TN Attorney General Issues Opinion on Hunting in Cities

Tuesday, June 19, 2001 - by Richard Simms

It is legal to hunt inside metropolitian city limits.

That’s the opinion of the Tennessee Attorney General.

As long as you are on your own land or have permission from the landowner, are using an appropriate firearm, possess a hunting license and hunt in season, then hunting is legal anywhere in Tennessee. Put simply, the state's hunting laws supersede local ordinances.

The opinion follows a legislative battle when a couple of bills were introduced by Representative Gary Odum to give cities the ability to limit hunting in urban settings.

"It's a matter of common sense that you don't want people deer hunting in a subdivision with children about or shooting the squirrel off a bird feeder," said Rae Bond, executive director of the Tennessee Municipal League. Bond also said her organization wants cities to be able to enforce their no-shooting ordinances for safety reasons.

The Tennessee Wildlife resources Agency actively lobbied against the bills. “The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is contacted routinely by homeowners with complaints about deer damage to landscaping as well as concerns about deer/vehicle collisions on our busy road ways,” said Dave Woodward, TWRA Chief of Information. “he combined harvest of deer in Hamilton, Knox, Davidson and Shelby counties was 2,728 in the 2000 hunting season. If anything, we need to increase the harvest of deer in these areas in order to curb population growth and maintain a balanced herd.”

"We certainly believe a landowner should be able to hunt legally on his own property or with permission of the landowner," said Allen Gebhardt, assistant director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. "Our contention is that a hunter who would do something like that (shoot at animals in a populated area) is probably someone who'd hunt illegally anyway."

Even local law enforcement officials were surprised to hear about the attorney general's opinion that local anti-shooting ordinances are legally unenforceable in "hunting" situations.

In Memphis, police enforce those ordinances when they can by issuing citations or making an arrest and confiscating weapons. "We have an ordinance, and we enforce it," said Memphis police spokesman LaTanya Able. "When it's big game, and some people do shoot at deer, we call the game and fish people."

There are plenty of legitimate reasons that a person would want to shoot a wild animal on his own property in the city, said Gebhardt. "What about the guy who has a squirrel in his attic and wants to take out his .22 and get rid of it? Should we prevent him from doing that?"

For now, the Tennessee Attorney General says city governments can’t.

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