Tennessee’s federal fish hatcheries will remain open for another three years. The Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently have reached a multi-agency agreement to provide continued funding for three federal fish hatcheries that have stocked waters in Georgia and Tennessee with millions of trout.
The partnership, which began in 2013, includes the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. TVA has been funding trout production by the USFWS at three national fish hatcheries: Dale Hollow and Erwin in Tennessee, and Chattahoochee Forest in Georgia. The trout are then provided to the following tailwaters: Apalachia (Hiwassee River), Blue Ridge, Boone, Cherokee, Fort Patrick Henry, Normandy, Norris, South Holston, Tims Ford, and Wilbur. Trout-stocked reservoirs in the plan include Fort Patrick Henry, South Holston, Parksville, Watauga, and Wilbur reservoirs.
Last year the partnership provided more than 1.1 million brook, brown, lake, and rainbow trout to TVA waters. More than 256,000 anglers are estimated to fish for trout in Tennessee and Georgia waters each year, spending about $73 for every $1 invested in the hatchery program, and producing an economic impact of about $45 million.
Frank Fiss, chief of fisheries for TWRA said, “This partnership is critical to TWRA’s management of trout fisheries. Each year up to 80 percent of the trout stocked at TVA projects come from federal hatcheries. These fisheries include some of the best in the Southeast.”
Waterfowlers, there is still time to have your voices heard. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking comments for its 2019-20 waterfowl and other migratory bird hunting regulations, including sandhill cranes. This is an opportunity for the public to provide ideas and share concerns about hunting regulations with TWRA staff. The comment period ends Nov. 30.
Due to changes in the timing of the federal regulation process, waterfowl and other migratory game bird hunting seasons are now proposed to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission at its January meeting and voted upon at its February meeting.
Public comments will be considered as proposals for regulation changes. Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include “Waterfowl Season Comments” on the subject line.
High school sophomores and juniors should look into this exciting – and free – trip to Washington, D.C. The National Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.) is an opportunity for leadership training and a share of $55,000 in college scholarships, sponsored and paid for by the National Rifle Association. The two 2019 Y.E.S. sessions will be July 8-14 and July 22-28 in our Nation’s Capital.
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. Participants will enhance such academic skills as leadership, public speaking and debating. Tours of Arlington National Cemetery and other national monuments are included.
Up to 50 outstanding students will be chosen to attend each session. Applicants must include a high school transcript, an essay on the Second Amendment, one-page personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Applications are being accepted now and the filing deadline is Jan. 25, 2019. To apply or for additional information on the 2019 Y.E.S. go to www.friendsofnra.org/yes, email email@example.com, or call 800-672-3888, ext.1351.
It is time to add trout fishing to your wintertime activities. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has announced its 2018-19 winter trout stocking schedule. TWRA plans to release approximately 90,000 rainbow trout into Tennessee waters from late November through March. These are streams that will not support trout in the heat of the summer, but can provide nearby trout fishing opportunities for anglers during the winter months. The fisheries include many city park ponds, state parks, dam tailwaters, and other streams. This is a great opportunity to introduce children or first-time anglers to fishing.
The trout will average about 10 inches in length. The daily creel limit is seven, but there is no size limit. The intent is to catch-and-eat, not catch-and-release. Anglers are reminded that a trout license is needed in addition to the fishing license. The stocking schedule and updates can be found on TWRA’s website at www.tnwildlife.org in the Fishing section. Please note that the dates and locations are subject to change.
The second deer hunt on the Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area ended with a harvest of 88 deer, 51 antlered and 37 antlerless. The largest buck dressed out at 175 pounds; the biggest rack was 12 points; the largest doe weighed 106 pounds. None was retained for internal radiological contamination. No turkey was taken on this hunt.
Last year’s harvest on the second ORWMA deer hunt was 62 deer, but the 2016 take was a more typical 149. And radiological contamination is becoming less prevalent. None was retained in 2017 and none so far this year; but two were retained in the third hunt of 2016.
Most Tennessee deer hunters check in their deer online, so they miss out on getting their prizes weighed and the ages calculated by a TWRA official. Not to worry. Here is how you can get a good estimate of both, thanks to the Pennsylvania Game Commission website.
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.
To estimate a harvested deer’s live weight without actually weighing it, a measuring tape and the posted PGC 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), order it at: Make a Purchase, the Outdoor Shop, Merchandise, and Miscellaneous Items, or click here.
It looks like there will be a new record black bear harvest for Tennessee this year. With one-third of the season left to go, the count stands at 565 bruins. The record of 589 was set in 2011 when there was a major mast crop failure of acorns in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, forcing bears to leave protected areas and forage on the national forests and private lands where they could be hunted.
According to Dan Gibbs, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Black Bear Leader, there are two reasons for the heavy bear harvest this year. First, there was a spotty acorn crop in the Park, which put bears on the move into the lower elevations. Second, the black bear population is healthy and increasing in the southern Appalachian Mountains.
