The largest trout tournament in the Smokies, the 21st annual Smoky Mountains Trout Tournament, will take place on the weekend of Oct. 5-6 on 20 miles of the Little Pigeon River in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. At least 10,000 trout are stocked immediately prior to the event.
The top prizes will be $250 for the largest trout and $250 for the smallest trout. Other prizes will include trophies for the top three anglers in four divisions, cash awards, fishing equipment, and gift certificates to restaurants, hotels, and local attractions.
The entry fees are $25 for one day or $40 for both days. Cash prizes will go to the four divisions of adults and youths, both locals and tourists. Register or get more information at www.rockytopoutfitter.com, or call Rocky Top Outfitters at 865-661-3474.
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission approved updates to the state’s 2020-2022 fishing regulations at its recent September meeting in Nashville. The time-of-day restriction and one-pole limit on wild trout streams were removed. Wild caught trout from certain waters may only be used as bait in their home waters.
Some sport fishing regulations were changed in some smaller lakes, such as: Carroll, Graham, Glenn Springs, Pin Oak (in Natchez Trace S.P.), and Fort Patrick Henry. There will be bait restrictions on many more streams where the harvest, use and possession of crayfish are prohibited or limited to their home waters. For more details see the news section of www.tnwildlife.org.
The TFWC also reported on the second annual August “velvet antlered” deer hunt. This year’s statewide harvest was 586 compared to 798 last year. In the newly created Unit CWD in southwestern Tennessee, there was an increase from 36 bucks to 61. This year muzzleloaders were allowed in Unit CWD along with archery equipment.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission will implement Delayed Harvest Trout Waters regulations on 36 trout waters in 20 western North Carolina counties on Oct. 1.
Under Delayed Harvest Trout Waters regulations, no trout can be harvested or possessed from these waters between Oct. 1 and June 5, 2020. No natural bait may be possessed, and anglers can fish only with artificial lures with one single hook. An artificial lure is defined as a fishing lure that neither contains nor has been treated with any substance that attracts fish by the sense of taste or smell.
The Wildlife Commission stocks Delayed Harvest Trout Waters from fall through spring with high densities of trout to increase anglers’ chances of catching fish. Delayed Harvest Trout Waters, posted with diamond-shaped, black-and-white signs, are popular fishing destinations for anglers who enjoy catch-and-release trout fishing.
The Commission reminds anglers fishing Delayed Harvest Trout Waters to help prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species, such as whirling disease, gill lice and didymo, by:
Cleaning equipment of all aquatic plants and animals and mud.
Draining water from boat, live wells and equipment.
Drying equipment thoroughly.
Never moving fish, plants or other organisms from one body of water to another.
For a complete list of Delayed Harvest Trout Waters, stocking dates, information on regulations and trout fishing maps, visit the Commission’s trout fishing page. Get N.C. Wildlife Updates — news including season dates, bag limits, legislative updates and more — delivered free to your Inbox from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Go to www.ncwildlife.org/enews.
The Tennessee Fur Harvesters fall convention will be Oct. 4-6 at Fall Creek Falls State Park, Groupe Camp #2. Newcomers, veteran trappers and their families will enjoy the many seminars, contests, games and activities, live entertainment, storytellers, and supplies vendors.
Tent camping and primitive cabins are available. For more information contact John Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 423-595-0986 or see the website www.tfhaonline.net and select TFHA Annual Convention.
Here is a special opportunity for young hunters who have never taken a deer. A free hunt at Buffalo Ridge Refuge in deer-rich Humphreys County (Unit L) has been arranged again by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for Oct. 26, the opening day for the statewide youth deer hunt. Hunters age 10-16 with a hunter education certificate and accompanied by a non-hunting adult are eligible. A total of 30 licenses will be issued. Last year 18 of 30 hunters took their first deer.
There will be a free Friday night cookout and campout (participants must have their own camping gear), or hotels are nearby. Breakfast and lunch will also be served on Saturday. Treestands will be provided including three that are handicap accessible. The Unit L bag limit is two bucks (one buck per day) and three does per day.
