Tennessee’s Free Fishing Day is June 10; and Free Fishing Week is June 10-16, sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. All residents and nonresidents of all ages can fish without a license that Saturday on any public waters; and youths through age 15 can fish for free the following week. There are many special events planned statewide for that Saturday, the following Saturday and on into the summer. A frequently updated list can be found at www.tn.gov/twra/article/kids-fishing-events.
Going armed in the great outdoors. Why? According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, violent crime across the nation is down 40 percent since 1994 [By the way, that corresponds directly with the dramatic increase in concealed carry laws nationwide]. But those statistics are an overview of populated areas; the wild lands of our country run counter to the trend.
Many types of crime in the wilds have increased, including robbery and lethal violence. At the same time federal funding for law enforcement on federal lands has decreased and that has made the problem worse. According to PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) there were 34 incidents involving attacks on U.S. park rangers in 1995, but by 2005 there were 477 – a 13-fold increase. This is partially due to the number of forest service law enforcement officers decreasing by one-third since 1993 as a result of a steady decline in funding.
National forests and public lands rely heavily on local police departments for law enforcement. For the entire U.S. there are only 660 Forest Service law enforcement officers to police the USDA Forest Service's 193 million acres – one officer for every 291,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land, and one for every 733,000 visitors each year. Other federal agencies have similar problems. According to PEER, in 2012 reported incidents rose more than 40 percent in wildlife refuges and in areas patrolled by the U.S. Park Police, and by more than 12 percent in national parks.
State wildlife officers double as excellent crime fighters but they could use some help. Presently there are fewer than 8,000 state wildlife officers for the entire country; for perspective that number is one-quarter of the New York City police force.
Why does the great outdoors have such a monumental crime wave? One reason is the giant marijuana farms placed there by the drug cartels. More than 20 states and 67 national forests have reported them so far. Another reason: Meth production often moves to the woods for seclusion. And Tennessee has the third highest number of meth lab busts in the nation. These drug gangsters are known to be extremely violent when disturbed by anyone.
Visit the U.S. Forest Service website, fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/crime-prevention, before you go into the backcountry. The USFS also has a downloadable publication, "Preventing Crime in Our National Forests and Grasslands" that is useful. Note: It does not say this in the Forest Service pamphlet, but you could also carry a firearm.
It has always been legal to carry firearms in national forests. In national parks, as of Feb. 22, 2010, federal law also allows people who can legally possess firearms in their home state to possess firearms. To quote the directive: "Persons may lawfully carry any firearm openly that they are otherwise lawfully entitled to possess, and may also carry a concealed handgun if they possess a current and valid concealed handgun permit issued to them."
Of course discharging firearms in the national parks is not permitted, but self-defense seems to be a logical exception (defense). Interestingly, in the first five years since the law has been in place, crime has declined in national parks by about 12 percent. The bottom line: Be prepared, be vigilant.
What’s happening in nature in June: Deer have finished fawning; wild turkey hens are teaching their poults to fly; wood ducks are hatching; box turtle eggs are hatching; bullfrog breeding peaks; Canada geese will soon begin to molt; willow flies begin their respective hatches. As the onslaught of ticks diminishes somewhat, chiggers are out in force.
Chipmunks and raccoons are being born; young opossums are leaving their mothers’ pouches and are clinging to their backs; largemouth bass are ending their eight weeks of spawning; catfish will begin to spawn as water temperatures reach 75 degrees; shad minnows are beginning to school, which causes those roiling fish jumps of summer.
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission established the state’s 2017-18 hunting and trapping seasons at its May meeting on Wednesday, May 24 at Bryan College in Dayton. There were only a few changes to the 2017-18 regulations recommended by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The TFWC voted to increase the total number of elk permits from 11 to 15 and increase the three hunt segments to seven days each. This will include seven archery permits, seven for gun (which includes the auctioned permit), and one youth permit.
The archery-only elk hunt was increased from five to seven days and will begin on the last Saturday of September, Sept. 30 – Oct. 6 this year. The gun season hunt, with its increase of two days from previous years, will be held Oct. 14-20 this year. The Young Sportsman hunt was previously a two-day weekend hunt and it increases to seven days, Oct. 7-13.
Similar to last year, all hunt permits are valid on the North Cumberland WMA and can also be used on private lands (with landowner permission) within the Elk Restoration Zone in Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Morgan and Scott counties.
No changes were made to the deer and turkey hunting seasons, limits and regulations, although there was considerable discussion on the definition of antlered deer and daily bag limits for turkey. Also, there were no changes to the bear hunting dates except for standardized season dates. There were no changes to the furbearer proclamation other than removing some antiquated language in the proclamation regarding fox hunting.
