The ETSU bald eagles now have two eaglets per nest. The East Tennessee State University has four close-up cameras watching two nests, one near Johnson City and one near Bluff City. The BC chicks hatched on March 13 and 14; the JC chicks hatched on March 16 and 17. Most of the feeding and jostling occur in daylight, but the cameras also have infrared capabilities for night viewing. Look in often at www.etsu.edu/cas/biology/eagle-cam/.
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission met on March 29 in Nashville. Following is some of the information presented: Tennessee’s Statewide Strategic Whitetail Deer Management Plan has expired and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation presented a resolution requesting that another strategic plan be formulated.
Asian carp are in Tennessee’s waterways. Wild populations of black, grass, bighead, and silver carp are established in the Mississippi River, and grass, silver and bighead carp have already entered the Tennessee and Cumberland river systems. Control efforts are currently limited to commercial fishing, but no one should use these species as live bait.
TWRA Geographic Information System (GIS) gave a demonstration on the new interactive WMA map for the hunting public. The map was developed by using existing Environmental System Research Institute software. The map has been viewed more than 46,000 times. GIS staff is currently working on a new map for anglers and is always looking to improve and upgrade the existing WMA map.
More details on the TFWC meeting are in the news section at www.tnwildlife.org. The next TFWC meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 26 at the TWRA Region II Building in Nashville. The public is welcome.
It was an excellent turkey harvest for the young sportsmen on March 25-26. A total of 1,376 birds was taken; 705 were adult toms, 662 were juveniles (jakes) and 9 were hens or unknowns (No, hens are not legal). This year’s harvest beat last year’s 1,209 by 167, which was about 100 more than 2015.
The top counties for the Young Sportsmen hunt were Dickson with 58, Maury with 49 and Hardin with 43. The general spring turkey season is April 1 – May 14.
Now is the time to begin if you are going to plant something this year to benefit wildlife, be it a year-round habitat or food plots for hunting this fall. Food plots are good for attracting game such as deer, turkey, dove, waterfowl, and upland game like grouse and quail.
For wildlife in general the TWRA website www.tnwildlife.org has a large site called “Wildlife Enthusiasts” with two helpful sections, Backyard Basics and Habitat Management. Some of the topics are: Tennessee Tree Planting Guide, Landscaping for Native Plants, Wildlife Damage Control, and other related subjects.
For turkey and most of the bird species, both game and songbirds, check out the National Wild Turkey Federation. Its website www.nwtf.org has great information and an excellent selection of products for food plots. There are seeds for food crops, such as sorghum and millet, and seeds for warm season grasses and forbs for habitat and food.
For deer hunters check out the website for the Quality Deer Management Association, www.qdma.com. These guys take a scientific approach to ensuring the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat in general, and our hunting heritage.
Boating weather is in the offing. Be sure that all of your boat operators have a boating safety certificate ahead of time. The certificate is required for any operator born after 1988 and is at least 12 years old. This includes personal watercraft. The certificate is issued by the TWRA and here is the procedure to follow.
First, go online or go to a license agency and buy a Type 600 permit for $10; this is your ticket to the exam. Be sure it is purchased in the student’s name.
Second, take a study course (usually no charge) from the TWRA Boat Tennessee Home Study Course, the U.S. Power Squadron, or the U.S. Coast Guard. Many classes are held locally that combine a study course with testing.
Third, take the TWRA’s monitored exam at the appointed time, which are listed by county and can be found at www.tn.gov/twra/topic/boating-safety or by calling 800-837-6012. The exam can be challenged without taking the study course but it is not easy.
Finally spring turkey hunting is here. The 2017 statewide season is April 1 – May 14. The Young Sportsman Hunt is the previous weekend, March 25-26, for ages 6-16. The season bag limit is four toms, with only one allowed per day. Birds taken on quota hunts and designated wildlife management areas are bonus birds. Legal hunting times are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. All of the turkey hunting regulations are on page 32 in the 2016-2017 Hunting Guide, and online at www.tnwildlife.org.
