As the fall hunting seasons near, now is a good time for new hunters to get their hunter education certificates – that’s anyone born after 1968. You must go online to sign up for a hunter education class. The TWRA lists the upcoming classes on its website, which you can see by going to www.tnwildlife.org and selecting Hunting, then Hunter Education Classes. Students must be at least nine years old to earn a certificate; they should bring a pencil and their Social Security number (mandatory). Do not bring a gun.
Are you having trouble scheduling the time for a hunter education class? For many years there has been an online alternative with an online written exam and a required field day for live shooting; but, now there is an exemption to the field day for those 21 years or older. The following steps are required:
Complete the online class at www.huntercourse.com/usa/tennessee or at www.Hunter-Ed.com. These courses costs $29 and they are interactive, narrated, and offer daily (including weekend) live customer service via email or telephone. For those age 21 or older, complete the form provided for the field day exemption and mail, fax or email it with required documentation and payment to the address listed on the form. To request a form contact the Hunter Education Coordinator at 615-781-6538. Your certificate will arrive in three to five business days after submission.
The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best natural fireworks shows in the northern hemisphere, but this year its peak nights will be competing with a waxing full moon, washing out many of the smaller shooting stars. So, this year begin your viewing the weeks before the peak.
The Perseid climaxes each year on the nights of Aug. 11-12 and 12-13, building steadily the preceding three weeks and dropping off rapidly after Aug. 13. On a dark night expect to see 60 to 100 shooting stars per hour over the entire sky, and more large “fireballs” than any other meteor shower.
The best viewing times are after midnight, but any time after dark will do. Binoculars are not necessary. Find a dark sky and clear horizon far from city lights and get comfortable (lounge chair, snacks, insect repellant, etc.). It is a great time to go night fishing, too.
The Perseid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the debris from the orbital path of the comet Swift-Tuttle, last seen in 1992 and anticipated again in 2126 ( 133-year cycle). The flight paths of the shooting stars will appear to originate in the constellation Perseus in the northeast, but they will occur all over the sky.
Sandhill cranes are becoming more and more plentiful. This year Alabama will introduce a crane season, joining Tennessee and Kentucky as the first three states east of the Mississippi River to reopen their harvest. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division began conducting crane counts in 2010 as part of their annual aerial waterfowl surveys. Sandhill crane numbers in Alabama have increased an average of 16 percent per year over the past 10 years, with the latest five-year average of 15,029 birds.
The seventh Tennessee sandhill crane hunt for the Southeast Crane Zone will have its in-person permit drawing on Saturday, Aug. 10 at the Rhea County High School (885 Eagle Lane, Evensville, Tenn.). The 2019-20 season dates for the Southeast Crane Zone are Dec. 7 – Jan. 31, but closed for the Sandhill Crane Festival on Jan. 17-19.
Registration for the permit drawing begins at 8:00 a.m. and the drawings will follow at 10 a.m. Applicants must be at least 13 years old and have a current Tennessee hunting/fishing license (Type 001) and a waterfowl license (Type 005) or equivalent. This year there will be 513 permits issued, with three birds per permit allowed.
Any leftover permits will be included in the computerized waterfowl drawing for the statewide crane season on Sept. 4-25, which will offer 710 more crane permits (two birds per hunter) for the statewide season set for Dec. 7 – Jan. 31. All crane hunters must take the “Sandhill Crane Test” – available online – before hunting. For more information go to www.tn.gov/twra/hunting.html.
Last call. The deadline for the Tennessee elk raffle is Tuesday, Aug. 2. The 2019 Tennessee Conservation Elk Tag will be issued to the winner of the Grand Prize; the next four lucky ticket holders will receive many other prizes. And you can buy as many chances as you want for $20 each, three for $50, or 10 for $100. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation (TWRF) is the non-governmental organization that will run the raffle, and all proceeds go to the Tennessee elk program. In 2018 the raffle netted the program $224,000.
The Conservation Elk Tag is designated specifically for the rifle season, Oct. 12-18, in the Elk Hunting Zone 1 in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area. The first place winner will also get a new Best of the West Mountain Scout Rifle in 6.5 PRC topped with a Huskemaw scope, and your Tennessee elk hunt will be filmed for an episode of The Best of the West outdoor television series.