Some slight changes were made requiring hunters to check in their big game animals prior to gifting all or part of the carcass to another person, and prior to the carcass leaving Tennessee. Due to removal of some language in a state law, the TFWC will now have more authority in determining the type, placement and inspection of traps utilized in furbearer trapping. All of the traps approved will implement accepted Best Management Practices.
Something novel is coming for license holders: The new license vendor for the TWRA, Brandt Information Services, will be offering sportsmen a hard, collectible license card. More on this later. Read the entire TWRA news release at http://www.tn.gov/twra/news/50713.
Let’s take a practical look at bottled water. [Gleaned from Paul J. Baicich’s May 2017 article at www.greatbirdingprojects.com.] In 1991, for the first time, the consumption of salsa in the United States eclipsed front-running ketchup, beating it in retail sales by $40 million. In 2016, 25 years later, another milestone occurred: Soft drinks lost its market dominance. Bottled-water consumption in the U.S. reached 39.3 gallons per capita, while carbonated soft drinks fell to 38.5 gallons.
While the salsa/ketchup shift could be explained as a demographic change in taste, the bottled water craze is harder to understand. Consumers are paying for a product they can also get for free. Here are some interesting facts:
Bottled water is often the very same water that comes out of the tap. For the most part, it is no safer or cleaner than tap water. About 45 percent of bottled water brands are sourced from municipal water supplies. And the giant soft drink companies still benefit. More than a quarter of bottled water revenue last year in the U.S. was shared by the soda giants Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, selling Dasani and Aquafina respectively (Both companies claim that their water is filtered for purity using a "state-of-the-art" process).
The market is not just Coke vs. Pepsi. European-based Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, owns the bottled water brands Arrowhead, Deer Park and Poland Spring; Nestlé also owns the two pretentious brands (Italian) San Pellegrino and (French) Perrier. As of two years ago PepsiCo, Coca-Cola Company, and Nestlé were raking in a combined $110 billion a year selling bottled water worldwide. Sales in the U.S. now accounts for about 30 percent of all liquid refreshment sales, even exceeding the sales of beer.
What’s the problem? In the U.S. more than half the population drinks bottled water. Those billions of bottles are all disposable plastic and they nearly all end up in landfills, and hundreds of millions end up littering streets, streams, beaches, bays, and backcountry. Only about two of every 10 commercial plastic water bottles are recycled.
This wasteful trend must be diminished. One easy solution is to bottle your own water; reuse a water bottle for free or purchase a sturdy refillable one. Stop paying for convenience, plan ahead, and pocket the savings. More and more public places (airports for one) are furnishing water fountains capable of filling personal bottles. It is that easy to make a difference.
Cut the cost of using your boat this season. The high cost of gasoline doesn’t have to limit your lake outings. Get more out of each gallon of precious fuel. Each one of the following tips can save a significant amount in fuel consumption, and that can really add up.
1. Leave the extra “junk” at home. Unnecessary or never-used stuff in the boat’s lockers and storage areas can be a lot of unnecessary weight to be pushed through the water.
2. Tune the engine. This is a big one. Fouled spark plugs, dirty air filter, poor timing, a maladjusted carburetor or fuel injector, and weak compression – all of these waste gasoline. A tune-up can pay for itself quickly and performance is enhanced.
3. Tune the prop. Another biggie. Has it ever been done? A propeller with poor pitch or dings can waste as much as 10 percent of the engine’s power. And that translates to four miles-per-hour off of a 40-mph rig.
4. Clean the boat’s bottom. A not-smooth surface means drag, and drag is friction. Slime and mineral deposits have got to go.
5. Trim your load. This one is easy. Help the boat plane off easily by balancing the load or by using trim tabs.
Memorial Day weekend – the second busiest day on our waterways – is just around the corner. To prevent problems with your boat that could ruin your holiday and cost you dearly, Boat Owners Association of the U.S. (BoatUS) is offering an excellent procedure to help you prepare your watercraft for another excellent season on the water.
The free BoatUS spring commissioning checklist is at www.BoatUS.com/seaworthy/spring_checklist. It is nicely illustrated and organized into logical categories. First there is the “Out of Water” inspection of cables, wiring, hoses, zinc fitting, valves (seacocks), and the condition of the hull. Other category headings include: Engine and Fuel Systems, Outdrives and Outboards, In the Water, Battery and Electronics, and Trailers.
