Now in nature: Groundhogs are hibernating, gone from the pastures and roadsides until March. Black bear sows (females) with yearling cubs have found their winter dens by now, about a month later than the unencumbered females. Male bears will wait until mid-December to den.
River otters have begun to breed. White-tailed deer are nearing the end of their rut. Brook and brown trout are beginning to spawn. Sauger fishing is beginning to heat up. Golden and bald eagles are arriving in Tennessee for the winter. The fall migration of ducks and geese is underway; watch for them in their familiar V formations and you may hear them, too, especially the geese.
High school sophomores and juniors should look into this opportunity for leadership training, a share of $15,000 in college scholarships and a great trip to Washington, D.C. The sponsor National Rifle Association is now accepting applications for the 2017 National Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.) set for July 24-30 in our Nation’s Capital.
The Y.E.S. encourages young adults to become active and knowledgeable U.S. citizens by learning about American government, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the importance of being active in civic affairs. Up to 50 outstanding students will be chosen to attend nationwide.
Applicants must include a high school transcript, an essay on the Second Amendment, one-page personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. The filing deadline (postmarked) is Jan. 13, 2017. To apply or for additional information on the 2017 Y.E.S. go to www.friendsofnra.org/yes, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 703-267-1351.
How do you check in your big game? The majority of Tennessee deer are now checked in online by the hunter, on the TWRA website with a home computer, or on the TWRA Mobile App with a smart phone – in the field or at the vehicle. If the hunter has no phone (or service), a borrowed phone will do. Of course hunters can still go to a checking station and do it manually.
For the easy, high-tech way to check in, simply go to www.tnwildlife.org and select For Hunters to find the check-in site. That page will guide you through the entire process; your completed Harvest Log will have a confirmation number that is proof of check-in. It is a good idea to write down the confirmation in case of a phone failure.
Check-in must be done on the same calendar day as the kill. Evidence of sex must be on the carcass of all big game until checked in and removed from the field. Bears must be checked in at a traditional checking station; see the updated list on the TWRA website. That list is now about 20 percent shorter due to the new license vendor’s system.
When you check in your deer or online, you miss out on getting your prize weighed and its age calculated by a TWRA official. Not to worry. Here is how you can get a good estimate of both at the Pennsylvania Game Commission website www.pgc.state.pa.us..
Since deer are born around April or May, their age during hunting season is usually six months (a fawn), 1.5 years (a yearling), 2.5 years (adult), etc. The PGC website has a seven-minute video that explains how to age a deer by inspecting the teeth, especially the significance of five molars per side, six molars, slight wear, and heavy wear.
Also, the PGC website has a way to estimate a harvested deer’s live weight without weighing it. A measuring tape and the posted chart is all that is needed. Measure the girth of the chest just behind the front legs. The chart tells you the deer’s live weight, the field-dressed weight and the edible boneless meat. As an example, a deer’s chest measuring 35 inches would indicate 126 pounds live weight, 99 pounds dressed, and 57 pounds of boned venison.
Go to www.pgc.state.pa.us, find the Deer Hunting section, and select Deer Aging or Deer Weight Chart. For a special measuring tape that has all the chart information printed on it (It costs only 94 cents), go to the Outdoor Shop, then Merchandise, then Miscellaneous Items to order.
Say “Goodbye” to those Tennessee hunting and fishing licenses that look like a cash register receipt. In fact, the whole license buying experience is becoming more streamlined and convenient. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has engaged a new company, Brandt Information Services, to handle its license services. Brandt has some new features to offer Tennessee sportsmen.
The new license itself will be printed on standard-sized 8½ by 11-inch paper. Licenses can be purchased at any time of day on smart phones, home computers or any mobile device. License agencies and TWRA regional offices will continue to sell licenses, too. Once a license is purchased, verification emails will be sent to license buyers regardless of where the purchase was made. The sportsmen can store this emailed certification on mobile devices and use that information as proof of purchase. If a license is lost, a sportsman can print a new copy without delay and at no cost.