The raffle drawing will be held on Aug. 5 and the winner announced at the Aug. 16 meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission. Tennessee state law requires that applicants must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen eligible to legally own a firearm according to federal law. The winner is responsible for all taxes and fees associated with the prize, and will need to purchase the required elk license ($27 resident, $300 non-resident). To purchase tickets for the raffle, visit the TWRF website here.
TWRF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting habitat conservation, responsible land stewardship, and Tennessee's hunting and fishing heritage for the benefit of Tennessee's outdoor enthusiasts and the TWRA. Check them out at www.twrf.net.
A series of public listening sessions will be held by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for hunters and stakeholders (landowners, game processors, taxidermists, guides and outfitters, etc.) at various locations across the state in August. The goal of the meetings is for the agency to share information with the public and to receive input regarding hunting seasons, which are now set every two years.
TWRA will present current major issues of interest and game harvest trends in each region, followed by table discussions including: Chronic wasting disease, wildlife management areas, and hunting regulations for deer, turkey, bear, elk, and small game. TWRA Chief of Wildlife Joe Benedict shared, “We too are hunters and anglers and enjoy interacting with sportsmen and women across the state. We look forward to these meetings to share information and hear their input.”
The meetings will be held on different dates at six locations across the state. Scheduled times are 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. local time. Reservations are not necessary, but one can notify the TWRA of their attendance at the Events page at www.tnwildlife.org or go to www.facebook.com/pg/tnwildlife/events/?ref=page_internal.
The six meetings:
Cleveland - August 6 at Cleveland State C.C. in the Johnson Building on Adkisson Dr.
Morristown - August 7 at the TWRA Region IV Office at 3030 Wildlife Way.
Nashville - August 12 at the TWRA Region II Office at 5105 Edmondson Pike.
Cookville - August 13 at the TTU Hyder Burks Pavilion meeting room at 2390 Gainesboro Grade.
Jackson - August 29 at the West Tennessee Education and Research Center, UT Institute of Agriculture, at 605 Airways Blvd.
Memphis - August 30 in Bartlett at the Bartlett Firing Range at 3200 Brother Blvd.
For those who want to help wildlife in Tennessee, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has these suggestions:
1. Buy a fishing or hunting license (even if you don’t fish or hunt): License dollars are the main source of revenue for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency that conserves and manages more than 1,400 species of wildlife in Tennessee. Especially for those who don’t hunt or fish, there is now a “Friend of Wildlife” license package available at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com that is a good investment in wildlife conservation. Your purchase will help continue wildlife conservation and development of recreational opportunities for future generations.
2. Let wildlife stay wild: Some animals might seem like they need help, but they don’t need rescuing. Babies of some species are left alone all day and rely on camouflage for protection. If you do happen upon a truly injured animal, there is a list of wildlife rehabilitators at www.TNwildlife.org.
3. Avoid feeding wildlife: Feeding wildlife can lead to serious problems. Human food is not healthy for wild animals and they do not need it to survive. Wild animals have specialized diets and can become malnourished or die if fed the wrong foods. Also, animals cannot distinguish food from wrappers or foil and can get sick eating these items.
4. Do not litter: Most people know litter is bad for the planet, but it is also bad for unsuspecting wildlife. Everyday items such as drink cans and plastic bottles can be deadly for animals, even dogs and cats. Animals of all kinds often mistake trash for food or shelter. Harm to animals can be avoided if litter is disposed properly.
5. Turn your yard into good habitat: Creating habitat in your home’s yard is beneficial to wildlife. Habitat is a combination of food, water, shelter, and space arranged to meet the needs of wildlife. Even a small yard can be landscaped to attract birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and small animals. Trees, shrubs, and other plants provide shelter and food for wildlife.
6. Appreciate the biodiversity of Tennessee! We are blessed in Tennessee with lots of wildlife to see. We have than 300 bird species to the 320 different types of fish; we are the salamander capital of the world (56 different kinds), and 22 different frogs and toads. Get outside and look and listen for all of these Tennessee residents.
The TWRA is a diverse operation. From hunting, fishing, and boating, to protecting non-game species and creating watchable wildlife opportunities, the TWRA serves the citizens of Tennessee. The Wildlife section of www.tnwildlife.org is a great reference point for more in-depth information on what people can do to benefit our wildlife resources.