BoatUS is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters, providing more than a half-million members with many services, information, safety training, and government representation. Take a look at www.BoatUS.com.
Believe it or not, there is a limited hunting season for crows; it is June 1 – Feb. 28, and only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There is no daily bag limit. Crows are included in the Migratory Bird Treaty because some of them in our southwestern states cross our border with Mexico; therefore, crows must be managed with some kind of regulations.
Spring squirrel season continues through June 11. After that, squirrels will breed a second time and wean their broods before the regular season opens on the fourth Saturday of August, the 26th this year.
Have you ever caught a really big fish in Tennessee waters? It does not have to be a state record for you to enjoy some official recognition beyond what your smart phone photos can bring. Check out the Tennessee Angler Recognition Program (TARP) by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
So catch a trophy; take a picture or have it witnessed; maybe release it; and see if your prize qualifies for the trophy list. The TWRA will award you a colorful Trophy Fish Certificate, free of charge, depicting your species of fish in fine artwork. The program is designed to acknowledge anglers for outstanding sportfishing accomplishments, encourage catch-and-release of trophy-size fish, and provide the TWRA with information on large fish caught throughout the state.
What constitutes a trophy fish? Here is a partial list of minimum lengths (in inches): Largemouth bass, 22; smallmouth, 20; striped bass, 40; muskellunge, 40; rainbow trout, 24; brook trout, 10; crappie, 14; bluegill, 10. See the complete list and get more details at www.tn.gov/twra/article/tennessee-angler-recognition-program.
Those anglers that catch five trophy-size fish in any combination will be eligible for a Master Angler Level I certificate and a patch, again free of charge. For greater achievements there are five levels of Master Angler. Remember that TARP should not be confused with the State Record Fish program.
Mating season has ended for wild turkeys and hens are preparing their nests by mid-May. In most areas nests are located in a shallow dirt depression surrounded by moderately woody vegetation for concealment. Hens look for locations close to food and water and with ample cover to safely conceal themselves and their poults once hatched. Hens have to avoid many predators such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons, snakes, opossums, and skunks; but they must leave the nest unattended for brief periods to feed and drink.
Hens will lay a clutch of a dozen eggs or more during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for up to 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them, until they are ready to hatch.
A newly-hatched bird must be ready to leave the nest to feed within 12 to 24 hours. For the first two weeks the poults are unable to fly. They will eat insects, berries and seeds; the adults will eat the same plus acorns and small reptiles. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon. The mother turkey will roost on the ground with her brood until they can fly, and they flock together all year, even through the winter.
Three deadline reminders:
High school students should apply by May 26 for the Tennessee Outdoors Youth Summit (TOYS) on July 16-21. This is a week of fun and learning outdoor skills in Montgomery County near Clarksville. The entire cost is $350. For applications go to www.tnwildlife.org and select Upcoming Events, or contact Lacey Lane at 615-831-9311.
The “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” (BOW) event is on June 2-4 in Crossville. Women and men will enjoy a weekend of learning outdoors skills and socializing. The fee of $225 covers all expenses, including a 2017-18 Tennessee hunting and fishing license. Applications are available at www.tn.gov/twra/news/49802. For more information contact Donald Hosse at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 615-781-6541.
June 30 is the deadline for civic and conservation groups to apply for TWRA money for stream cleanup projects for the coming 2017-2018 fiscal year. Five grants of $1,000 each are available for each of TWRA’s four regions. Get more information at www.tnoutdoorsnews.com at the date 3-11-17; or telephone Della Sawyers at 615-781-6577 or email her at email@example.com.
The 2017 final spring turkey harvest was excellent, thanks to a season of nice, clement weather. The total (including the youth hunt) is 34,538, which is 2,275 better than 2016. It also ranks as the third highest on record for Tennessee. Superlative harvests rank thus: 37,110 in 2010; 35,885 in 2006; 34,538 this year; 34,027 in 2011; and 33,700 in 2012.
As usual, Middle Tennessee is the most productive region for turkey (and deer for that matter). The county with the highest harvest was Dickson with 899, followed by Maury (872), Greene (834), Montgomery (756), Sumner (731), Henry (675), Hardin (651), Hickman (629), Wilson (622), and Weakley (618).
The winners in the 2017-2018 photo contest for the Tennessee Wildlife magazine have been selected by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The selections will appear in the annual calendar issue of the magazine which will be available in early July; the calendar begins with the month of August.
Thirteen winning photos had to be gleaned from hundreds of entries. Those not selected for the calendar will be saved by the TWRA and used in future publications or on the website.