The wild turkey population in Tennessee has stabilized at a little more than 315,000 birds statewide, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency; and the spring harvests have been over 30,000 for the past 14 years. With every county in the state now having a spring turkey season, the restoration of this species has been an amazing success, thanks to the TWRA and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Last year the spring harvest was 32,263. Hottest places to hunt? For the past three years Maury County has had the biggest harvest and Greene County has been second.
You have dropped your first gobbler of the 2017 season. Wrap some orange on it and carry it to your vehicle. Now what? All harvested turkeys must be checked in by the end of the calendar day. There are several ways to do that. The old way is to find and drive to a TWRA checking station, but there are 20 percent fewer stations than there used to be. Better yet, simply go online to the TWRA website www.tn.gov/twra/article/twra-big-game-check-in. Better still, use the smart phone app “TWRA On the Go” from anywhere, even afield at your turkey blind.
Upon check-in the hunter will receive a confirmation number, which should be saved as a PDF, a screen shot or simply by writing it down. The confirmation number must be available for TWRA inspection until the bird has been processed. But remember, the bag limit on turkey is one per day and four per season.
The March meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will be a one-day meeting on Wednesday, March 29 at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Ray Bell Region II Building in Nashville. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. and the public is invited to attend.
On the agenda: The new TFWC officers and five new commissioners will be introduced. There will be an update on the invasive Asian carp in Tennessee waters; the presentation will include distribution of the fish, control strategies and upcoming research projects. A quail management update will be given on the TWRA quail focus areas in all four regions of the state. There will be a discussion regarding the flooding last fall at the White Oak Wildlife Management Area and other flooding occurrences.
The TWRA’s Geographic Information System (GIS) has developed a new interactive map of the state’s wildlife management areas for the hunting public, which went online last fall. See them all at www.tn.gov/twra/section/twra-gis-maps. The GIS staff is currently working to create a similar map for anglers.
The National Rifle Association’s 146th Annual Meeting and Exhibits is in Atlanta, Ga. this year on April 27-30. At least 80,000 outdoors enthusiasts, hunters and shooters will descend upon the Georgia World Congress Center. You do not have to be a NRA member to appreciate the Guns, Gear and Outfitters Show: More than 800 exhibitors on ten-plus acres representing major manufacturers of firearms and sporting goods. Admission is free to members, uniformed military, law enforcement personnel, and organized youth groups.
Additionally, there is fun for the whole family with an air gun range, seminars on hunting and firearms, country music, and other entertainment. The Saturday Night Concert features Hank Williams Jr. and Friends, and special guest Lee Brice. Special note: Carry permits are honored at the Georgia World Congress Center and the Omni Atlanta Hotel, but firearms are not permitted at the adjacent CNN Center. Go to www.nraam.org to register and for more information.
A “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” (BOW) event is set for June 2-4 in Crossville at the Clyde M. York 4-H Center. These weekend workshops are an ideal way for women age 18 and older (men can apply, too) to learn or improve their outdoor recreation skills.
This year the following workshops will be offered: Firearms and firearms safety, basic fishing skills, advanced fishing techniques, all-terrain vehicle operation, basic archery, boating safety education, outdoor cooking, wild edible foray, beginning fly fishing, nature photography basics, basic canoeing, basic shotgun, backyard habitat, map/compass, introduction to muzzleloading, introductions to turkey hunting, deer hunting, waterfowl hunting, reading the woods, discover scuba, stream ecology, and boat trailer basics.
The fee of $200 includes two nights lodging, meals, event t-shirt, and a 2017-18 Tennessee hunting and fishing license. Social gatherings are planned for Friday and Saturday evenings. BOW weekends are popular so apply early.
Applications may be obtained from the TWRA website www.tnwildlife.org, or any TWRA regional office. For more information contact Donald Hosse, Wildlife Education Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 615-781-6541.
