The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency presented its 2017-18 hunting seasons' proposals to its commission Wednesday, offering few recommended changes to its regulations.
Members of the TWRA Wildlife and Forestry Division made the presentations in regard to deer, turkey, and bear seasons. In addition, a history of the TWRA’s elk restoration efforts was presented for benefit of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission’s recently appointed five commissioners.
After hearing the proposals, the TFWC discussed the definition of an antlered deer. At last year’s season setting, the definition of what qualified as an antlered deer was changed to having any antler protruding above the hairline, rather than antlers above three inches in length. The commission will continue the discussion at its May meeting when the 2017-18 seasons are set.
The commission also plans to continue discussion on turkey bag limits at the next meeting.
While there were no changes recommended for the bear hunting seasons, it was proposed to implement standardized opening dates for the various bear seasons and hunt zones. TWRA has standardized opening dates for many other game species’ seasons.
Various changes were recommended on wildlife management areas, public hunting areas, and national wildlife refuges. A public comment period on the proposals will be open until May 15, and a link to the proposed changes will be available for viewing soon on the TWRA website.
During the deer season proposals, Assistant Chief of Wildlife Chuck Yoest shared the results of the most recent deer season. The total statewide reported deer harvest was 157,702 for 2016-17, with 86,007 bucks and 71,695 does taken by hunters. This was a six percent decrease from the previous year.
Results show a continued positive trend in an increased age structure of harvested bucks. Bucks 2.5-3.5 years old comprised the greatest proportion (57 percent) of those sampled by staff, an all-time high. Additionally, the proportion of fawns in the buck harvest continues to decline over time, and to a lesser extent yearling harvest is declining.
Mr. Yoest also presented information on the basics of chronic wasting disease (CWD). He detailed the distribution of the disease, reasons why hunters and the Agency do not want it in Tennessee, risk factors, and TWRA’s response plan if it were to ever be discovered in the state.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation presented a resolution at the TFWC March meeting regarding strategic planning for white-tailed deer management. Yoest shared a vision for the program and an approach to inclusively involve partners and other stakeholders, and develop a plan comprehensively informing the agency and the commission on activities regarding the deer program.
Before the meeting adjourned, TWRA Assistant Executive Director Barry Sumners was recognized for his service. He is retiring, effective April 28. Mr. Sumners joined the agency in 1979 as wildlife officer. He later became a wildlife manager before becoming the TWRA’s Chief of Planning and Federal Aid. He moved into his current position in 2013 and coordinated all staff operations while continuing the duties of coordinating the agency’s federal aid programs.
The TFWC will establish the hunting seasons at its next meeting to be held May 23-24 on the campus of Bryan College in Dayton.