Dove hunters should check for recent additions to the TWRA leased dove fields, which are free of charge. The list is here. Remember that you need the small game license AND the two dollar migratory bird permit. The first segment begins at noon on Saturday, Sept. 1 and goes to Sept. 28. The daily bag limit is 15 and collared doves are free.
With squirrel season underway, the cavalcade of September hunting seasons is swiftly approaching. Dove opens at noon on Saturday, Sept. 1 and runs through Sept. 28; the daily limit is 15. The combined early wood duck and teal seasons open Sept. 8-12; after that, teal only continues on Sept. 13-16. The daily combined bag limit is six (no more than two wood ducks allowed).
The resident Canada goose season is Sept. 1-16; statewide raccoon/opossum begins at sunset on Sept. 14; and, last but not least, archery deer begins on Sept. 22, as does archery bear. More details as each season arrives.
The 15 persons who will participate in the 2018 Tennessee Elk Hunts have been chosen. A total of 8,450 persons registered for the opportunity to participate in this year’s hunt. Tennessee began its elk hunt in 2009 with five participants selected from a computer draw. Selected to participate in the archery-only hunt Sept. 29-Oct. 5 are Charles A. Hall (Chattanooga), Darrell Clark Beeler (Corryton), Mason A. King (Harriman), Luke S. Dunham (Cookeville), Adam A. Miller (Jamestown), Hunter E. Munck (Cleveland), and Marcus B. Tilson (Oakdale).
The gun hunt (muzzleloader or archery equipment included) will be held Oct. 13-19. Selected to participate were Taylor M. Moody (Knoxville), Mark A. Vines (Jonesborough), Henry Barrett Cothron (Bethpage), Gary K. Bivens (Tellico Plains), Denise A. Potter (Maryville), and David W. Pruitt (Jackson).
The seventh permit was presented to a non-governmental organizational, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. In previous years, the permit was auctioned to the high bidder. This year, a raffle was held with tickets sold for $10 each. Scott Thomas (Cleveland) is the winner. A total of 22,484 tickets was sold. Proceeds from the auctioned tag are designated for the elk restoration program.
The youth tag permit winner is Porter A. Neubauer (Belvidere). This will be the seventh year for the tag which is designated for youth ages 13-16. The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission voted in 2017 to allow a full week for the youth participant, rather than a two-day weekend hunt. It will be held Oct. 6-12.
All hunt permits are valid on the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and can also be used on private lands (with landowner permission) within the Elk Restoration Zone in Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Morgan and Scott counties. Since the historic first managed hunt in 2009, 41 elk have been legally harvested. Three elk were harvested in the archery-only hunt last year. Four were harvested in the gun, muzzleloader, and archery hunt and the youth hunter, Reed Johnson (Manchester) took an elk on the first day of his hunt.
September is Treestand Safety Month. Treestands are by far the most dangerous part of deer hunting, of all kinds of hunting. Sadly, 75 percent of the people who had treestand accidents in recent years were not wearing a harness or any form of fall restraint. That is an appalling statistic, given that every manufactured treestand since 2004 has been sold with a full body harness; and there are more than a million sold every year.
Before you hunt check your stand’s belts, chains, bolts, and attachment cords for damage and wear. Set up the stand once at home before opening day. Hunt with someone nearby and have a cell phone and/or radio for communication. Select a proper tree for your stand. Use a full-body safety harness properly at all times, especially when climbing up or down (most falls occur during these times). Never carry anything as you climb – use a haul line to raise and lower equipment.
Here is a good treestand safety course online: www.huntercourse.com/treestandsafety/. Also, check out these excellent YouTube videos on how to correctly use treestand equipment, created by Hunter Safety Systems: "How to safely use a lifeline" and "How to use the climbing belt". See them at www.youtube.com/HunterSafetySystemTV.
Waterfowlers, great news. It appears that the 2018 Fall Migration is going to be another excellent one. On Aug. 20 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its report on 2018 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June in the north central U.S. Pothole Region (USFWS) and the Canadian central provinces (Canadian Wildlife Service).
