conservationists and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency do so much for their breeding habitat. The wood duck is the most common nesting duck in Tennessee. Traditionally the wood duck nests in tree cavities on or near water, but will accept wooden nesting boxes when sufficient natural nesting sites are scarce.
There is still time to build some nesting boxes for this season’s breeding. Drakes and hens will begin to form mating pairs in January, with nesting beginning in late February or early March. For detailed information about wood duck biology and nesting box construction and placement, visit: http://www.tnwatchablewildlife.org/woodworkingforwildlife.
Reminder: The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is stocking trout in a stream near you. The TWRA will release approximately 90,000 rainbow trout into Tennessee waters from December through March. These are streams that will not support trout in the heat of the summer, but can provide nearby trout fishing opportunities for anglers during the winter months. These fisheries also offer a great opportunity to introduce first-time anglers to fishing.
The trout average about 10 inches in length. The daily creel limit is seven, but there is no size limit. Anglers are reminded that a trout license is needed in addition to the fishing license. Please note that the dates and locations are subject to change. The schedule and updates can be found on TWRA’s website at www.tnwildlife.org in the Fishing section, or see the list at
The 2017 bear season ended on Dec. 31 with an excellent harvest total of 511 (late filings may increase it). This will rank as the fourth largest harvest for Tennessee; also, it is the 13th consecutive season to top 300 bears. There were 316 boars taken and 195 sows. The gun seasons accounted for 451 kills and archery took 60, 31 by bow and 29 by crossbow.
Again this year Cocke County had the highest harvest with 100 bruins, followed by Monroe with 73, Polk with 63, Carter with 59, and Sevier with 52. There are 16 counties in five zones eligible for bear hunting.
The record 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, 511 in 2017, 507 in 2013, and 412 in 2016.
Jan. 12 is last call for high school sophomores and juniors to participate in the National Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.). It has been so successful that it is adding a second session in 2018. High school sophomores and juniors should look into this opportunity for leadership training, a share of $55,000 in college scholarships and a great trip to Washington, D.C. The two 2018 Y.E.S. sessions will be July 9-15 and July 23-29 in our Nation’s Capital.
Y.E.S. encourages young adults to become active and knowledgeable U.S. citizens by learning about American government, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the importance of being active in civic affairs. Participants will enhance such academic skills as leadership, public speaking and debating. Tours of Arlington National Cemetery and other national monuments are included.
Up to 50 outstanding students will be chosen to attend each session. Applicants must include a high school transcript, an essay on the Second Amendment, one-page personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Applications are being accepted now and the filing deadline (postmarked) is Jan. 12, 2018. To apply or for additional information on the 2018 Y.E.S. go to www.friendsofnra.org/yes, email email@example.com, or call 800-672-3888, ext.1351.