Hunters and anglers will also be able to purchase license packages, which will help simplify the buying process when multiple licenses or permits are needed for a certain species. For instance, dove hunters need a small game license and a migratory bird permit; waterfowlers hunting on TWRA wildlife management areas often need a couple of licenses and/or a WMA permit. License purchases can still be done a la carte. The TWRA’s new vendor is providing a shopping cart experience similar to numerous online sites.
Florida-based Brandt Information Services came to the TWRA highly recommended by wildlife agencies in Georgia, Florida and Virginia. About 75 percent of Tennessee’s 1,200 license agencies will begin using the new system immediately.
Seventy-five percent of all stolen boats match the following description: Less than 26 feet long, rests on a trailer, powered by an outboard motor. There’s more bad news: only 10 percent of stolen boats are ever fully recovered. These statistics come from the BoatUS Marine Insurance claims for the past five years. Whether your boat takes the winter season off or keeps on going year round, here are five tips to help you keep your boat.
1. Lock it up. Two, three – you cannot have too many locks. Secure the trailer tongue, outboard engine, and/or chain and lock the trailer wheels. You want to make the thief lose interest in your baby.
2. Do not leave the ignition key on a stored boat. Never assume your key's hiding place is so good that thieves won't find it. Thieves are good at what they do.
3. Make the trailer difficult to move. Do not park the boat with the trailer tongue facing the street; a removable tongue hitch is good; use removable taillights since thieves usually work the night shift; for long-term storage, remove the trailer tires.
4. Do not attract attention. Use a full winter cover to hide flashy graphics. Store all removable electronics, paperwork and valuables at home during the off-season. You may want to think twice about hanging a "for sale" sign on the side of your boat.
5. Check out new anti-theft technologies. There are devices that send alerts to your cell phone, take photos/video, provide tracking, or kill the motor if your boat moves from its virtual boundary. For more useful information go to www.BoatUS.com/Boat-Thefts.
Tennessee hunters have again demonstrated great generosity to their community with massive donations of venison to local food banks. Nearly 600,000 meals were supplied to needy Tennesseans during the 2015-16 hunting season. As of this year the 18-year-old Hunters For The Hungry program has collected well over one million pounds of game meat for the needy. The donations equate to nearly six million nutritious meals for food banks and pantries statewide.
The previous year’s donations amounted to 650,000 meals and the year before was 500,000 meals. But the annual need is always greater. HFTH hopes that this year’s meat collections will continue to grow as it did for the previous eight years.
Thanks to monetary donations from many Tennesseans, HFTH has arrangements with 65 deer processors in 64 Tennessee counties to allow generous hunters to donate a deer with no processing cost.
There are two ways to help HFTH help the needy in your county or neighborhood. One is to give venison or other wild meat to the program – a few pounds or often an entire deer. The other way is to give cash to help defray the cost of processing the meat.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation is the HFTH sponsor and it has two other programs to help the community participate. The newest one is the Deer Coin, purchased with a tax-exempt $50 donation to the TWF. The Deer Coin is good for one donated deer processing at any of the HFTH processors (not meant for a personal deer). These coins make great gifts for family and friends.
Another continuing TWF program is the Hunger Challenge, a competition among high school clubs and other organizations. The clubs earn points by raising critical funds to help feed Tennesseans in crisis; in addition, participating students gain important skills in leadership, club-building, humanitarianism, and philanthropy. To learn more on all of these programs go to www.tnwf.org or call Matt Simcox at 615-353-1133.
Did you ever wonder what the live weight of your harvested deer was? Or how much meat you will be putting in your freezer? The following is an easy way of estimating a deer’s vitals; it is simple mathematics.
This is the live-weight formula for deer when you know the field-dressed weight. At check-in the eviscerated carcass is about 78.5 percent of the live weight; therefore, multiply the field-dressed weight by 1.27 (or about one-quarter increase) to get the live weight. So a dressed deer that tips the scale at 100 pounds had a live weight of 127.