Overall duck numbers in the survey area remain high, but dropped a little from last year. Total populations were estimated at 41.2 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is down from last year’s estimate of 47.3 million (48.4 million in 2016) and is 17 percent above the 1955-2016 long-term average (LTA). The projected mallard fall flight index is 11.4 million birds, close to the 2017 estimate of 12.9 million.
The main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2018 breeding population survey were generally similar to last year with a few exceptions. The total pond estimate for the United States and Canada combined was 5.2 million, which is 14 percent below the 2017 estimate of 6.1 million and identical to the LTA of 5.2 million.
Although mallard numbers in the survey declined by 12 percent, overall, the mainstay mallard populations remain in great shape, and the USFWS estimates the mallard fall flight will be similar to last year. However, the survey indicates a continuing concern for pintails and scaup, as both species remain below their LTA.
Ducks Unlimited’s Chief Scientist Tom Moorman had these observations: "The dip in the population for prairie-breeding puddle ducks is not unexpected and by no means unprecedented given that conditions on the prairies this spring were drier than last year. As a result, 2018 populations dropped accordingly. However, populations of all key species except northern pintails and scaup remain above long-term averages.
“This year’s breeding population decline is a reminder of the need to sustain the capacity of breeding habitats, particularly in the prairies as we go through natural variation in wetland conditions. Waterfowl populations are adapted well to short-term swings in habitat conditions, but we must continue to guard against the long-term loss of prairie breeding habitat.”
Following are the USFWS 2018 statistics for all species:
Mallards: 9.3 million, 12 percent lower than 2017 and 17 percent above LTA
Gadwall: 2.9 million, 31 percent lower than 2017 and 43 percent above LTA
American wigeon: 2.8 million, 2 percent above 2017 and 8 percent above LTA
Green-winged teal: 3 million, 16 percent lower than 2017 and 42 percent above LTA
Blue-winged teal: 6.5 million, 18 percent lower than 2017 and 27 percent above LTA
Northern shovelers: 4.2 million, 3 percent lower than 2017 and 62 percent above LTA
Northern pintails: 2.4 million, 18 percent lower than 2017 and 40 percent below LTA
Redheads: 1 million, 10 percent lower than 2017 and 38 percent above LTA
Canvasbacks: 0.7 million, 6 percent lower than 2017 and 16 percent above LTA
Scaup: 4 million, 9 percent below 2017 and 20 percent above LTA
View all the data and get a species-by-species breakdown at the Ducks Unlimited website www.ducks.org/ducknumbers.
Sept. 1 is the traditional opening day for mourning dove, a Saturday this year. The shooting begins at noon (opening day only) and the first segment ends on Sept. 28. The daily bag limit is 15. In addition the exotic collared dove is eligible and it has no limit. Dove season continues Oct. 13 – Nov. 4 and Dec. 8 – Jan. 15.
A list of leased public hunting areas and available wildlife management areas, all free of charge, is ready at www.tnwildlife.org; select “hunting”, “migratory birds” and then “dove hunting”. Remember that in addition to the basic Hunting and Fishing Combination license, the Tennessee Migratory Bird Permit (two dollars) is also required. And remember to install your shotgun’s magazine plug.
The resident Canada goose season opens Sept. 1 – 15 with a daily bag limit of five. Also, Sept. 1 is the opener for moorhens/gallinules and rails (Virginia and sora). The Tennessee Migratory Bird Permit is required to hunt all of these species (as well as later for woodcock and Wilson snipe).
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet on Aug. 23-24 in Nashville at the TWRA Region II Ray Bell Building. Committee meetings begin at 1 p.m., Thursday, while the regular meeting starts at 9 a.m., Friday. The public is invited to attend. A preview of the commercial fishing and sport fish proclamations will be presented.
In addition, winners of the 14 drawn permits to hunt Tennessee elk will be announced. This will include seven quota permits for the archery only hunt Sept. 29-Oct. 5, one permit for the youth hunt Oct. 6-12 and six permits for the Oct. 13-19 general gun hunt. The winner of the first-ever Tennessee elk raffle will also be announced.