Registration deadline is Oct. 15, when the lottery drawing will be held. Selected hunters will be notified by Oct. 18. Applications and more information are available on the TWRA website www.tnwildlife.org, by phoning Don Hosse at 615-781-6541, or by email to Don.Hosse@tn.gov. Applications can be mailed to TWRA, Youth Deer Hunt Giveaway, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204; or faxed to 615-781-6543.
Once again, our late summer is very hot and very dry – bad news for deer. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is receiving reports of dead deer in scattered areas of the state. The timing and details of the reports are all indicative of hemorrhagic disease (HD). HD occurs at varying levels of severity each year in white-tailed deer herds. The catch-all term for this disease is hemorrhagic disease (HD). Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bluetongue are closely related viruses that fall under the umbrella of HD.
In 2017 HD was moderately severe in East Tennessee and some other states in the Appalachian region. The last major outbreak of HD in Tennessee was in 2007 and involved virtually all of the state. Kentucky also had a severe outbreak in 2007.
HD is caused by a virus that is transmitted to deer from biting midges (gnats) or “no-see-ums.” It is not transmitted from deer to deer by contact. The virus causes fever, respiratory distress, and swelling of the neck or tongue. Not all deer exposed to the virus will die, but those that do usually do so within five to ten days of exposure, often seeking water as they try to drink and cool their bodies from the fever; they may appear lethargic and fearless of people. Incidences of HD usually peaks around mid-September and are usually done by mid-October with the onset of cold weather.
Often when HD becomes epidemic – the word is epizootic in animals – it is called EHD. It has been in the United States for more than 60 years; it does not affect people or pets. It should be noted that HD and EHD have nothing to do with chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is caused by a neurological prion and is incurable.
Consider joining the Anglers for the Bahamas campaign as it races toward $4 million in support of the island nation devastated by Hurricane Dorian; plus, there is an additional $1 million personal donation and challenge from Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.
In its first four days alone, 81,000 anglers have donated through Anglers for the Bahamas to help the people of the Bahamas by uniting with worldwide relief leader, Convoy of Hope, a highly regarded 501(C)(3 not-for-profit charity with emergency responders currently on the front lines throughout the Bahamas.
At all Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores, customers can round up their purchases or make an additional donation at registers. To encourage even broader support, customers who donate at least $5 or more in Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores will receive a limited-edition Anglers for the Bahamas bumper sticker. Johnny Morris will be adding to these contributions at 25 percent. To donate directly to relief efforts, please visit www.AnglersForTheBahamas.org.
Would you believe a shorty 12 ga. 1 ¾-inch shotshell? It is officially here. Federal Cartridge Co. submitted the “12-gauge 1 ¾-inch Smooth Bore Barrel” cartridge and chamber designs to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI), and it was just approved as an official new cartridge.
“This is big news for our new Shorty Shotshell ammunition,” said Federal’s Shotshell Product Director Rick Stoeckel. “The 12-gauge 1 ¾-inch cartridge has been around for more than a decade, but it was never brought to SAAMI to be considered by its Technical Committee. Once we decided to start manufacturing this load, we immediately submitted it to SAAMI for industry standardization. We’re excited about this approval and we deeply appreciate SAAMI’s support.”
Federal’s new Shorty Shotshells deliver similar full-sized performance without the length of standard shells. Although just 1 ¾-inch long, new Shorty shotshells offer similar patterns, energy and accuracy as full-size counterparts. Now available in 8 shot, 4 buck and rifled slug loads perfect for fun at the range.
“SAAMI’s approval of the cartridge was a crucial step in legitimizing it within the industry,” continued Stoeckel. “Their work creates industry standards for the cartridge, and will hopefully inspire shotgun manufacturers to purposely build pump-action and semi-auto shotguns to specifically run 1 ¾-inch loads.”
SAAMI allows free access to technical data and drawings for accepted cartridge and chamber designs. These are posted within New SAAMI Cartridge & Chamber Designs under their Technical Information section, found at www.saami.org. A direct link to the 12-gauge 1 ¾-inch Smooth Bore Barrel Cartridge .PDF document can be viewed here.
The generous community-support program Hunters For The Hungry (HFTH) is positioned for another stellar year. The 2019 season starts with more than 80 processors in 66 counties throughout Tennessee, and every processor has funds to accept donated deer at no cost to the hunter.
One donated deer provides as many as 168 protein 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.