On Saturday, Aug. 3, Tennessee’s traditional hand-drawn, in-person duck blind selections will take place at the regular sites and wildlife management areas across the state. At stake are the permanent blinds at the following sites in Middle and West Tennessee: Gooch WMA Unit A, Reelfoot WMA, Kentucky Lake (Camden Units I & II, Harmon’s Creek, Big Sandy, Gin Creek), Barkley WMA, Tigrett WMA, West Sandy, Old Hickory WMA, Cheatham Lake, Haynes Bottom WMA, and AEDC/Woods Reservoir.
New this year: At the blind drawings, a two-stage process will be used. Parties will be formed after the first drawing. The second drawing will be for blind locations for those selected in the first drawing.
Registration will be held from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. and the drawing of permits follows immediately at most locations. For specific addresses of blind drawings, interactive maps, and more information, go to www.tnwildlife.org, select Hunting and Waterfowl.
Computerized drawings will be held in September for duck blinds in the Chattanooga area and some other western counties. More on that later but applications are available at the above website.
The 2019-2020 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide is now published and delivered to a license agency near you. Better yet, the Guide is now offered in a new interactive, mobile-friendly, eregulations form here; and the entire booklet is online as usual in PDF form at www.tnwildlife.org. Again this year the Waterfowl Guide is included in the Hunting Guide. The changes in regulations and seasons for this year can be found on page 2. Some changes of particular note follow.
Since chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in southwestern Tennessee in December 2018, the new big game Unit CWD was created, and with it some new opportunities and regulations, including: Earn-a Buck program; Replacement Buck program; stricter regulations on moving deer carcasses and check-in. Testing for CWD is recommended before consuming deer from this area.
Statewide, deer and elk lures with natural urine are no longer allowed in use or possession. Sportsmen can now use the new-improved “TWRA On the Go” app and quickly report harvests with or without cell phone service. Waterfowl season dates and bag limits have been updated.
Do not forget: Wednesday, July 24 is the deadline for quota hunt applications for wildlife management areas and for the elk license drawing. The applications are available at license agencies and online at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s website, www.tnwildlife.org.
There are two ways to file your quota application. Fill out the form and take it to a license agency, or file it online at this site. But do not try to mail it in. Drawing results will be published by mid-August.
The future appears bright for the famous snail darter. The Center for Biological Diversity, former federal biologist Jim Williams and law professor Zygmunt Plater have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lift Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection from snail darters.
Thanks to government and citizen efforts, the little fish has now successfully achieved recovery and is no longer in danger of extinction. This news comes on the heals of another proud ESA success: The recovery and delisting of the Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear.
The three-inch-long fish gained fame in the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case Tennessee Valley Authority vs. Hill. The court upheld the newly passed Endangered Species Act at the request of conservationists and others who sought to protect the fish and its free-flowing habitat, along with 300 family farms, from the construction of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s highly controversial Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River.
When Congress later exempted the Tellico Dam from compliance with the conservation law, scientists introduced the endangered fish into other rivers. Because of the Act’s habitat protections and improved dam management, which includes pulsing for minimum flow and measures to increase oxygen, populations of the fish have now expanded to waterways in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.
The Tennessee Ammo Tax Stamp has been repealed. The little green ten cent stamp is no longer required for every box of ammunition sold in Tennessee. The Tennessee State Legislature passed the repeal of this so-called “special privilege tax” on April 30 and it went into effect on July 1, 2019.
The revenue from the ammo tax stamp went directly into the Wildlife Resources Fund, which is the general bank account of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The TWRA receives no tax support from the state; its entire operating budget is derived from license sales and some matching federal wildlife funds, plus some other sources such as fines and penalties, advertising sales and this privilege tax on ammo.
One drawback to the end of the ammo tax is a significant reduction in the money the TWRA has to spend on wildlife in Tennessee. For those that love wild animals – game and non-game – and would like to contribute something to help them, simply buy a hunting and fishing license. You don’t have to use it; the benefit has been realized. Check out the “Friend of Wildlife” license package available at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com.