TWRA Fisheries Division Chief Frank Fiss will present the proposals for the sport fishing and commercial fishing regulations. Following the meeting, a public comment period will be held for the proposals that were presented. The regulations will be set at the September TFWC meeting to be held in Knoxville.
In other business, Region III Wildlife Coordinator Kirk Miles will make a report on the sandhill crane permit drawing held in Rhea County and the duck blind drawings held at 10 locations earlier this month. Assistant Director Chris Richardson will preview potential provisions and concepts to be included in the commercial paddlecraft general permit rule. Rob Southwick, from Southwick and Associates, will be a guest presenter. Southwick and Associates is a market research firm, specializing in the hunting, shooting, sport fishing, and outdoor recreation markets. He will provide an analysis of TWRA licenses. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will also present its fiscal year 2019-20 budget recommendations to the TFWC.
The fourth Saturday of August is the traditional opening of hunting season, with squirrel beginning on Aug. 25 and ending next year on Feb. 28 – the longest season on the calendar. There are three hunted species of squirrels: Gray (most plentiful), fox (largest) and red (smallest, called “boomers”). The daily bag limit for all species combined is 10.
Aug. 25 is also Free Hunting Day in Tennessee. All hunters who are Tennessee residents are exempt from hunting licenses and wildlife management area permits that day. This is an excellent opportunity to initiate a new hunter, treat an ex-hunter to an outing, or treat yourself to a relaxing day afield. In addition to squirrels, those species that have a year-round season will be open as well; the year-round species include armadillo, beaver, coyote, groundhog, and striped skunk. More details are at www.tnwildlife.org. Hunter education requirements still apply.
The big game quota hunt permits have been drawn and the successful hunters know who they are. There are 14 quota hunts with leftover spots and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will make them available on a first come basis beginning at 8 a.m. CDT on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
Permits can be purchased online on the TWRA website at www.tnwildlife.org, on the TWRA App www.gooutdoorstennessee.com, or at any TWRA license agent. For more information on the hunts see the Newsroom at www.tnwildlife.org. The WMA quota hunts available are:
Catoosa: Oct. 25-27 (Muzzleload, 48 tags), Nov. 9-10 (Gun, 6), and Nov. 15-17 (ML, 798)
Cheatham: Sept. 15-21 (Archery, 230 tags), Oct. 27 – Nov. 2 (ML, 68), Nov. 10-16 (Gun, 227)
Laurel Hill: Oct. 18-21 (ML, 76 tags), Nov. 23-25 (Gun, 3), Nov. 30 – Dec. 2 (Gun, 139)
Oak Ridge: Nov. 3-4 (A, 139 tags), Nov. 10-11 (A, 204), Dec. 8-9 (A, 256).
Prentice Cooper: Sept. 15-17 (A, 120 tags)
Williamsport: Dec. 15-17 (Gun, 44 tags)
This year’s Calendar Photo Contest (for 2019) for the Tennessee Wildlife Federation has an entry deadline of Aug. 31, 2018. The TWF wants photos that represent the beautiful natural resources and wildlife of Tennessee. Tip: It is good to focus on the Tennessee state parks, wildlife management areas and national forests; also, winter scenes and aquatic species are in short supply. So, if not this year, plan now for next year.
Winning photographers will receive a display copy of their photo, a $20 gift card and TWF apparel; the two top winners will receive gift cards of $200 and $100. Go to https://tnwf.org/photocontest for more details, helpful tips and to enter the contest.
Tennessee Wildlife Federation is one of the largest and oldest organizations in Tennessee dedicated to the conservation of the state’s wildlife and natural resources through stewardship, youth engagement, and conservation policy. TWF sponsors Hunters For the Hungry, Scholastic Clay Target Program, TWF Youth Hunting and Fishing, and other conservation programs. Learn more at https://tnwf.org.
Every year the Quality Deer Management Association collects the harvest data from each state wildlife agency, consults with the nation’s leading deer researchers, and issues an annual report on the status of white-tailed deer, the most important game species in North America. More hunters pursue whitetails than any other species, and whitetail hunters contribute more financially than any other hunter segment. Collectively speaking, whitetails are the foundation of the entire hunting industry.