This year’s winning photographers are: Paul Bay (Greenback), Ray Gobernatz (Palmyra), Ralph Hensley (Hiltons, Va.), Ron Jackson (Clarksville), Becky McRae (Bartlett), Holly Nelson (Rockwood), Richard Powers (Louisville, Tenn.), Brian Shults (Greenback), Rick Small (Rock Hill, S.C.), and Nicole Witzel (Nashville).
Rules and deadlines for the 2018-2019 Tennessee Wildlife photo contest will appear in future issues of the magazine and also in the fall on the TWRA website, www.tnwildlife.org. Photographers are invited to submit their best photos on fishing and wildlife species native to the Volunteer State, and fishing and hunting scenes in Tennessee.
The week before Memorial Day weekend, May 20-26, is National Safe Boating Week. Fish and wildlife officers nationwide are patrolling their waters in great numbers to warn boaters of unsafe or illegal practices before the Big Weekend hits. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has these regulation reminders for boaters to help them have a fun, safe and citation-free holiday:
Have a wearable life jacket for every person onboard.
For boats 16 feet or longer, there must also be a type IV throwable life preserver onboard.
Have onboard a fire extinguisher if you have enclosed fuel compartments or cabins.
Anyone under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket at all times while the boat is underway or adrift.
Any boat operator born after Jan. 1, 1989 must possess a Boating Safety Education Certificate.
Keep alcohol to a minimum and keep your skipper dry.
Make sure the boat registration is current and onboard.
The boating safety certificate is required for any operator born after 1988 and is at least 12 years old. This includes personal watercraft. To get the certificate, 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. Many classes are held locally that combine a study course with testing. Third, take the TWRA’s monitored exam at the appointed time, which can be found at www.tn.gov/twra/topic/boating-safety or by calling 800-837-6012.
Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HSAAP) near Kingsport is permitting the general public to fish the restricted section of the Holston River within the installation’s boundaries again in 2017. The installation is currently accepting applications for four one-day fishing events scheduled for June 24 and 25, and July 1 and 2. Individuals interested in fishing on HSAAP must apply for the opportunity and will be selected by a random drawing. There is a strict set of guidelines designed to insure that installation safety and security standards are maintained while each fishing event is being held.
To apply for this year’s fishing events go to www.holstonwildlife.webs.com; or apply by mail by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to the following address: Holston Army Ammunition Plant, Attn: Fishing Information, 4509 West Stone Drive, Kingsport, TN 37660. Completed applications must be received by June 1. For additional information contact Bruce Cole, the HSAAP Natural Resources Manager, at 423-578-6276.
Drones are the latest rage in recreation, but for non-participants drones can be dangerous, an irritation or a threat. Therefore, unmanned aircraft are being regulated. The Federal Aviation Administration requires the registration of all but the smallest drones. Tennessee and several other states have laws specifically banning the use of drones to harass hunters. In many city and state parks flying drones are forbidden; the same goes for the entire National Park Service.
How big is this problem? In the first 30 days of online registration in 2015, the FAA registered almost 300,000 unmanned aircraft. The FAA is still in the process of creating a regulatory framework for drone use in public spaces.
What about wildlife? Are animals bothered by drones flying nearby? Studies show that they are, and in some cases extremely agitated. Birds will quickly leave their resting and feeding areas and will stop mating rituals when so threatened. Startled nesting birds are likely to break their eggs. Wading birds large and small will scatter.
In Minnesota a 2015 study of black bears showed that unmanned aircraft caused the bears’ heart rates to increase by 400 percent; and one bear was roused from hibernation prematurely by a drone.
Drone defense. Would you believe an anti-drone weapon? This is no joke and not a toy. A British company has unveiled a bazooka that's designed specifically to catch small unmanned aircraft. The “SkyWall 100” is a drone-netting device that can snatch them out of the air. It is a pneumatically powered, shoulder-fired gun with a digital sighting system and a range of 100 yards. The single-shot gun can be loaded and reloaded in about eight seconds.
The SkyWall 100 is designed not to destroy the tiny aircraft. It captures them in a deployed net and parachutes them safely to earth. It is the brainchild of OpenWorks Engineering. Get more information – or order yours – at their website www.openworksengineering.com/Skywall.
Gander Mountain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last March and about two weeks ago Camping World bought the assets in bankruptcy liquidation for a reported $390 million. After 57 years and 126 stores in 26 states, only about 70 stores will remain open. Camping World acquired all of the Gander Mountain assets and its catalog water sports company Overton’s; but it did not buy any of the stores’ inventories. So, all of the merchandise in all of the stores will be totally liquidated – starting now.