In addition, an increasing black bear population is evident in the Cumberland Plateau, which saw a brief re-colonization effort for this former range about a decade ago. As a result, TWRA created a new Bear Hunting Zone (BHZ4) in several Cumberland Plateau counties. The state is now home to about 7,000 bears.
The continuing harvest and more on the 2018 bear harvest can be found in the Hunters Toolbox in the Hunting section of the TWRA website www.tnwildlife.org, or click here. Details include male/female harvests, numbers in each Bear Zone, and weapons used. For more details about bear hunting in Tennessee, see pages 36-37 of the Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide.
You never forget your first … duck. And Delta Waterfowl will help to memorialize the moment with a “First Duck Pin”. Hunters young and old can earn their pins and other prizes by sending DW an email or letter detailing the experience, along with a high quality photo. Emails go to firstname.lastname@example.org and mail goes to Worth Mathewson, P.O. Box 130, Amity, OR 97101. Membership is not required to receive the first-duck pin and more information is available on the pin and this fine conservation organization at www.deltawaterfowl.org.
The 2018-19 statewide sandhill crane season begins Dec. 1 for those who have already drawn tags. Earlier this year the wildlife agency conducted a computer draw for crane hunting tags, but also held a hand-draw in an area of the state referred to by TWRA as the Southeast Crane Zone. Hunters in the statewide drawing were issued one tag (white) each, while those for the southeast zone only received three tags (blue).
Sandhill crane hunting statewide occurs Dec. 1 – Jan. 27. Hunting in the Southeast Crane Zone has a split season. The first segment is Dec. 1 – Jan. 17; the second is Jan. 21- 27. Daily hours of hunting are a half-hour before sunrise until 3 p.m. EST, 2 p.m. CST. Hunters with statewide tags can hunt in the southeast zone, but not during the closed portion of the zone’s split season.
Sandhill crane hunting has taken place in other states for years. However, it has only been since 2013 that hunters have been allowed to pursue them in Tennessee in the southeast zone. As sandhill crane populations have increased, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has granted TWRA wider latitude to provide hunting tags. The agency is closely monitoring the crane harvest, while also requiring hunters to learn how to differentiate sandhill cranes from the rare and protected whooping cranes. For more on this season go to www.state.tn.us/twra/article/sandhill-crane.
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); but must pay fees for special licenses, WMA permits and quota hunt applications.
Annual Senior Citizen Sportsman (Type 167): Costs $50 each year; no supplemental licenses are needed; no cost for non-quota hunt permits and quota hunt applications.
Permanent Senior Citizen Hunt/Fish/Trap (Type 166): costs $50 one time only; no supplemental licenses are needed; but must pay fees for special licenses, WMA permits and quota hunt applications.
East Tennessee deer hunters: The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be collecting deer biological data on opening day, Nov. 17, at various locations across East Tennessee. Data to be collected will include deer age estimates, antler measurements, and chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance samples at select locations.
With the advent of Internet checking and the “TWRA On The Go” mobile device application, fewer hunters are physically bringing deer to traditional checking stations. These newer methods for big game checking have made the process easier for hunters, but more difficult for TWRA to collect much needed data from harvested animals.
The data collected is important in aiding TWRA’s deer management decisions across the state. For more information and a list of participating checking stations, click here. For additional information, contact Wildlife Biologist Sterling Daniels by phone at 423-522-2445 or email at Sterling.Daniels@tn.gov.
Since 1998 Hunters for the Hungry has provided more than 6.5 million meals to Tennesseans in need. Hunters For The Hungry is positioned for another stellar year, including a special promotion by Knight Rifles: Anyone who donates a deer to the program in the 2018-2019 season will be entered into a drawing for one of four Knight Mountaineer muzzleloaders.
The 2018 season starts with more than 80 processors in 66 counties throughout Tennessee, and every processor has funds to accept 10 or more donated deer at no cost to the hunter. One donated deer provides as many as 168 venison meals for Tennesseans in need and is distributed to food banks and soup kitchens across the state. More than 600,000 meals were supplied by the program last year. The Tennessee Wildlife Federation sponsors the HFTH.
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. To donate money or learn more about other TWF programs, go to www.tnwf.org or call Matt Simcox at 615-353-1133.
High school students should check out the TWF’s Hunger Challenge, a competition amongst 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.
A complete list of participating processors and remaining funding quotas are available on the above TWF website.
The third and largest wave of deer hunters – gun season – begins Nov. 17. White-tailed deer are the most popular quarry in Tennessee. Traditionally the weekend before Thanksgiving is the opener for the gun deer season statewide. The dates this year are Nov. 17 – Jan. 6 in all of the big game units. Private lands in Unit L also have an antlerless season Jan. 7-11.
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. 2 only; Unit D is one through Nov. 23 only. Hunters may take an antlerless bag limit in each big game unit. Some hunters need a Type 094 permit to hunt does, but not Sportsman and Lifetime licenses or landowners on their own land.
The first of three quota deer hunts on the Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area was held on Nov. 3-4. For the second year the bag limit was increased to two does and one buck; and the harvest this year was an improvement over last year’s pitiful 32 deer, but still way below the normal take.
