2024-25 Hunting Regulations Set At April Commission Meeting

  • Saturday, April 20, 2024

The state’s 2024-25 hunting and trapping seasons were set by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission at its two-day April meeting. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s recommendations included simplifying regulations, improving consistency across the state, and increased opportunity for hunters.

The Commission approved a new deer hunting unit map which includes six deer units and a statewide antlered bag limit of two. Agency review of harvest data shows the expanded weapon types and seasons have not had an overall impact in Unit CWD where harvest has been slightly declining even with more liberal regulations. Overall, the average number of deer harvested per hunter has remained consistent with pre-CWD numbers. Therefore, the Commission supported the Agency proposal to remove the “Unit CWD” designation and simplify regulations across West Tennessee. Feeding and transport regulations in CWD positive counties are still in place, and CWD management and incentive programs such as CWD Landowner Management Permits and Earn-A-Buck are still available in CWD positive counties.

The Commission also approved a new turkey hunting unit map with five units. All five units will have the same season dates and a statewide bag limit of two bearded birds, one of which may be a jake. The Commission set the first weekend in April as the Young Sportsman Turkey Hunt and the second weekend as the full season opener. No bearded hens will be allowed for harvest and fall season will be closed in Wayne, Lawrence, Lincoln, Giles, Lake, Tipton, Haywood, Crockett, Lauderdale, Shelby, and Dyer counties.

The Commission approved the Agency’s proposals for two new wildlife refuges including Holly Fork Creek, a 125-acre property in Henry County, and Catoosa Ridge Refuge, a 1,750 acre property adjacent to Catoosa Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Cumberland County. The additions will increase opportunity by adding two new Youth Deer Hunts at Holly Fork Creek and additional small game hunting opportunity at Catoosa Ridge. Due to increased lease price, the Commission did not renew the lease for Arnold Hollow WMA in Wayne County, which will be closed to public access effective July 1, 2024.

Statewide WMA regulations were changed to now prohibit the placement of salt products, minerals, and other consumable products on WMAs. Dogs must also be restrained on WMAs unless hunting or training. Additional WMA specific regulations were made and will be published in the 2024-25 Tennessee Hunting and Fishing Guide.

Agency bear proposals were passed without changes from the March preview meeting.

In the Furbearer Hunting and Trapping regulations, the Commission voted to

remove the legal take of long-tailed weasels and spotted skunks due to their elevated status on the State Threatened and Endangered Species list.

The Commission also voted to create a night hunting season for coyotes and bobcats. Night hunting is on private land only and requires a hunting license and written landowner permission. The season will open the day after the end of deer season and run through the second Sunday in March then reopen the first Saturday in June through the second Sunday in August. Hunting hours are 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise. The limit for bobcats is one per night (the daytime limit of one bobcat is separate), and there is no limit on coyotes. Hunting with dogs is not allowed during the night season and only shotguns are allowed, no single projectiles. Night vision and thermal imaging equipment are allowed. Lights are allowed but not from or attached to a mechanized vehicle or cast from public road. Hand, mouth-operated, and electronic calls that imitate wounded prey or coyote calls are allowed. Additionally, the Agency clarified that depredation of animals causing damage is allowed for protection of personal property only.

No regulatory changes were proposed for migratory game bird season or bag limits, only date changes to reflect the 2024-25 calendar. The Commission voted to maintain the current split structure with Phase 2 opening on a Thursday and ending January 31.

In the regulations for the Take of Raptors for Falconry, the Commission moved to adjust the timing of allowable take of nestling Raptors to May 1 through July 31. Additionally, passage birds may be taken year round except for American Kestrels which may be taken August 15 through January 14 and Great Horned Owls which may be taken August 15 through October 31.

In other presentations, Region IV Fisheries Program Manager Jim Habera gave an update on Upper East Tennessee Tailwater Trout Fisheries. There are six tailwater fisheries in the area covering 65 miles. He explained the success of anglers and the challenges the Agency faces in management work.

Boating and Law Enforcement Lt. Col. Matt Majors made a presentation on wildlife officers making a variety of contributions outside of enforcing wildlife, fish, and boating regulations. Officers supply assistances to other agencies, organizations, and encounter situations outside their normal duties such as natural disaster aid, car accidents, and community support.

The 2023 Shikar-Safari Club International Tennessee Officer of the Year Award was presented to Jefferson County wildlife officer Justin Pinkston. He was honored for his work in wildlife enforcement, boating safety, and outreach events. The annual award from the conservation-based organization honors the officer whose efforts during the year show outstanding performance and achievement among TWRA law enforcement personnel.

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