Hunters can drop off a whole deer donation at no personal cost. Each year HFTH covers tens of thousands of dollars in processing fees for donations. If deer donations surpass available funding for this season, hunters can pay a reduced, $50 processing fee. A complete list of participating processors is available on the above TWF website.
Hunters for the Hungry will test – through the TWRA – every deer donated within Unit CWD for chronic wasting disease, as well as many of the donations made in Region 1. Only whole deer donations will be accepted in Unit CWD and the counties that border it. Pound or Pack donations, which allow hunters to give a portion of their harvest, will continue to be accepted in the rest of the state.
In an abundance of caution, HFTH will discard all donations that test positive for CWD. There is no evidence CWD is transmitted to humans but the CDC still recommends against eating CWD-positive meat. For more information about HFTH, visit www.tnwf.org/HuntersForTheHungry.
The traditional opening date for archery deer hunting is the fourth Saturday of September. The first segment is Sept. 28 – Oct. 25; then, after a respite weekend (Oct. 26-27) for the first youth deer hunt, the second archery segment is Oct. 28 – Nov. 8. All the regular big game units, A, B, C, D, and L have the same dates; all of the regular units – except L – have the same bag limits: Two antlered and four antlerless. Unit L bag limits are two antlered per season and three antlerless per day. Those two bucks are the season maximum for all weapons, gun and muzzleloader included.
The new Unit CDL is the eight counties in the southwest corner of the state: Shelby, Fayette, Hardeman, McNairy, Tipton, Haywood, Madison, and Chester. The CDL archery-only season is Sept. 28 – Oct. 25. After the Young Sportsmen weekend, the muzzleloader and archery segment is Oct. 28 – Nov. 8. Gun, muzzleloader and archery segment is Nov. 9 – Jan. 5. The Private Lands hunt is Jan. 6-10.
Also, archery fall turkey occurs on Sept. 28 – Oct. 25 and Oct. 28 – Nov. 8 in most counties (see page 43 of the 2019 hunting guide). Shotgun is allowed for turkey Oct. 12-25. The season limit is one bearded bird per county, no hens.
And, bear hunting begins on Sept. 28. The archery season is Sept. 28 – Oct. 25, without dogs, for all of the Bear Hunting Zones: BHZ1 – BHZ4 and Transitional. The annual bag limit is one bear either-sex, sows without cubs.
Next, bear hunting with dogs and all weapons opens in three zones: Oct. 12-18 in BHZ2, which includes Blount, Cocke (south of I-40), Jefferson (east of Hwy 411), and Sevier counties; Oct. 5-13 in BHZ3, which is McMinn (east of Hwy 411), Monroe and northeastern Polk counties; Oct. 5-7 and Oct. 12-13 in BHZ1, which is Carter, Cocke (north of I-40), Greene, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties. The later bear hunts will be listed here soon, but you can see them all on page 40 of the 2019 hunting guide.
The 2019 autumnal (September) equinox occurs on Monday, Sept. 23 at 3:50 a.m. EDT, when the Sun is positioned directly over the Earth’s equator and moving south. In other words, the Earth’s rotational axis is perpendicular to the Sun.
Daylight is waning rapidly every day. In late September the Sun rises (due east) nearly one minute later every day, and the Sun sets (due west) about one-and-a-half minutes earlier every day. For East Tennessee sunrise will be at 7:24 a.m. and sunset will be at 7:31 p.m. The actual “equinox” or equal periods of day and night does not occur in this area until Sept. 26.
The animals sense autumn instinctively. It triggers mating in deer, migration in waterfowl and other birds, and hibernation activities in bears and groundhogs.
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.
EDITORIAL: Walmart Never Was a Gun Store
By RICHARD MANN, in The Hunting Wire email@example.com
A lot of folks are outraged at Walmart discontinuing the sale of ARs and now certain kinds of ammunition. I guess they feel like this monster corporation has betrayed them, and that we should boycott or punish them for not supporting the Second Amendment. Well, um, we should have never started buying our gun stuff there in the first place. We abandoned real gun stores for convenience, and to save a couple dollars. Gun stores went out of business, and here we are.
I could not care less. In fact, it would not bother me if Walmart stopped selling guns, and gun and hunting related accessories all together.
