The Hunting Seasons section of the Tennessee Outdoors News is now updated with the 2019-2020 hunting and trapping seasons, concise and easy to read. Check it out. Plan your hunting trips early and don’t let a single opening day sneak up on you.
It looks like another good season is in the offing for waterfowl and duck hunters. The annual government survey is published and Delta Waterfowl has this analysis. The 2019 Waterfowl Population Status Report, conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service since 1955, puts the breeding duck population at 38.90 million, a 6 percent decrease from last year’s population of 41.19 million, but still 10 percent above the long-term average. The 2019 survey marks the first time since 2008 that the estimated breeding duck population has fallen below 40 million.
“The fact that the numbers are down is a reflection of last year’s dry conditions for nesting ducks,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl. “We know that production drives duck populations, so it’s no surprise that after a year of poor production, the USFWS counted fewer ducks.”
There is good news to be found in the survey. Mallards increased 2 percent to 9.42 million, 19 percent above the long-term average. (Unfortunately for Atlantic Flyway hunters, mallards decreased by 2 percent in the Eastern Survey Area to 1.05 million.) Green-winged teal rose 4 percent to 3.18 million, 47 percent above the long-term average. American wigeon climbed slightly to 2.83 million, 8 percent above the long-term average.
Notably, gadwalls climbed 13 percent to 3.26 million, putting them 61 percent above the long-term average. “The real surprise to me is that gadwalls seem to be almost drought-proof,” Rohwer said. “They’re pretty amazing ducks.”
Other dabbling ducks decreased, but remain above long-term averages. Shovelers declined 13 percent to 3.65 million, 39 percent above the long-term average. The largest decrease was observed among blue-winged teal, down 16 percent to 5.43 million, but still 6 percent above the long-term average. “The bluewing estimate makes sense,” Rohwer said. “Bluewings didn’t fare well last spring given the dry prairie, and didn’t produce many ducks.”
The only below-average population estimate among puddle ducks is for pintails, which dropped 4 percent to 2.27 million, 42 percent below the long-term average. “Many pintails settled in the Dakotas seeking better water conditions, as did all ducks,” Rohwer said. “But the core of the pintail’s traditional breeding range is in southern Alberta, where they’re down 79 percent, and southern Saskatchewan, where they’re down 85 percent. More than a million pintails — almost half the breeding population — settled in the U.S. prairie this year.”
All three diving duck species surveyed showed declines in 2019. Redheads fell 27 percent to 730,000, putting them right at the long-term average. Canvasbacks dropped 5 percent to 650,000, but remain 10 percent above the long-term average. And scaup (greater and lesser combined) declined 10 percent to 3.59 million, 28 percent below the long-term average.
“I’m concerned that bluebills may return to restrictive harvest regulations, if their recent population trend isn’t reversed,” Rohwer said. “And we’ve been living off high redhead numbers for a long time, but we just had two average-to-dry years.”
Across the U.S. and Canada, the May pond count registered 4.99 million — 5 percent lower than last year and 5 percent below the long-term average. Pond counts in prairie and parkland Canada, which covers Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, decreased 22 percent to 2.86 million, which is the lowest estimate since 2004 and 19 percent below the long-term average. Pond counts in the north-central United States, which covers Montana and the Dakotas, increased 36 percent to 2.14 million, 26 percent above the long-term average.
“This year’s pond count and nesting conditions are truly a tale of two countries,” Rohwer said. “Canada is in bad shape — it started dry and got even drier. I haven’t seen portions of Canada this dry since the mid-1980s. However, the prairies in the Dakotas started wet and stayed ridiculously wet. The problem is that while many of the duck estimates in the U.S. are up, it wasn’t enough to compensate for dry conditions in a region as massive and important to ducks as prairie Canada.”
However, Rohwer said production in the highly wet eastern Dakotas region — where mallards are up 54 percent, pintails rose 64 percent, bluewings jumped 19 percent and total ducks are up 29 percent — has been exceptional. That’s good news for hunters, who shoot the fall flight, not the breeding population.
“The numbers aren’t as bad as they appear,” Rohwer said. “For example, even though bluewings are down, a higher portion of their breeding population than average settled in the wet Dakotas, where they should produce ducklings like crazy.”
Even though breeding duck numbers are down overall, the U.S. prairies were incredibly wet from south to north, which will lead to strong duck production. Conditions remained wet and actually improved during the breeding season, with temporary and seasonal wetlands retaining water into July and August.
“So when the prairies were dry last year, it hurt duck production, and in turn, duck hunters,” he said. “We saw it in Louisiana and elsewhere. But this year, ducks nested and renested in the U.S. prairies with a vengeance and should have high brood survival in those landscapes.” Strong production in the U.S. prairies should also increase the number of more easily decoyed juveniles in the fall flight, compared to the savvy, adult birds many hunters encountered last season.
“There will be plenty of ducks in the fall flight, and I expect duck hunters, especially in the southern U.S., to have a better season this year,” Rohwer said. To view the complete 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, visit here. For more information on Delta Waterfowl, “The Duck Hunters Organization”, go to www.deltawaterfowl.org.
The Labor Day holiday, the last hurrah of the 2019 summer boating season is Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be on the watch for dangerous boating behavior, such as boating under the influence (BUI), not using life jackets, and other reckless operation.
In 2019 on Tennessee waters there have been six boating-related fatalities, 15 fewer than at the same time last year. There have been 36 serious injury incidents and 40 property damage incidents. TWRA officers have made 53 BUI arrests.
During the 2018 Labor Day boating weekend, there was a single fatality which involved a personal watercraft on Tims Ford Lake. TWRA boating officers made five BUI arrests. Officers investigated other incidents which involved seven serious injuries and three which had property damage.
Hunting deer interstate (across state lines) is not as simple as it used to be. As deer season approaches, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) remind hunters that it is illegal to import whole carcasses and certain body parts of any species of deer into either state.
The import ban on deer in Alabama and Tennessee is part of a larger effort throughout the country to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) – a fatal neurological disease of white-tailed deer and other deer species, including mule deer, elk and moose. Similar laws addressing the import of deer carcasses and body parts are on the books in other southern states as well. Both state wildlife agencies feel that hunters are their greatest allies in controlling CWD.
Under the import bans, no person may import, transport, or possess a carcass or body part from any species of deer harvested anywhere outside of either state without properly processing it before bringing it home.
Importation of the following is allowed in both Alabama and Tennessee: deer meat that has been completely deboned; cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; raw capes, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides. Velvet antlers are illegal to import into Alabama unless they are part of a finished taxidermy product.
For more information about how Alabama and Tennessee are working to prevent the spread of CWD, visit www.outdooralabama.com and www.CWDinTennessee.com.
If you enjoy social media, then you should check out the new Tagboards from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Here you can share your outdoor experiences by using #tnwildlife, #tntrophyroom or #tnboating on your favorite social media site. Whether you prefer Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Vine, or Flickr, by using one of these hashtags, you can share memories with the TWRA, your friends and family. Make sure your posts are public; private posts will not make it to the board. Click here and visit one or all three tagboards.
It is time to comment on the new sport fishing regulations for 2020-2022. The proposed changes by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are now issued biannually, fishing on the even years and hunting on the odd years. Following is a summary of the proposed fishing regs. Complete details can be found in the news section at www.tnwildlife.org. The deadline for the comment period is Sept. 12. If approved, the sport fishing changes would become effective March 1, 2020.
Statewide: The TWRA wants to remove the time-of-day restriction and one-pole limit restrictions on wild trout streams. It feels that these restrictions are no longer needed for management of these fisheries. Concerning crayfish, there will be many more prohibited streams listed from which crayfish cannot be harvested or used, as well as streams that crayfish can be harvested and used as bait.
There will be many lakes, streams and areas that will have minor changes in regulations in manner of taking, size limits and daily creel limits. For the complete list, and for the proposed commercial fishing regulations, see the news section at www.tnwildlife.org.
Comments may be sent (by Sept. 12) by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “2020-22 Fish Comments” in the subject line; or write to TWRA Fisheries Division, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204. The Commission will vote on the sport fish and commercial fish regulations at its September meeting.
The leftover big game quota hunts are now available online. There are several hundred available for 10 different hunts this year. They are on a first-come basis so act quickly. Go here to see them all and to buy.
Sept. 1 is Tennessee’s traditional opening day for mourning dove, a Sunday this year. The shooting begins at noon on opening day only; regular shooting times are 30 minutes before sunrise till 30 minutes after sunset. The daily bag limit is 15. In addition the exotic collared dove is eligible and it has no limit.
The first dove segment ends on Sept. 28; the season continues Oct. 12 – Nov. 3 and Dec. 8 – Jan. 15. Remember that for dove and waterfowl you need the small game license AND the two-dollar migratory bird permit (as well as later for woodcock and Wilson snipe). Remember to install your shotgun’s two-shot magazine plug.