The East Tennessee Kayak Anglers promotes the sport of kayak fishing, and it is well into the 2017 schedule of monthly tournaments. This year the ETKA is teaming up with the River Bassin tournament trail and both are official qualifiers for that championship. For more about these intrepid paddlers go to www.facebook.com/EastTNKayakAnglers or contact Lee Potter at email@example.com.
The upcoming ETKA tournaments:
March 25: Yak Wars, a River Bassin qualifying event
April 8: Norris Lake w/CMKA, at Point 19 Ramp
May 13: Watts Bar and Tellico Canal Boat Ramp
June 10: Fort Loudoun Lake at Concord Boat Ramp
July 8: River Run Team Incentive (River Bassin qualifying event)
Aug. 12: River Run Charity Event “Big Bass Challenge”, benefitting Smoky Mtn. Service Dogs
Sept. 2: Classic – Watts Bar, Ft. Loudoun, Tellico lakes (5 previous events required)
Sept. 15-18: KAST State Tournament
Publication of the 2017-2018 Tennessee Fishing Guide is several weeks late this year, but the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency promises that it will be distributed to all of the license agencies by Tuesday, March 21. Meanwhile the Guide is already online in the fishing section of www.tnwildlife.org.
Have you ever groused about some disagreeable fishing regulations? Perhaps a creel limit or size limit? Put your kibitzing where it may do some good. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is accepting public comments on the 2018 fishing regulations until April 23. The fisheries managers will consider your ideas, which should be presented as proposals and should include the expected results if enacted.
Email your suggestions to FishingReg.Comments@tn.gov; include “Sport Fish Comments” in the subject line. Or use postal mail: TWRA Sport Fish Comments, Fisheries Management Division, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204. No phone calls. The TWRA will submit their proposed regulations at the August meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission; another public comment period will follow; and the TFWC will decide at its September meeting.
Two leading bird conservation groups, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, have launched "Science to Action," a partnership aimed at reversing decades of population declines for migratory birds in the Americas. Bringing together the Cornell Lab's cutting-edge science and ABC's on-the-ground approach to bird conservation, this joint effort represents new hope for hundreds of declining species that journey each spring and fall between their breeding grounds in North America and wintering grounds in Latin America and the Caribbean.
As the most recent “State of North America's Birds” report makes starkly clear, fully one-third of our continent's bird species will require concerted conservation efforts to ensure their future. The ABC and Cornell Lab partnership will provide a unified voice for bird conservation. It will focus on how new data and conservation tools can be harnessed to enhance conservation of migratory birds across their breeding and wintering grounds, as well as stopover sites in between. For more go to https://abcbirds.org and www.birds.cornell.edu.
Together the partners will:
• Leverage data and resources from the Cornell Lab to refine and prioritize ABC's conservation strategies, including ABC BirdScapes, which are landscape-scale areas critically important to targeted bird species.
• Identify and develop conservation strategies for key migratory stopovers. Researchers are learning that the success of migration may hinge on just two or three stopovers located strategically along the migration route for each species. Conservation of these stopover sites is crucial.
• Use citizen-science data from eBird to help monitor and evaluate the success of ABC reserves and projects – the "Did it work?" part of ABC's conservation efforts.
• Provide scientific support for Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, and leadership for conservation alliances such as Partners in Flight and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative's “State of the Birds” reports.
Shotgunners, here is a great excuse to go shooting. “Taking Aim at Breast Cancer” is the next Shooting For a Cure event to benefit Susan G. Komen of East Tennessee. This sporting clays shoot will be on Friday, March 24 in Maryville at the Chilhowee Sportsman Club, 7601 Old Railroad Bed Rd. Teams of five will compete in either a morning or afternoon flight. The donation is $600 per team, golf cart included. Register at www.komeneasttennessee.org or contact Lauren Chesney for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The vernal equinox – first day of spring – occurs on Monday, March 20 this year, precisely at 10:29 UTC (Universal Time Coordinated, or Greenwich Mean Time), which is locally 6:29 a.m. EDT. The sun rises due east and sets due west on this date everywhere on earth; so take this opportunity to mark these cardinal compass points on your home horizon.