Age 65 or older? Which senior citizen hunting license is right for you? Here is a breakdown of the three special licenses available, not counting the Lifetime Sportsman license.
Annual Senior Citizen Hunt/Fish/Trap (Type 164): Costs $5 each year; no supplemental licenses are needed (waterfowl, and big game for gun, muzzleloader and archery); must pay fees for quota hunt applications, special licenses and WMA permits.
Annual Senior Citizen Sportsman (Type 167): Costs $50 each year; no supplemental licenses are needed; no cost for quota hunt applications and non-quota hunt permits.
Permanent Senior Citizen Hunt/Fish/Trap (Type 166): costs $50 one time only; no supplemental licenses are needed; must pay fees for quota hunt applications, special licenses and WMA permits.
Skinner Mountain Wildlife Management Area, located in Fentress County on the northern part of the Cumberland Plateau, has nearly doubled in size. The Conservation Fund, in partnership with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, announced on July 10 the protection of 3,041 acres that have been added to the state’s WMA.
The newly conserved forestland will be open to the public for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing, and other recreational activities, while continuing to support the local economy through sustainably harvested timber production.
This new area of Skinner Mountain WMA is located within a dramatic landscape of gorges, cliffs, waterfalls, and caves. It includes frontage on the East Fork of the Obey River and provides significant habitat for a variety of endangered and declining species of bats, mussels, migratory songbirds, and plants. The Mountain Eye Cave system is located within the newly conserved lands, providing critical habitat for 11 bat species of concern.
“The addition of these new lands at Skinner Mountain WMA is a conservation win for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts,” said Ed Carter, Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “It provides permanent protection to an area of high biological and recreational value.”
The entire Skinner Mountain Forest plays a major role in sustaining the water quality of the Obey River watershed, including Dale Hollow Lake and 43 miles of streams, filtering nearly 18 billion gallons of water annually.
The Conservation Fund makes conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, it is redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Check it out at www.conservationfund.org.
Time is running out to enter the special Tennessee Elk Raffle. In addition to the state’s online lottery drawing for elk licenses, the TWRA grants one license to be raffled off by a non-governmental organization. This year it is again the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation (TWRF) and all proceeds go to the Tennessee elk program. Ticket sales will end on Aug. 2. The drawing will be Aug. 5.
A single ticket is $20, three tickets for $50, and 10 for $100; no limit. The grand prize winner will be awarded the 2019 Conservation Elk Permit, plus will win a hunting rifle and other prizes. A complete list of the prizes can be found at www.twrf.net. Although there is only one elk tag up for grabs, participants will have five chances to win valuable prizes. Last year’s raffle netted $224,840 for the Tennessee elk program. To purchase tickets for the raffle go here.
TWRF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting habitat conservation, responsible land stewardship, and Tennessee's hunting and fishing heritage for the benefit of TWRA and Tennessee's outdoor enthusiasts.
For the second consecutive year there will be no deer hunting at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HSAAP) near Kingsport. Without elaboration the following terse statement currently appears on the HSAAP website, https://holstonwildlife.webs.com/huntinginformation.htm:
“Holston Army Ammunition Plant will not be holding any drawn deer hunts during the upcoming 2019 hunting season.” Concerning turkey hunts: “Because of increased security requirements on HSAAP, the installation no longer holds any wild turkey hunts.”
In the summer of 2018 a heavy outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) that hit Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina killed nearly 20 percent of the deer herd on the HSAAP property. HSAAP biologists apparently want to give their herd of 200 to 250 whitetails more time to recover.
EHD is an infectious, and sometimes fatal, virus that is transmitted to deer by tiny gnats in the summer. Afflicted deer will lose their appetites and their fear of humans, will have extensive hemorrhages, and will salivate excessively; they will often seek out water sources where they may die. Humans are not susceptible to EHD. Tennessee has an EHD outbreak every five to seven years.
One million dollars for conservation. The Nashville Chapter of Delta Waterfowl has reached this prestigious level of cumulative funds at last October’s banquet. The Nashville DW is renowned for its big, successful annual banquets and shooting events. Its 2018 banquet raised more than $79,500. Significantly, Nashville DW boasts banquet attendance that annually is among the highest of all Delta Waterfowl chapters.
