The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission established the 2017-18 waterfowl and other migratory bird hunting seasons at its February meeting. The TFWC also elected its new officers for the coming year.
The actions occurred at the TFWC’s two-day meeting which concluded Friday afternoon at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Region II Ray Bell Building.
The TFWC approved the TWRA’s recommendation to establish an operational sandhill crane hunting season. For the past four years, an experimental sandhill crane hunting season has been held in a limited area in East Tennessee. TFWC also approved the TWRA’s recommendation to expand the season statewide.
For the East Tennessee sandhill hunting zone, there will be 1,200 tags issued to 400 hunters. For statewide, there will be 1,119 tags available at one tag per hunter. The East zone will have hand-held drawing in early August while the statewide season tags will be issued by computer drawing at a date to be announced later.
The commission approved the TWRA’s proposal for a two-week shift in the American Woodcock season. The change moved the season from an October start to the second Saturday of November. Other traditional migratory game bird seasons will remain intact with only date changes and these will be posted on the TWRA website in early May.
There is a change in bag limits for northern pintails. There will be a reduction from two to one pintail daily. The black duck bag limit will see its first increase in more than 30 years going from one bird to two per day.
The commission had asked the TWRA to investigate the potential cost of implementing a big game harvest survey, and a tagging program that was once used statewide. The agency presented four tagging options with no action being taken.
The Information Technology Division’s 2016 Professional of the Year, Zainab Latiff, was introduced to the commission. She serves as a lead programmer analyst for the division and was chosen from three other quarterly winners.
Joe Benedict, assistant chief of Wildlife and Forestry, provided an overview of several alternative big game harvest tagging options and a harvest survey along with cost estimates that could be considered to achieve the goals of improved game check-in compliance and more precise harvest data. The commission chose not to take action on any of the options.
Budget expansions passed by the commission included a five-year contract with the University of Tennessee for services of an extension wildlife veterinarian to address the growing demand of professional wildlife disease work. Also approved was a two-year increase in funding to Ducks Unlimited/Canada for wetlands restoration work that helps breeding waterfowl that migrate through Tennessee. In addition, other expansions were a black bear research project expansion in the Gatlinburg-Great Smoky Mountains National Park area, and another to accept funds from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for private lands habitat improvement for species of conservation concern.
The TFWC elected its new officers for 2017-18. Jamie Woodson (Lebanon) will now serve as chair. David Watson (Lookout Mountain) moves from secretary to serve as vice chair. Kurt Holbert (Decaturville) was elected as the TFWC’s new secretary.
Chair Woodson replaced Harold Cannon (Lenoir City) who served in the role this past year. He was presented a plaque of appreciation for his service as chairman.
The February meeting was the final for five commissioners who were recognized near the conclusion of the meeting. Along with Chairman Cannon, also concluding their appointments are Jim Bledsoe (Jamestown), Dr. Jeff McMillin (Bristol), Jim Ripley (Sevierville), and Trey Teague (Jackson).