Our ancient ancestors may not have known that this was the moment of equal amounts of daylight and dark (equinox), but they surely noted that the sun was directly overhead at midday and exactly midway between its lowest path across the sky in winter and its highest path across the sky in summer.
Springtime is THE time to spruce up and beautify the shorelines of our area’s streams, rivers and lakes; and there is financial help available to you. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has announced the availability of grant dollars to assist conservation groups, community organizations, civic groups, cities, schools, clubs, etc. with stream cleanup projects and planting projects during the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Five grants of $1,000 each are available for each of TWRA’s four regional Aquatic Habitat Protection projects. The deadline for project proposals is June 30, 2017. The grant money can be used to buy supplies such as rakes, work gloves, and garbage bags; also, waste disposal fees, tire removal, and promotional items such as t-shirts and refreshments for volunteer support.
Because it is a grant the project leader must have a tax number; the project must be completed by June 30, 2018. Get more information in the news section of the TWRA website www.tnwildlife.org; or telephone Della Sawyers at 615-781-6577 or email her at email@example.com.
Now is the perfect time to plant wildflowers and milkweed to help monarch butterflies (and other pollinating insects), and at the same time good habitat for wildlife in general. The various milkweed plants are perennials which can grow all over 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.
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.
For an excellent source of high quality wildflower seeds, contact Roundstone Native Seed Co. at www.roundstoneseed.com or call 270-531-3034; also, see the Native American Seed Co. at www.seedsource.com or call 800-728-4043.
Anglers, before the heavy spring fishing season begins, check out this list of maintenance tips to avoid a less-than-stellar season:
Clean the grit and grime out of your reels and lubricate them; see the manufacturer's website for its recommendations.
Consider changing the line; monofilaments and fluorocarbons require more frequent replacement than braided lines; and, match the line to your reel manufacturer’s specs.
Inspect your rods for damaged shafts, loose reel seats and worn rod tips.
Reorganize your tackle and lures; clean the dirt out of your tackle box. Finally, sharpen the hooks on your crankbaits, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits.
On March 2 a giant muskellunge, or muskie, was caught on Melton Hill Reservoir where it touches the Knox County line. The monstrous pike weighed 43 pounds, 14 ounces, measuring 51 3/8 inches long with a 23 ½ inch girth. It is pretty obvious that it will become the new Tennessee state record after certification is completed.
Stephen Paul (pictured) caught his muskie on an artificial lure late in the day around 6 p.m. His friend Dylan Gano was there to help for the whole fight. Paul said that he would have released the muskie but the fish expired as it was being netted.
Previously the largest muskie for the state was 42 pounds 8 ounces from nearly 34 years ago, on April 27, 1987. It was caught by Klye F. Edwards on Norris Lake. The current world record is 67 – 8 from Wisconsin.
Tennessee is on the southern boundary of the muskellunge range, so they grow faster here than in colder climes. Paul’s big fish is estimated to be about 12-15 years old. A 50-inch muskie in say, Wisconsin, would need at least 17 years to make it. For more on this (pending) state record, including photographs, go to http://tn.gov/news/48971#sthash.dYVu3BFK.dpuf
Collegiate fishing is a surprisingly dynamic part of the world of sport fishing, and Tennessee has many of the movers and shakers. For example, the most recent tournament, the YETI FLW College Fishing Southeastern Conference event, drew a record 248 teams to Lake Guntersville in Alabama. Tennessee’s Tusculum College had the winning team (pictured here), Nick Hatfield of Jonesborough and Corey Neece of Bristol. Their five-fish weigh-in was 22 pounds, 13 ounces, earning them $2,400.