On its website Gander Mountain said gift cards for the stores will expire on May 18. The total liquidation sale will include firearms, ammunition, camping, and boating gear. All sales will be final. There will be no refunds, no exchanges and no adjustments for prior purchases. Bankruptcy filings list Gander Mountain's assets and liabilities between $500 million and $1 billion.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has a rule concerning high water on the Mississippi River: When the Mississippi reaches 34 feet on the Caruthersville, Mo. river gauge, all big game hunting will close in Tennessee's Mississippi River Flood Waters Zone (MRFWZ) and remain closed until the river falls to 32 ft. on the Memphis gauge. The river is predicted to reach 34 ft. on Caruthersville's gauge on Wednesday, May 3. This 2 ft. buffer ensures that harvest of turkeys will no longer occur on birds on isolated islands, levees, etc. due to the flooding.
This closure is effective on both private and public lands. The MRFWZ is everything below the bluff from the Kentucky state line to the Mississippi state line. This affects the counties of Shelby, Tipton, Lauderdale, Dyer and Lake in West Tennessee. For more information and to see the Mississippi River Flood Closure Zone, go to http://www.tn.gov/twra/article/big-game-closures-west-tn#sthash.XVX6wkzO.dpuf.
There is a serious flaw in the Renewable Fuel Standard and now is the time to fix it. The RFS is the 2005 federal law that mandates the blending of biofuels such as corn-ethanol into our gasoline. This is where our now-common regular gasoline with 10 percent ethanol blended in (E10) came from. Now 15 percent ethanol (E15) is scheduled to replace E10. The trouble is that all marine engines, motorcycles, small engines (lawnmowers, chain saws, etc.), and older automobiles can tolerate E10, but they are damaged by E15.
When the RFS was written, it was assumed that America's use of gasoline would continue to rise. However, U.S. gasoline usage has actually dropped steadily since 2005 and now the law forces more corn ethanol into fewer gallons of gasoline. What’s more, RFS dictates a reduction in the production of non-blended gasoline (E0), the fuel that is all of the above engines were designed to use.
On May 4 a coalition of recreational boating associations and manufacturers sent a letter to the Trump administration and Congress urging action to fix America's mistaken ethanol policy. The letter asks for common sense reforms, such as ensuring that any future ethanol volumes do not exceed 9.7 percent of the nation's total fuel supply. This would protect true consumer choice at the pump by not artificially decreasing the supply of ethanol-free gasoline, and implementing new and more effective mis-fueling precautions that will educate and protect all consumers (Pumps dispensing E15 are only required to display a small orange warning sticker).
The Boat Owners of the United States is encouraging all Americans to join them in this action. Go to www.BoatUS.com/gov/rfs.asp for more information on the Renewable Fuel Standard. Note: Among other useful information this site has a helpful chart that names the older automobiles at risk. To add your voice to the appeal, go to http://www.capwiz.com/boatus/issues/alert/?alertid=74718646&type=CA and click on “Fix the Ethanol Mandate”.
Join the work party to beautify the Buffalo River and you will enjoy yourself. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be teaming with the Buffalo River Resort for a cleanup day on the popular river at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 20. Participants will receive free canoe rental, a free barbecue lunch, and half-priced camping at the resort for the event.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this event and look forward to this project,” said Donald Hosse, TWRA Outreach Program Coordinator. “The Buffalo River is a vital piece in the opportunities we have to enjoy the outdoors in our state, and helping enhance its beauty is important.” Register to help by visiting the Buffalo River website at http://buffaloriverresorttn.com. For more information, telephone the resort at 931-593-2000.
At the April meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, there were many items left open concerning the 2017-18 hunting seasons. A special comment period has been announced by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to get public comments on these possible changes. The deadline for comments is May 15.
The issues under consideration: TWRA would standardize the opening dates for the various bear seasons (no changes proposed), just as many other opening dates are done. The newly adopted definition of an antlered buck (any antler protruding above the hairline) is being reconsidered; originally it was required to be three inches or more. Should the annual bag limit on spring turkey be changed from four male birds? Various changes would be made on wildlife management areas, public hunting areas, and national wildlife refuges. All the proposed regulations changes can be found on the TWRA website www.tnwildlife.org under the Hot Topics section of the front page.
Public comments should be presented as a proposed change to the regulations. They will be considered by TWRA’s Wildlife Division staff. Comments may be submitted by mail to: 2017-18 Hunting Season Comments, TWRA, Wildlife Division, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Hunting Season Comments” on the subject line.