They’ve never been a real gun/hunting store anyway. Though I’m sure there are exceptions, those behind the counter are, in most cases, not qualified to sell or even handle a gun, and I doubt any of them know the difference between a caliber and a cartridge. And based on my experience; their enthusiasm for customer care almost equals my interest in cat videos.
We’ve seen the death of the local gun shop. With that, we’ve lost places where real and practical knowledge could be dispensed. Walmart has contributed to this near extinction; they retail firearms so cheaply the local guy cannot compete. (Few realize how small profit margins are on guns.) What they fail to deliver is service—service before, during, and most importantly, after the sale. And those conducting the sale do not have the experience to get that feeling when someone is trying to buy a gun with possible bad intentions in mind. (You do realize an FFL dealer can deny a sale to anyone they think might be a danger, don’t you? Local gun shop owners take this seriously.)
And then there’s the knowledge they do not possess to share. Local gun shops are operated by folks who are experienced with, and passionate about, what they do and the things they sell. That passion carries over to the customer. The absence of that passion is like a cancer to the gun and hunting industry. It’s why Walmart could care less about your firearms or hunting interests—they have none of their own. It’s also the reason some gun manufactures are struggling; they hired management types from other industries who lack our passion.
Be mad at Walmart if you like, I could not care less what they sell. When I buy gun stuff I’m going to buy it from a guy who smells like Hoppe’s #9; a guy who was installing a trigger on a rifle that morning; a guy who closed his shop early yesterday to go to the range; a guy who frequently has a shop full of like-minded folks bitching about anti-gunners; a guy who knows what a pre-64 model 70 is; knows who Jeff Cooper was; and who actually gives a damn if I hit what I shoot at, or ever come back in his shop again.
With this help from Walmart the local gun shop can once again be real. With all the new gun owners in our ranks, they’ve never been needed more than right now! You think Walmart is a gun store? Well, bless your heart. You’ve never been in a real gun store, have you?
Reminder: The public comment period ends Sept. 12 for the new sport fishing regulations for 2020-2022. These proposed changes occur biannually now. To see all of the proposed changes, go to the news section at www.tnwildlife.org. Following is a summary.
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 can be harvested, 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 to firstname.lastname@example.org with “2020-22 Fish Comments” in the subject line. The Commission will vote on the sport fish and commercial fish regulations at its September meeting.
A deer collected in Tipton County has tested suspect positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). If confirmed, this would change Tipton County from being a high-risk CWD county to a CWD positive county.
Tipton County is already a part of Unit CWD, therefore deer carcass exportation and wildlife feeding restrictions already apply there, as well as the Unit CWD hunting regulations. If confirmed CWD-positive, the only change will be the reclassification to CWD positive and, as a result, an automatic slight modification to the carcass exportation restrictions there.
“We are sampling for CWD heavily in and around Unit CWD and, as a result, expect to find many more positive deer this season, as compared to the 186 found at the end of last deer season,” said Chuck Yoest CWD coordinator for the TWRA. “TWRA also expects more of the four remaining high-risk counties to be reclassified to positive once the agency has a more complete understanding of CWD. This is not due to matters quickly getting worse. It is due to the greater focus and increased sampling. We encourage people to visit CWDinTennessee.com to know the latest, as new information will available as deer season continues.”
The sample came from a 3.5-year-old doe that appeared sick. The sampling location was approximately eight miles from the Arkansas border. Tipton County was the last of eight southwestern Tennessee counties added to the newly-created Unit CWD. The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission established Unit CWD and instituted deer carcass exportation and wildlife feeding restrictions there to help prevent the spread of the disease. The Commission also modified hunting regulations in the counties to best manage CWD in Tennessee.
Supplemental feeding of wildlife is banned in Unit CWD. The placement of grains, salt products, and other consumable natural and manufactured products for wildlife is prohibited. The ban does not apply to feed placed within 100 feet of a residence, feed placed in a manner not accessible to deer, or feed and minerals as the result of normal agricultural practices. Food plots are still legal in Unit CWD.
September and October are the best months to see Tennessee elk. The rut is underway, which means lots of animal movement, mating activity and the haunting bugle of the bull elk day and night.