How much meat will go into the freezer? That field-dressed carcass, which includes the head and hide, is about 58 percent boneless meat. If it is butcher-ready (head, hide and hooves removed), there is 72 percent boneless meat.
Let's say that you take a nice buck this year that tips the check-in scales at 148 pounds. The live weight was 188 pounds, and the butcher owes you about 86 pounds of meat. With a 20-pound donation to Hunters For the Hungry you stuff 66 pounds into your freezer.
A total of 149 deer was harvested during the second deer hunt on the Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area. There were 86 bucks and 63 does taken; the largest buck field-dressed at 179 pounds; the largest rack was 15 points; the largest doe weighed 115 pounds. None was retained for internal radiological contamination. No turkey was taken on this Nov. 12-13 hunt.
Since archery deer season began on Sept. 24, there have been 30,505 deer harvested through Nov. 6, the first weekend of muzzleloader season; this figure includes the Young Sportsman Hunt on Oct. 29-30. The same period in 2015 yielded 32,846 deer. The harvest decrease of 2,341 this year is a result of a severe drought and heat wave, plus a bumper crop of white oak acorns. It is not a prediction of a lower deer harvest statewide for this year.
Reminder: The official definition for an antlered deer was redefined earlier this year by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission. “An antlered deer is now defined as any male or female deer with an antler protruding above its hairline. An antlerless deer is now defined as any deer with no antler protruding above its hairline.” Some examples: A male deer with bulging, hair-covered pedicles is antlerless (see photo); a male deer that has shed its antlers is antlerless. More explanation and photographic examples can be found on page 23 of the 2016-17 hunting guide, also available online at www.tnwildlife.org.
The severe drought in East Tennessee has caused at least 9,700 acres of wildfires. The Department of Agriculture has issued an official burn ban in the following counties: Claiborne, Sevier, Loudon, Jefferson, and Monroe. This includes open burning of debris and campfires; and it includes the wildlife management areas in those counties. More counties may be added at any time. See this website, www.burnsafetn.org, for more updated information on the scores of wildfires ongoing in East Tennessee and the precautions that citizens should take.
In addition the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is requesting that sportsmen refrain from building open campfires on all of the state’s WMAs until further notice. While hunters’ campfires have not been a significant cause of our wildfires, the potential is there and it is not worth the risk. Outdoor cooking with charcoal or propane are good alternatives. Anyone creating a wildfire could be subject to criminal penalties, including the cost of suppressing it.
A Tennessee state record – and possibly a world record – white-tailed deer was taken in Sumner County on Monday, Nov. 7, the third day of the state muzzleload season. The non-typical monster has 47 antler points and its Boone and Crockett green score (before the 60-day drying period) is 308 3/8 after deductions. Stephen Tucker, 26, of Gallatin, Tenn. stalked the animal for several days before downing it.
The current Tennessee non-typical record was taken in 2000, also from Sumner County, and had a net score of 244 3/8. The world record non-typical was killed in Albia, Iowa in 2003 and had 38 points and net scored 307 5/8.
Tucker’s prize is at the meat processor, but he estimates the deer to be 3.5 years old and 150 pounds field-dressed. He expected his deer to be a state record but did not even consider the world record. Non-typical antlers are not symmetrical and do not have equal points on each side, like the typical rack does.
It was a most unusual elk hunt in Tennessee this year. Five new archery tags were introduced to the standard mix of five gun hunters and one youth hunter. Of these 11 contenders only two bulls were legally harvested, and one bull was illegally taken by a licensed participant (as reported earlier).
Archery elk season was Oct. 3-7. Three bowhunters had shots and missed their mark; one hit his bull but it was not recovered. The youth hunt was Oct. 22-23 and there was no animal taken; two of the five rifle hunters scored elk in their season of Oct. 17-21, a 5x5 bull on opening day that field dressed at 648 pounds, and a 4x3 bull on the third day that dressed at 256 pounds.
