The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission held its first meeting of 2020 which included updates on chronic wasting disease (CWD), a preview of next year’s waterfowl and migratory hunting seasons, and Asian carp. The two-day meeting was held in the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Region II Ray Bell Building.
Chuck Yoest, TWRA’s CWD coordinator, reported that the number of CWD-positive and high-risk counties in southwest Tennessee has increased to seven and four, respectively.
Preliminary results from Unit CWD, indicate there was a decrease in the reported deer harvest of 18 percent compared to the 2018-19 season. This included a 7-percent decrease in bucks and a 30 percent decrease in does. In the highest CWD prevalence counties of Fayette and Hardeman, there was a 24 percent decrease in the reported harvest overall, including a 10 percent decrease for bucks and 37 percent decrease for does. Yoest shared concerns about these preliminary results emphasizing the need for an increased harvest in the CWD-affected counties.
To date, there have been a total of 648 CWD-positive deer detected in CWD counties since the disease was first detected in December 2018. During the recently completed 2019-20 deer season, 462 were detected. The vast majority of CWD-positive deer were harvested in Fayette and Hardeman counties. Preliminary results indicate these counties have experienced a statistically significant small increase in CWD prevalence since the 2018-19 deer season.
A preview of changes to the 2020-21 waterfowl and migratory game bird hunting seasons was presented. Discussion included changing crow hunting season to add more dates in January and February. The TWRA is proposing to offer two days of waterfowl hunting to veteran and military personnel, similar to what is currently offered for youth waterfowl hunt days. Federal frameworks for next year will require a bag limit reduction for scaup.
TWRA Fisheries Chief Frank Fiss announced that fisheries biologists had conducted additional surveys of Chickamauga Lake following last week’s first report of silver carp in the lake. No silver carp have been observed in these electrofishing surveys. He also provided an update on new federal funding for the control of Asian carp. In response to market prices, he also proposed a price increase for TWRA’s Asian Carp Harvest Incentive Program for the remainder of fiscal year 2020.
Michael May, TWRA’s Deputy Director for Business Operations, discussed Big Game E-Tagging. TWRA is promoting “Tag Before You Drag” where hunters will be required to tag their big game animal in the field prior to moving. They will be able to use the Agency’s mobile app to simply E-tag and report their harvest in the field in one easy step, with or without cell phone service, prior to dragging.
Hunters will also have the option to use temporary transport paper tags which takes two steps. With this option, hunters will physically tag their big game animal before dragging and then be required to report the harvest prior to midnight.
Ben West, director and professor, UT Institute of Agriculture/UT Foundation gave a status report on the Lone Oaks Farm shooting facility in Hardeman County.
TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter recognized Ron Crabtree. He is known for his effort with outreach and education programs and his efforts to restore bobwhite quail. As president of the Music City Chapter of Quail Forever, he has worked tirelessly with chapter members to promote habitat, recreation, and outreach efforts.
A presentation was made on the Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program. The Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s J.W. Worthen spoke about the program. The commission also heard from program participant and champion shooter Emma Williams on her experiences.