The free-range Tennessee elk are on the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area about 40 miles north of Knoxville. There are two good wild viewing places, in the Royal Blue and the Sundquist units of North Cumberland.
Perhaps the easiest place to go is the elk-viewing pavilion at Hatfield Knob on Peabody Mountain in Campbell County. Elk are frequenting the area mostly in the mornings and evenings. Directions: I-75 north to Caryville, then take U.S. 25W to LaFollette and about 6.5 miles past. Immediately after topping the mountain turn left at the sign onto a gravel road and go about 4.5 miles to the parking area. The pavilion is about a one-third mile walk.
The original elk release site is in Scott County at Montgomery Junction on Massengill Mountain, near the community of Norma. To get there take I-75 north to exit 141 (Oneida/Huntsville); go west on Hwy 63 for 11.5 miles and then left on Norma Road, going about five miles to a left turn onto Montgomery Creek Road. About a mile further is the original release site, a good place to begin slowly driving and listening and glassing [Note: A few elk hunters will be hunting here from Sept. 28 – Oct. 18].
There is another site in West Tennessee at the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The Elk & Bison Prairie is open seven days a week, from dawn to dusk, and features a 3.5-mile paved loop with interpretive stops along the drive. Passes cost five dollars per vehicle and can be purchased at the Elk & Bison Prairie entrance gate or at any Land Between the Lakes day-use facility.
Elk can be seen anytime but viewing is best in the mornings and evenings. Recommended equipment includes binoculars, cameras and insect repellant. For those going off-road, watch for poisonous snakes since they are quite active right now. Also, check out the live Tennessee elk cam at Hatfield Knob here.
The main elk herd in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in the Cataloochee area on the North Carolina side. Contact the Park headquarters for the best viewing opportunities; go to www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/elk.
Raccoon and opossum hunting open statewide on Thursday evening, Sept. 19 and run through sunrise Feb. 29. The daily bag limit on raccoons is two per person per night; there is no limit on opossum. Hunting is closed in Scott, Morgan, Roane, Rhea, Hamilton, and all counties east.
The application period for Tennessee’s statewide sandhill crane hunt is underway and will continue through Sept. 25. About 1,566 permits (two per hunter) will be issued through the computerized draw, plus 147 tags not issued in the August hand-drawn event. These tags are valid statewide, including the Southeast Sandhill Crane Zone.
The statewide sandhill hunting season is Dec. 7 – Jan. 21; however, the season is closed in the Southeast Zone from Jan. 17-19. Your application for the sandhill crane hunt can be made online on the TWRA website www.gooutdoorstennessee.com. Applications can also be made at license agencies or any of the four TWRA regional offices. In addition, hunters can also apply for waterfowl blinds on selected wildlife management areas.
The application period for the TWRA’s computerized drawings for duck pools and blind sites is Sept. 4-25. The blinds are located in the following areas: Bogota and Thorny Cypress WMAs in Dyer County, Gooch Unit E, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, White Oak (Lebanon Pond area in Hardin County), and the four units on the Chickamauga WMA (Candies Creek, Johnson Bottoms, Rogers Creek, and Yellow Creek.
Paper applications are available online or at license agencies and TWRA regional offices, but they must be delivered to a license agency and cannot be mailed in. The form resembles those for WMA quota deer hunts, except for group filings; however, each successful hunter may bring up to four guests to the duck blind each day. For those unsuccessful the Priority Drawing System is available for better luck next time.
Five hunters are allowed per pool/blind. Also, parties of up to five are allowed to apply together, instead of only individually. This means that five hunters, who apply as a party, will have five chances of being drawn. To apply or for more information go to www.gooutdoorstennessee.com; or telephone TWRA’s Region III office at 800-262-6704.
Now that the squirrel and dove seasons are underway, the September parade of hunting seasons is fast approaching. Wood duck and teal seasons are Sept. 14-18 with a limit of six, maximum two woodies. Teal continues Sept. 19-22 without wood ducks. And, Canada goose continues through Sept. 22 with a limit of five.
Statewide raccoon/opossum hunting for public lands begins at sunset on Sept. 19 and runs until Feb. 29; and, last but not least, archery deer begins on Sept. 28, as does archery bear. More details on these seasons as they arrive.
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.