Following is a summary of just the introduction to the 2018 QDMA Whitetail Report. The entire 68-page report makes for fascinating reading. See it in its entirety at https://www.qdma.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Whitetail_Report_2018.pdf . The data comes from the previous complete season, 2016-2017.
So, how are whitetails and deer hunters doing? There are some very positive trends occurring. Yearling buck harvest rates remain at record low numbers, and the percentage of 3½-year-old and older bucks remains at one third of the total antlered buck harvest. Hunters are clearly reaping the benefits of more naturally balanced age structures in herds across the whitetail’s range.
In addition, 4 percent more antlered bucks (those 1½ years or older) were shot last season than the year before, and last season’s buck harvest was 3 percent above the previous five-year average. These are very positive signs for deer hunters and managers.
Alternately, antlerless harvest was down 1 percent from the prior year, and it was 11 percent below the five-year average. The antlerless harvest has now declined 19 percent in the past decade. In 1999 hunters harvested more antlerless deer than antlered bucks for the first time in recorded history, and in 2016-17 that harvest trend nearly flip-flopped as hunters shot 2,818,571 antlered bucks and only 2,830,264 antlerless deer. This was a mere difference of 11,693 deer!
Regarding the 2016-17 total harvest, 65 percent of deer were shot with a firearm, followed by 23
percent with a bow, 11 percent by muzzleloader, and 1 percent by other means. The biggest issues and trends include the continued spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). CWD made major headlines in Arkansas, Michigan and Montana in 2017. Last year state wildlife agencies collected approximately 100,000 CWD samples. This was nearly double the number collected in 2008.
Crossbows are now legal for the majority of hunters during at least a portion of the archery season in 78 percent of states. This is up from 57 percent in 2012. Trail cameras with texting capabilities are legal during hunting season in 93 percent of states, while drones are only legal in 38 percent of states. Finally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims hunter numbers
have declined by over two million from 2011 to 2016, while state wildlife agencies report a nearly identical number of deer hunters in 2007 and 2017.
Every year’s edition of the Whitetail Report is available as a free PDF at www.QDMA.com under the “About” menu.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking public input regarding deer management in Tennessee at three public meetings early next month. Meetings will be held in West, Middle, and East Tennessee on the evenings of Sept. 4, 5, and 6, respectively. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
The TWRA is particularly interested in getting feedback from those who experience impacts (positive or negative) from deer or the management of deer. This includes hunters, farmers, motorists, wildlife viewers, homeowners, or anyone else with a vested interest in how deer are managed in the state.
Input received at the meeting will be used to guide the development of a five-year strategic plan for TWRA’s Deer Management Program. Details for each meeting follow:
Sept. 4, 7-9 p.m. CDT: University of Tennessee-West Tenn. Ag Research & Education Center
605 Airways Blvd., Suite 104, Jackson, TN 38301.
Sept. 5, 7-9 p.m. CDT: Lane Agri-Park Auditorium, 315 John R. Rice Boulevard, Murfreesboro, TN 37129.
Sept. 6, 7-9 p.m. EDT: University of Tennessee - Plant Biotech Building (Rooms 156/157), 2505 E.J. Chapman Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996.
The Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact is an interstate agreement that recognizes the suspension of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses in member states. This means that illegal activities in one state can affect a person’s hunting or fishing privileges in all participating states. Tennessee is a member of the Compact, and Nebraska just became the 46th member state.
Any person whose license privileges or rights are suspended in a member state may also be suspended in the other member states. Tennessee honors all similar wildlife violation suspensions from other member states. This cooperative interstate effort enhances the various state wildlife agencies’ abilities to protect and manage their wildlife resources.
The Compact also establishes a process whereby wildlife law violations by a non-resident from a member state are handled as if the person were a resident, meaning they can be served a ticket rather than being arrested, booked, and bonded. This process is a convenience for hunters, fishermen, and trappers of member states, and increases efficiency of wildlife officers by allowing more time for enforcement duties rather than violator processing procedures.
