The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission has made changes to deer hunting regulations in continued response to chronic wasting disease (CWD) which was found in three southwestern Tennessee counties last winter.
The commission approved the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s recommendation to establish a new CWD deer hunting unit for the counties in which we have found CWD-positive deer (Fayette, Hardeman, and Madison) and counties within 10 miles of a positive CWD deer location (Chester, Haywood, McNairy, Shelby and Tipton). The goal of these modified regulations in unit CWD is to keep CWD from spreading and to keep the number of infected deer to a minimum.
For the three-day August (23-25) deer hunt, muzzleloaders were authorized, in addition to archery, for use in Unit CWD. Selected public lands will also be open to hunting in Unit CWD for the August season.
Other major outcomes of the commission’s actions include:
· Earn-A-Buck Program - Hunters are entitled to additional antlered deer through a new “Earn-a-buck Program” in Unit CWD. A buck may be earned by harvesting two (2) antlerless deer in Unit CWD and submitting both for CWD testing. This may be done twice for a total of 2 earned bucks to be harvested in Unit CWD during the 2019-2020 season.
· Replacement Bucks - Unit CWD hunters are entitled to replacement bucks if they harvest a CWD-positive buck and the lab result in confirmed by TWRA.
· Extended Seasons - Unit CWD muzzleloader and gun season dates have been extended from the traditional statewide season dates. Archery-only dates will be Sept. 28-Oct. 25. Muzzleloader/archery will be Oct. 28-Nov. 8 and gun/muzzleloader/archery will be Nov. 9-Jan. 5, 2020.
· Antlered harvest, in addition to antlerless, was authorized for the January 5-day, private lands-only hunt, Jan. 6-10, 2020.
· Mandatory Check Weekends in Unit CWD will be Nov. 2-3 and Nov. 9-10.
In other business, a report on 2018-19 big game hunting seasons was given. Seven archery, seven gun, and one young sportsman elk permits are issued. All seven archery hunters, four gun hunters and the young sportsman were successful.
The bear season had a record harvest of 762 animals. Four of the five bear hunt zones had their best years.
The state’s total deer harvest was close to 147,682, a slight increase over 2017-18. The recently-completed spring turkey season harvest was back above the 30,000 mark, 11 percent above 2018.
An overview of the state’s biodiversity program was presented. Tennessee is the nation’s most wildlife- diverse inland state. Much of the diversity is attributed to the habitats ranging from bottomlands and wetlands in the west to the mountains in the east. Tennessee also has more than 60,000 miles of streams.
A preview to the Fish Dealer Rule was given regulates fish farmers, bait dealers, and catch-out operations will be revisited. The changes would address invasive species issues and specify approved fish species by scientific name rather than generic phrases like “native fish” or “trout.”
The first session of the 111th General Assembly, which concluded earlier this month, was reviewed. One of the amendments passed requires persons who rent motorized watercraft be given an orientation for the specific type of vessel being rented. Tennessee residents who have successfully completed a monitored National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) exam and hold the TWRA-issued wallet certification card are exempt from this orientation.
An Outreach and Communications Division quarterly report was given. The report outlined license sales, media coverage, emails communications, social media stats, regional outreach efforts, and a summary of things this quarter.
The two-day meeting concluded Friday at the TWRA Region II Ray Bell Building.