Scot Marcin, regional DW director for Tennessee and Kentucky, explained, “The venue is the Nashville Gun Club. They raise a huge tent complete with stage and professional sound and lighting. The gun club sits above the Cumberland River to offer spectacular views and atmosphere to keep the more than 700 guests happy. Both the silent and live auctions are extensive and well-bid. The raffle is large with a lot of guns, and a grand prize of a boat or four-wheeler for one lucky winner.
“The chapter also holds a very successful annual skeet shoot. It plays a big part in their success each year. They raise about $30,000 annually from the shoot alone. The shoot and low country boil afterwards draw hundreds of participants.”
Marcin added, “The great success of the Nashville Chapter springs from strong committee members with a true passion for the Delta mission. The chapter stays strong by recruiting new members every year who play a big role in the success of the next event.” For more information on the chapter or DW, go to https://deltawaterfowl.org.
The TVA-sponsored PBS series “Tennessee Valley Uncharted” is back with Season Five. Fishing, hiking, exploring caves, sampling tasty treats, hiking with llamas – it’s all here in TVU’s brand new season. Take a journey through the Tennessee Valley as hosts Erick Baker and Ariel Nicole explore its unique natural wonders, urban secrets, recreation destinations, and hidden gems. Check your local station guide for listings, or go here to play the episodes.
Congratulations to 17-year-old Erica Brock from LaFollette, Tennessee. Erica won Best of Show in the 2019 Tennessee Junior Duck Stamp Design Contest. Her creation has become the 2019 Tennessee Junior Duck Stamp, a collectible state waterfowl stamp that is produced annually and sold for conservation education.
The program is an art contest managed by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and designed to teach students the importance of conserving wetlands habitat and waterfowl. It pairs science, the arts, and other core subjects to creatively teach greater awareness of our natural resources. The Tennessee program is sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.
Erica’s winning entry is a pair of redheads created with mixed media using a combination of colored pencil, acrylic and pastel. Erica received the $1,000 Jeanette Rudy scholarship provided by the TWRF, along with other prizes, including a framed 2019 Federal Duck Stamp Print. The national contest winner’s artwork is used for the Federal Junior Duck Stamp each year.
The public is invited to purchase the collectible stamp for $11 each; they are not required for hunting. Each state stamp is numbered and printed in full color, measuring 1 3/8 by 2 inches. In addition all previous stamps are available. Funds from the sale of the stamp will be used for habitat improvement. Go to the Programs section of www.twrf.net, or contact the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge by telephone at 731-642-2091.
Heads Up! Be advised that on the weekend of July 5-7 “Operation Dry Water” will be underway nationwide. The TWRA will be participating. Originally, Operation Dry Water was the weekend before the Fourth of July, used by law enforcement agencies to focus boaters’ attention on Boating Under the Influence (BUI) education and enforcement. The intention is to reduce alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities on the water.
This year it will be ON the Fourth of July weekend. TWRA boating officers will saturate high traffic areas on reservoirs across the state. Along with promoting life jackets and other safety practices, officers want boaters to be aware of the enhanced effects of alcohol use on the water. Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.
Operating a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 percent or higher is illegal in Tennessee, the same as operating a motor vehicle. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that alcohol is the leading contributing cause to fatal accidents. Keep your pilot dry. For more information, visit www.operationdrywater.org.
Reminder for Tennessee deer and elk hunters: As of July 1, 2019, lures containing natural urine are now prohibited, due to the possibility of spreading chronic wasting disease (CWD); only synthetic deer and elk lures are legal. So, stop using what you have and be careful how you dispose of it. It really is a potential hazard to our deer herd.
Aside from the new CWD Unit for deer hunting in West Tennessee, deer and elk hunters all over the state should stay vigilant for the disease in their areas. Although there is no evidence that CWD is contagious to humans, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Centers For Disease Control recommend that deer with CWD should not be eaten. Consider having your harvested deer tested from now on.
Hunters that want to have their deer tested can take it to a TWRA collection point in the CWD Unit. If that is not convenient, hunters can send their samples to any of eight laboratories in other states listed at the TWRA’s CWD Information website, https://www.tn.gov/twra/hunting/cwd.html. Testing procedures and fees vary, but the initial cost is around $20 with an additional fee for a positive sample (retesting).