Tennessee captured many of the top ten slots in the above FLW tournament: Bethel University (3rd, 4th and 9th places) and Bryan College (8th). The previous biggest collegiate bass tournament was 214 teams last year at the Bassmaster College Series Southern Regionals. For more go to www.FLWFishing.com to join or to start a club at your school.
Spring turkey hunting is almost here. The 2017 statewide spring turkey season is April 1 – May 14. The Young Sportsman Hunt is March 25-26 for ages 6-16. The time to prepare for your turkey hunt is now. Finish your scouting about two weeks before opening day so that the birds can calm down and get some breeding done before the showdown.
In fact, turkey calls that mimic the bird are prohibited on wildlife management areas from March 1 until the season opens. This is done so that the birds do not get call shy during their mating season. Locator calls, such as crow, hawk and owl calls, are permitted.
Be sure to sight in and pattern your shotgun and ammo for the best performance. Try several kinds of shotshells and different sizes of shot for the tightest pattern; if necessary, spring for a new extra-full choke, but it will require patterning, too.
Preseason is prime time for poachers. Watch for piles of corn or other grain in the woods. Report suspicious activities to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Poaching Hotline; rewards are available from the TWRA and the National Wild Turkey Federation for anonymous tips. Poaching Hotlines: West Tennessee (Region 1) 800-831-1173; Middle Tennessee (Region 2) 800-255-8972; Cumberland Plateau (Region 3) 800-241-0767; East Tennessee (Region 4) 800-831-1174.
The youth spring turkey hunt is March 25-26. Rules of engagement: Young hunters ages 6-16 can hunt with an adult (at least 21 years old) that stays close enough to control the youth’s weapon. One adult can supervise more than one hunter.
Youths ages 6-9 do not have to have a hunter education certificate; ages 10-16 need the hunter education certificate, or they may purchase the Apprentice Hunter Education Exemption (Type 012), which can be renewed up to three times.
Hunters age 6-12 do not need a license, but a wildlife management area permit is required if hunting there). A Junior license is required for hunters ages 13-15 and age 16 needs an adult license. The bag limit for the youth hunt is one bearded turkey per day.
There will be no nationwide lead ban in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle, as deviously directed by President Obama on his last day in office. President Trump’s newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, on his first day in office (March 2), overturned Obama’s directive summarily. Zinke did not even wait to appoint his new director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"It's time to put ammunition back where it belongs: in the hands of hunters," Secretary Zinke said. He also said he believes that public lands should be governed in keeping with the philosophy inscribed on the Roosevelt Arch at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, which affirms that our taxpayer-owned federal lands exist "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People". Additionally, the Secretary announced he would appoint a senior political appointee who will handle sportsmen's issues on the Secretary's senior staff.
March 1: Welcome to New Year’s Day for the Tennessee sportsmen. All of the 2016-2017 hunting seasons have closed, and fishing now requires the 2017-2018 license. Purchase them on the Internet at www.tnwildlife.org; with the Mobile app www.gotwra.org; and in person at all license agencies, which include sporting goods stores, county court clerks and regional TWRA offices.
For hunters that want something to do, there is always year round varmint hunting. Groundhogs are coming out of hibernation and provide a suitable challenge to sharpshooters. Wild hogs are in need of eradication all over the Southeast and they are legal to take year round on private property, day or night, under certain conditions. See page 31 of the 2016-2017 hunting regulations booklet for more, or go to the above Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website.
And then there is the wily coyote. For the average hunter the burgeoning menace of this voracious predator should be personal. Anyone who likes to hunt the following species should also try to control coyotes: Deer, turkey, grouse, quail, woodcock, ducks, and pheasant. Add to the list cattle and sheep stockmen, farmers and suburban pet owners. The overpopulation of coyotes is a serious threat to all of these. And March is a good month to put the pressure on, just before the time for calving, fawning and hatching. Good shooting.