A total of 89 deer was taken, 56 bucks and 33 does. The largest buck field dressed at 171 pounds; the biggest rack was 12 points; the largest doe weighed 126 pounds. Two turkeys were taken, with the larger one weighing 22 pounds. No deer or turkey was retained for internal radiological contamination.
Last year the opening day for this first hunt saw heavy rain, which obviously discouraged hunters. A more typical harvest for the first hunt at Oak Ridge would be like the 2016 take of 131 deer; but the totals can vary dramatically. In 2015 there were only 86 deer taken and in 2014 the total was 238.
Tennessee has been awarded $37,916 in grant funding in 2018 to benefit elk habitat and hunting heritage efforts from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
“We are grateful for the support of our 2,200 members across Tennessee and our volunteers among eight chapters who dedicate their time and talents to raise these funds for elk and elk habitat in the Volunteer State,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO.
Since 1990 RMEF and its partners completed 100 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Tennessee with a combined value of more than $2 million. These projects protected or enhanced 77,805 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 74,000 acres.
RMEF also assisted with the successful restoration of wild, free-ranging elk onto their historic Tennessee range in 2000 and subsequent years. “There are more than 400 elk in Tennessee and they need quality habitat and forage openings that will allow the population to grow and expand its range,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “A major part of this 2018 funding is geared toward doing exactly that.” Here are the 2018 projects, listed by county:
Bedford County: Provide funding for an event hosted by RMEF’s Duck River Chapter in Shelbyville that offers education to youth about conservation, air rifle shooting and archery.
Campbell County: Convert 40 acres of young forest habitat to meadow forage openings as part of an effort to create an eight-mile wildlife habitat corridor southwest of the elk viewing tower at Hatfield Knob. The project aims to increase connectivity with existing habitat enhancement sites and expand the elk population on the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.
Also, provide funding to assist with seeding, fertilizing and noxious weed treatments across 34 acres to enhance habitat for elk and other wildlife immediately adjacent to the Hatfield Knob tower.
Monroe County: Provide Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) funding for Eco Days, a three-day camp in Tellico Plains for middle schoolers from across the county to learn about conservation, natural resources, forestry and wildlife while taking part in various outdoor activities.
White County: Provide funding for the purchase of air rifles and other supplies to benefit the White County 4-H air rifle team as it seeks to accommodate additional participants.
Tennessee project partners include the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Cherokee National Forest, Mildred Edwards Trust Fund and civic, sportsmen, and conservation organizations and groups. RMEF uses TFE funding solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 227,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.3 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org, elknetwork.com or phone 800-CALL ELK.
Ducks Unlimited has launched its inaugural National Scholarship Program offering graduating high school seniors who are DU members the opportunity to advance their education. Starting in 2018, DU will annually award 61, one-time scholarships, funded on an annual basis through the Youth & Education Endowment, to eligible applicants at the following levels: 50 Varsity Scholarships at $500 each, 10 Conservation Scholarships at $1,000 each, and one National Scholarship of $10,000.
The online application period is now open and will close on March 1. Applicants will need to provide their high school transcript, DU member/volunteer history and a list of any service or academic awards received. In addition, applicants will write a 300-word essay describing their most memorable outdoor experience and how it has impacted their view on conservation. All applications will be reviewed by DU's National Scholarship Selection Committee and recipients will be chosen based on the merits of those submissions.
The list of scholarship recipients will be sent to all applicants by April 15 with awarded checks released to the student's college or university prior to registration. Recipients will be recognized in Ducks Unlimited magazine, and the national scholarship winner will be announced at the DU National Convention. For more information visit www.ducks.org/scholarship or contact Mark Horobetz, at 901-758-3892, or email@example.com.
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. 16 – Feb. 28 (Note: The 2018-19 printed hunting guide has a misprinted opening date of Nov. 23).
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 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 14-16 of the 2018-19 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide for more details at www.tnwildlife.org.
Here come the ducks. The Ducks Unlimited Mobile App has new updates for 2018. The app is a big help for waterfowlers and it is free for your smart phone. You can track the fall migration of waterfowl so you know ahead of time where to go and when to go. There is a useful waterfowl identification gallery, plus breaking news, hunting reports, season and bag limit details, special DU events, videos, and hunting tips. Of course the website www.ducks.org has all that and more. Consider joining this fine waterfowl conservation organization.
The youth deer hunt and bear hunt was on Oct. 27-28. Young deer hunters took a total of 5,277 animals statewide, comprised of 2,650 antlered, 245 antlerless males and 2,382 females. This 2018 harvest is well below the 2017 figure of 6,418 and the 2016 total of 5,854.
This year’s counties with the top deer harvests for the first youth hunt were: Giles – 157, Lawrence – 140, Wayne – 126, Carroll – 116, and Weakley – 112.
The youth bear hunt harvest for all of the Bear Hunt Zones was three, all females and all taken with guns. Zone 1 contributed one bear and Zone 2 had two.