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”. Or go directly to the list here. Check it often for updates.
The resident Canada goose season opens Sept. 1 – 22 with a daily bag limit of five. Brant, blue, snow, and Ross’s geese share this early season (daily limit is one). Also, Sept. 1 – Nov. 9 is the season for moorhens/gallinules and rails (Virginia and sora).
The 15 hunters who will participate in the 2019 Tennessee Elk Hunts have been chosen. A total of 8,201 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 for the archery-only hunt on Sept. 28 – Oct. 4 are Jacob Dwayne Swafford (Knoxville), Hunter Eugene Luna (Charlotte), Johnathon Paul Sullivan (Hilham), Lennon Gregory Haggard (Lexington), Matthew Vinton Smith (Whitwell), Charles Glenn Lambert (Nolensville), and Daniel Tracy Webb (Bells).
The gun hunt (muzzleloader and archery equipment included) will be held Oct. 12-18. Selected to participate are John Wilhoyte Barron (Lewisburg), Josepth Scott Bumpus (Dickson), Tyson James Weller (Henning), Kevin Wayne Pebley (Rocky Top), Jeffrey Lynn Miller (La Follette), and John Bradley Combs (Harrison).
The youth permit winner is Jacob R. Clark (Dayton). The youth hunt will be held Oct. 5-11. This will be the eighth year for the tag which is designated for youth ages 13-16. There were 341 applicants for this hunt.
The seventh permit was presented to a non-governmental organizational, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. Previously the permit was auctioned to the high bidder. For the second year a raffle was held with tickets sold for $20 each. Dennis Freidline (Frankfort, Ind.) is the grand prize winner and will participate in the Oct. 12-18 hunt.
Four other persons had their names drawn in the raffle and will receive prize packages. The other raffle winners are Conner Campbell (Centerville), DeWayne Raines (Knoxville), Gregory James (Pleasant View), and Philip Jacobs (Dickson).
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, 53 elk have been legally harvested.
Last year twelve hunters took animals for an extraordinary success rate of 80 percent, the best since the program began in 2009. In the archery hunt all seven bowhunters filled their tags. The sole young sportsman tagged out and four of seven rifle hunters scored.
There were 56,405 tickets sold in the 2019 elk raffle, an increase of 33,921 from last year’s inaugural drawing. The raffle grossed more than $677,000, almost doubling last year’s total. Proceeds from the auctioned tag are designated for the elk restoration program.
Calling all new hunters, and still-learning hunters (that’s all of us): Here is a new resource for excellent information to mentor you in your new passion. “Hunters Connect” has a large collection of videos with a wide variety of subjects on every topic an up-and-coming hunter will need to know, from purchasing your first license to tagging your first animal and everything else in between. Hunters Connect has the “How-To, When-To, Where-To, and What-To Do” in hunting methods, techniques and requirements.
Hunters Connect was put online this month by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) as the next step after the hunter’s traditional introduction to the sport. The video library grows weekly and you can request new topics of interest to you.
Lastly, Hunters Connect is a valuable asset for the thousands of volunteer hunter ed instructors as they continue to teach and lead and mentor the next generation of hunters. See it all at www.youtube.com/HuntersConnect. Share it on social media.
Errors in printed version of the 2019-2020 Hunting and Trapping Guide have been discovered by the TWRA, none of them a major mistake, but noteworthy nonetheless. See the news section of www.tnwildlife.org for the complete list. The online version of the Guide has been corrected; see it at www.eregulations.com/tennessee/hunting/.
The most significant misprint that could affect many hunters is the closing date for archery bear season in the Transitional Zone: It is Oct. 25 (not Nov. 25). Another subject is the description of legal traps. Most of the other errors concern regulations on certain wildlife management areas.
Hunters, prepare to load your weapons! The fourth Saturday of August is the traditional opening of hunting season, with squirrel beginning on Aug. 24 and ending next year on Feb. 29 – 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. 24 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 check out a new WMA before paying the fee, treat an ex-hunter to an outing, or treat yourselves 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 in the hunting section at www.tnwildlife.org. Hunter education requirements still apply.
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will have its monthly meeting on Aug. 15-16 in Greeneville at the General Morgan Inn. Committee meetings begin at 2 p.m. (EDT) Thursday, and the regular meeting starts at 9 a.m. Friday. The public is invited to attend.