Three states have legislation pending to join the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact: New Jersey, Massachusetts and Delaware. Only Hawaii is not interested. For more information go here.
The 13th Annual Maury County/Steve Brown Memorial Youth Dove Hunt is set for Saturday, Sept. 8 at the Yanahli Wildlife Management Area. Boys and girls ages 9-15 who have completed hunter education are eligible. The participants must be accompanied by one non-hunting adult. The field is limited to the first 60 hunters who register.
Activities begin at 11 a.m. and will include registration, lunch, clay target range shooting, door prizes, safety orientation, and the dove hunt. The hunt concludes at sunset. To register click here, or visit the TWRA website at www.tnwildlife.org. For any additional information, contact Maury County TWRA wildlife officers Ryne Goats at 615-920-9060, or Rusty Thompson at 931-881-8241.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, in conjunction with The University of Tennessee Middle Tennessee Research Center in Columbia, will be hosting the event, and it is sponsored by the TWRA, Tennessee Wildlife Officers Association, Columbia Noon Rotary Club, Corvin’s Auto Repair, Community Heating and Air, and several other local businesses. The Steve Brown Memorial portion of the event’s name was added three years ago in honor of TWRA wildlife technician Steve Brown who worked in Maury County.
While enjoying the Perseid meteor shower – whatever night you are watching – you may be able to see the International Space station (ISS) passing by. It appears as a passing plane with a steady, non-blinking light. NASA has a detailed schedule of passings and a section on how to read the schedule at its ISS “Spot the Station” website here. Thanks for the tip from Kenny Rudd of Louisville.
This should be a great year to view the best natural fireworks show in the northern hemisphere: The Perseid meteor shower. It peaks each year around Aug. 11-12, 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.
Normally a bright moon will spoil any meteor shower, but this year the slivered first-quarter moon will be gone soon after sunset. The best viewing times are after midnight, but any time after dark will be fruitful. 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.
As a bonus this year, Mars will be incredibly close to Earth right now and incredibly Bright! Being near opposition to the sun, reddish-orange Mars will rise as the sun sets and will be visible until about 4:00 a.m. local time. And that bright cream-colored object just to the west of Mars is Saturn; it will set around 2:00 a.m. Venus and Jupiter will be visible earlier in the evening.
The Perseid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the debris from the orbital path of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Their flight paths will appear to travel from the constellation Perseus in the northeast, but they will occur all over the sky.
August is National Shooting Sports Month, a time to celebrate one of America’s great pastimes — target shooting — a safe, fun activity enjoyed by millions of people across the country, with millions more wanting to take their first shots.
Research by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) shows that 24 million Americans are very interested in learning about the shooting sports, making National Shooting Sports Month the perfect time for someone to give target shooting a try. There are dozens of sports from which to choose, from hitting steel targets with handguns and rifles to breaking clay targets in the shotgun sports of trap, skeet and sporting clays.
www.LetsGoShooting.org, a new website developed by NSSF, is the place to find information about National Shooting Sports Month and the many target shooting sports available. There you can also find a shooting range near you, learn about shooting and sales events, print targets, watch instructional videos, and learn how to safely handle and store firearms.
Also at that website check out the “Trigger Time Sweepstakes”, which is a big part of National Shooting Sports Month. You’ll be able to enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win great prizes totaling more than $35,000 in weekly drawings.
The 2018-2019 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide is now published and will soon be delivered to a license agency near you. And now the latest Waterfowl Guide is included in the hunting guide. The entire booklet is online in PDF here. There are many changes in regulations this year and next. Some of particular note are listed here.
There will be a new, three-day archery-only antlered deer hunt on Aug. 24-26 for bucks in velvet. The definition of an antlered deer returns to the previous three-inch minimum antler (male or female). The special, early private-lands-only raccoon/opossum hunting season in selected East Tennessee counties is eliminated. The fall turkey hunting seasons is now limited to bearded birds only (no hens). Aerial drones are illegal for the purpose of hunting and trapping. Certain powerful airguns are legal for big game for the handicapped and in gun season. On July 1, 2019 deer and elk lures with real urine are banned.