In retrospect the 2016 elk season was handicapped in ways that the previous seven hunts never experienced – those seven hunts accounted for 31 elk. This year the hunters had to contend with an extended heatwave, an abundant acorn crop, and a severe drought that prevented the TWRA from establishing fall and winter food plots.
Pre-Election Day musings: Firearm sales in October 2016 have jumped considerably over the same period last year. A reliable method of measuring gun sale trends is by the number of background checks performed by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS figures have to be adjusted since it is also used for explosives purchases, and some other background checks and security clearances. The National Shooting Sports Foundation regularly adjusts the NICS totals for just firearms sales.
For the past eight years under the Obama administration the rate of gun sales have steadily risen by a small percentage each period. Last month it jumped 11.7 percent. The October 2016 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure was 1,353,299 gun sales, compared to the October 2015 figure of 1,211,478. That is more than a million firearms sold each month through dealers; and that does not count private sales. Impressive.
The most popular quarry in Tennessee is white-tailed deer. Traditionally the weekend before Thanksgiving is the opener for the deer gun season statewide. The dates this year are Nov. 19 – Jan. 8 in all of the big game units. The antlered deer bag limit for all seasons (archery, muzzleloader and gun) is two (maximum one per day).
The antlerless bag limits differ for each big game unit: Unit L is three per day; Unit A is two; Unit B is one; Unit C is one through Dec. 4 only; Unit D is one through Nov. 25 only. Hunters may take an antlerless bag limit in each big game unit. Most hunters need a Type 094 permit to hunt does, but not Sportsman and Lifetime licenses or landowners on their own land.
Nature prepares furbearing animals for winter with thick, prime pelts. For Tennessee pelts are prime from early November through February. Tennessee’s trapping season corresponds to that time and is Nov. 18 – Feb. 28. Eligible furbearers are: Bobcat, fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, river otter, raccoon, skunks (striped and spotted), and weasel. There are no daily or annual limits.
Beaver, coyote and groundhog can be trapped year round since they are such costly pests to farmers, stockmen and landowners.
Modern trapping is highly regulated by federal and state wildlife agencies and it is similar to hunting as an effective tool for controlling populations of target species. Such regulations include the style and size of traps, identification tags on all traps, and frequent inspection of trap sites. See pages 14-17 of the 2016-17 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide for more details.
Changes in the 2017-18 Tennessee sport fish regulations have been made by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission. Following are some of the more prominent ones: For bass on Douglas Lake, there will be a 15-fish creel limit for a combination of striped bass, hybrid striped bass and white bass. On Kentucky Lake the crappie creel limit will decrease from 30 to 20 per day.
The boundary for wild trout on Laurel Creek in Carter County will be from the cable crossing located one-half mile upstream of the USFS Dennis Cove Recreation Area extending upstream to the USFS boundary. Boat and bank anglers on Dale Hollow Lake can use four fishing rods at one time; previously boat anglers could use three and shore anglers could use six.
On Calderwood Reservoir boat and bank anglers from North Carolina will have the same regulations as Tennesseans; North Carolina is expected to reciprocate soon. Changes to the live bait proclamation kept existing creel limits for Class A and Class B baitfish, and established a possession limit of twice the daily creel limit for these classes. The change established a 50 fish-per-day limit for Class C bait fish, all species combined, with a possession limit of 100 fish. These limits apply to fish alive and dead. The TFWC meets next in Nashville on Friday, Dec. 9 at the TWRA Region II Ray Bell Building.
The first of three quota deer hunts on the Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area was held on Oct. 29-30. A total of 131 deer was taken, 84 bucks and 47 does. The largest buck field dressed at 170 pounds; the biggest rack was 10 points; the largest doe weighed 101 pounds. Two turkeys were harvested, one tom and one hen; the tom had a beard of 7.0 inches and spurs of 0.8 inch. No animal was retained for internal radiological contamination.