On Friday morning the 2019 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. 28-Oct. 5, one permit for the youth hunt Oct. 5-11 and six permits for the Oct. 12-18 general hunt with gun, muzzleloader and bow. The winners of Tennessee elk raffle, sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, will also be announced.
A summary of the August handheld duck blind drawings will be presented. The format for this year’s drawing changed Also, a recap of recently-held public listening sessions will be given. A preview of proposed changes to the sport fishing and bait proclamations will be made, including the changes requested by the Commercial Fisheries Advisory Committee.
The TWRA’s Biodiversity Division will give an update. To remain in compliance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Agreement and to avoid state audit findings, the Biodiversity Division must review the State Threatened and Endangered Species list every two years. The list is scheduled to be reviewed in November 2019.
Every year the Quality Deer Management Association issues an annual report on the status of white-tailed deer, the most important game species in North America. The QDMA collects the harvest data from each state wildlife agency and consults with the nation’s leading deer researchers.
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 2019 QDMA Whitetail Report. The entire 70-page report makes for fascinating reading. Download it at www.qdma.com/2019-whitetail-report/. The data comes from the previous complete season, 2017-2018.
So, how are whitetails and deer hunters doing? There are some very positive trends occurring for 2019. Yearling buck harvest rates remain at record low numbers, and the percentage of 3½-year-old and older bucks in the harvest 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, two percent more antlered bucks (those 1½ years or older) were shot last season than the year before, and last season’s buck harvest was six percent above the previous five-year average. This is a very positive sign for deer hunters and managers.
On the contrary, antlerless harvest was down slightly from the previous year, and it was nine percent below the five-year average. The antlerless harvest has now declined 18 percent in the past decade.
An average of 41 percent of hunters were successful in 2017, and 15 percent of hunters shot more than one deer. The average hunter spent 12 days pursuing deer last year, and 13
percent of hunting licenses went to nonresident hunters. Regarding the 2017-18 total harvest, 66 percent of deer were shot with a firearm, followed by 23 percent with a bow, 10 percent by muzzleloader, and 1 percent by other means.
The continued spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) remains one of the biggest issues with hunters. CWD made major headlines in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,
Mississippi, Tennessee, and Finland. Nine states now prohibit the use of natural deer/elk urine,
and at least two others prohibit it in disease zones. Finally, nearly three quarters of states allow the use of tracking dogs to retrieve wounded big game animals.
Previous editions of the Whitetail Report are available as a free PDF at www.QDMA.com under the “About” menu.
The fifth Calendar Photo Contest (for the 2020 calendar) for the Tennessee Wildlife Federation has an entry deadline of Aug. 31, 2019. The TWF wants photos that represent the beautiful landscapes, natural resources and wildlife of Tennessee. Tip: It is good to focus on the Tennessee state parks, wildlife management areas and national forests; and, again this year, 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.
For the second year Tennessee will have a very early deer season on Aug. 23-25. It is a chance to take a buck in velvet. It is archery only and private lands only, except that this year Unit CWD is open for this hunt. Bag limit is one buck per day and two bucks limit.
Now is a good time to get those trail cameras out and begin planning your strategy and looking for that worthy trophy in velvet. The traditional opening of the archery season has been the fourth Saturday in September – the 28th – and that season is still on.
Landowners and farmers with grain crops, do not miss out on the extra money available just in the manner your crops are harvested. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking dove fields to lease for public hunting for the upcoming 2019 dove season.
Landowners can time their harvest, or partially harvest their grain or millet hay fields to be eligible. They should promptly contact their TWRA regional office for consideration. Rates paid to landowners will be $75 per acre for a maximum field size of 40 acres for a maximum contract of $3,600 per field; fields top sown with a wheat crop earn an additional $15 per acre. At least three priority dates for public hunting are required.
Those landowners wanting to lease a dove field to TWRA should contact their TWRA regional office: Region I (West Tennessee) 731-423-5725 or 800-372-3928; Region II (Middle Tennessee) 615-781-6622 or 800-624-7406; Region III (Upper Cumberland) 931-484-9571 or 833-402-4698; Region IV (East Tennessee) 423-587-7037 or 800-332-0900. More information is at www.tnwildlife.org.
Dove hunters can find the fields leased by TWRA, which cost nothing to use, one or two weeks before the season opens here. Check often for recent updates. The first phase of dove season begins at noon on Sunday, Sept. 1. Remember that you need the small game license AND the two dollar migratory bird permit.