The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission established the 2012-13 waterfowl hunting seasons during its August meeting which concluded Friday at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Region II Ray Bell Building.
The governing body of the TWRA was meeting for the first time as the Tennessee Fish and Game Commission, with the exception of a brief meeting in July to elect its officers. The commission assumed its new name on July 1.
The commission approved the late waterfowl season proposals made by the TWRA. One of the biggest changes waterfowl hunters will see this year is in regard to the youth waterfowl season.
The youth waterfowl season in the Statewide Zone and Reelfoot Zone will be split into two one-day hunts on consecutive Saturdays, rather than a Saturday-Sunday format. The dates in 2013 will be Feb. 2 and 9 for youth ages 6-15.
The other waterfowl seasons will reflect mostly calendar date changes from recent years. There will again be a 60-day season for 2012-13 duck hunting, with one split. The season will end Jan. 27, 2013 and a 6-duck bag limit.
The Statewide Zone duck hunting seasons to be held are Nov. 24-25 and Dec.1-Jan. 27 while the Reelfoot Zone dates are Nov. 10-11 and Dec. 1-Jan. 27. The seasons will maximize the number of weekends open to duck hunting and will end on the latest date allowed (the last Sunday in January).
The number of days allowed for Canada goose hunting seasons has been extended by six days in each of the zones. The daily bag limit for Canada goose has also increased to three from two in all zones.
TWRA waterfowl coordinator Tim White said officials report that habitat conditions in the Prairie Pothole region of the United States and Canada began with a dry spring, but increased rainfall in Canada this summer should be a big boost to the broods. He reported that waterfowl harvests in Tennessee were estimated at almost 198,000 last year. The TWRA recommendations follow the maximum USFWS frameworks regarding duck bag limits. A daily bag limit of six ducks may include no more than: four mallards (no more than two of which may be a hen), three wood ducks (during the late waterfowl season only), four scaup (an increase of two from last year), two pintails, one canvasback, and one black duck. The daily bag limit of merganser would be five, only two which may be hooded mergansers.
The maximum number of days allowed within in the federal framework for goose hunting seasons will be in effect. Goose seasons are set as late as federal frameworks allow in order to take advantage of any migratory geese that may be available in late winter.
Season dates for Canada geese are Oct. 13-Oct. 30, Nov. 24-25, and Dec. 1-Jan. 27, 2013 in the Statewide Zone. In the Northwest Zone, the dates are Oct. 13-16, Nov. 10-11, and Dec. 1-Feb. 10. The daily bag limit is 3 per person.
The white-fronted goose season runs statewide from Dec. 1-Feb. 10. The daily bag limit is two per person.
Season dates and bag limits for light geese (snow, blue, Ross) are similar to last season with a shift for the calendar. The standard season will run from Nov. 24 through Feb. 10, 2013 (standard regulations apply). Federal Conservation Order provisions allow the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns for the Feb. 11 through March 10, 2013 portion of the season. The daily bag limit of light geese is 20 per person, per day during the conservation season.
Bobby Wilson, Fisheries Division chief, gave a preview of the 2013-14 sport fishing regulations. The complete proposals for next year will be outlined in a release early next week. Sport fishing regulations are usually established during the October meeting of the TWRC. Also, Wilson gave proposals with relatively minor changes in regard to the commercial fishing proclamation.
Wildlife and Forestry Division Chief Daryl Ratajczak gave the commission an update on the two remaining elk tags. The four participants who had their names drawn were announced at the June meeting.
The fifth participant for the elk hunt Oct. 15-19 will be the recipient of a permit that is donated to a Non-Governmental Organization, which this year was the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. The foundation held an online auction in July and Walt Kimberlin of Oak Ridge was awarded the final permit with a bid of $6,800. Fund-raising proceeds are designated for the TWRA Elk Program. At the recently-held Land and Wildlife Expo, 14-year old Jessica Parkins, of Greeneville, was announced as the winner of the permit to participate in the inaugural Tennessee Young Sportsman Elk Hunt to be held Oct. 20-21.
The TWRC will next meet in Nashville on Sept. 27-28. Committee meetings will start at 1 p.m. on Thursday and the formal commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday.