(Updated June 4, 2018)
TFWC establishes two-year hunting seasons
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC) established the state's 2018-19 and 2019-20 hunting and trapping seasons at its May meeting at Nashville. The TFWC serves as the governing body of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The commission's actions, which include season dates, bag limits, and rules and regulations, go into effect July 1. It marks the first time that the regulations will be effective for two years rather than one year. Among changes made was the addition of a three-day, archery-only antlered deer hunt Aug. 24-26. The commission had been requested to consider the season so that hunters can have an opportunity to harvest deer while they still have velvet covered antlers.
In addition, the 13-member body approved an agency recommendation to return to a previous definition of what constitutes an antlered deer. For the last two deer seasons, any deer with antlers above its hairline was considered an antlered deer. Now, antlered deer are defined as "male or female deer with antlers that are minimum of three inches in length." Hunters had indicated to TWRA that they preferred the 3-inch rule and that was one of the several reasons why the agency proposed returning to the traditional definition. Among the various changes on WMAs, deer seasons were restructured on Cheatham WMA. On Wolf River WMA, deer hunting opportunities were expanded.
With concerns for a recent dip in the wild turkey harvest, the TFWC also voted to limit the fall turkey hunting seasons to bearded birds only, dropping the harvest of hens during the fall. The spring turkey season will remain the same as it has been in recent years, allowing a four bearded bird bag limit.
While it will not become law until July 1, 2019, the commission, noting concerns over the potential of Chronic Wasting Disease finding its way into Tennessee, voted to ban the use of cervid lures with urine. There is concern nationwide that the disease could be passed through tainted urine. Synthetic deer and elk lures, readily available on the market, would still be legal.
The TWFC also voted to make the use of aerial drones illegal for the purpose of hunting during its discussion on "manner and means," which includes equipment legal to use while hunting or trapping. It also legalized the use of pneumatic devices (air guns) only for licensed disabled hunters during the state's archery-only seasons. The device will also be legal for everyone during the modern gun hunt, but not during the state's muzzleloader season.
Elk permit available at $10 each
A permit to participate in the 2018 Tennessee elk hunt will be available for the first time through a raffle to be held by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation (TWRF). Individuals will be able to purchase a ticket for $10 each and there is no limit to the number of tickets that can be purchased. Since the elk hunt was implemented in 2009, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has donated a permit to a Non-Governmental Organization to join other participants who will be chosen from a computer drawing. The raffle for the permit replaces an online auction previously held to determine the additional participant. The raffle drawing will be held Aug. 15 and the winner announced at the Aug. 24 meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission in Nashville. The raffle winner will join the computer drawing winners in the 2018 hunt in October at one of the elk hunting zones on North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area. In addition to the permit, the raffle winner will receive a new Tikka T3X Lite Stainless bolt-action rifle in 7mm Remington Mag. It is topped with an Oculus Pro Team HD 3x9x40 mm rifle scope.
To purchase tickets for the raffle, visit the TWRF website at http://www.twrf.net/store/2018-elk-tag-raffle. All proceeds from the raffle will go exclusively to the elk restoration program. TWRF is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting habitat conservation, responsible land stewardship, and Tennessee's hunting and fishing heritage for the benefit of TWRA and Tennessee's outdoor enthusiasts.
Fishing events underway across Tennessee
Special fishing events are being held this spring and summer across Tennessee. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is among several organizations planning special fishing events, primarily for youngsters. The TWRA annually stocks several thousand pounds of fish for various events. For a list of events, visit the TWRA website at www.tnwildlife.org and the For Anglers section. Anglers and potential anglers should check the events list often since special events are frequently added.
Tennessee will host its 2018 Free Fishing Day on Saturday, June 9. The day allows anyone the opportunity to try this great outdoor sport, especially children to celebrate fishing as a wholesome and healthy recreational option. Numerous events are schedule for Free Fishing Day. In addition, children ages 15 and younger may fish without a license beginning on Free Fishing Day through the following Friday (June 15).
29 lucky hunters and a festival, too
Twenty-nine lucky hunters will find out if their application for an Arkansas elk permit was successful at the Buffalo River Elk Festival, June 23. Biologists are trying to make it easier for the rest of us wanting to take an Arkansas elk that are willing to put in a little legwork and handshaking to make it happen. Beginning May 15, Private Land Elk Permits will be available on www.agfc.com.
Private land elk hunts always have been a bit of a challenge to participate. A certain number of tags were given to landowners who met specific acreage requirements based on survey data and information submitted to the AGFC Elk Program. Landowners then had to choose which person would get each tag.
"We're routing all permit applications through the online license system," said Wes Wright, elk program coordinator. "The application fee will be reduced from $35 to $5, any hunter will be able to purchase a private land elk tag from May 15 until the day of their hunt. It will be up to them to acquire the landowner's permission."
The quota typically is 12 bulls and 40 antlerless elk," Wright said. "Hunters must call the Wildlife Hotline (1-800-440-1477) each morning to find out if the quota has been reached. Once it has, the season is closed."
Moon Lake Reopened to Recreational Boating
Moon Lake in Coahoma County has been reopened to recreational boating and fishing. Moon Lake was closed due to flood waters causing safety issues and to prevent further damage to homes and property. Moon Lake will remain a No Wake Zone (Dead Slow) until water levels return to a safe level. Boaters should continue to exercise caution and good judgment to prevent further damage to property. For more information visit www.mdwfp.com or call (601) 432-2200.
CWD collections continue
More than 1,400 white-tailed deer samples have been collected in Mississippi since October 1, 2017; 574 of those deer samples were collected from Mississippi's 25-mile Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Management Zone which encompasses Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren, and Yazoo counties.
Only one deer has tested positive for CWD which was collected on January 25, in Issaquena County. The deer was a 4.5-year-old male that died of natural causes and was reported to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP). Recently, a secondary test on tissue from the CWD positive buck was returned further confirming the deer was CWD positive. To date, all other deer samples from Mississippi submitted for testing have been returned as not detected for CWD.
In addition, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has sampled deer within the portion of the 25-mile CWD Management Zone, which lies across the Mississippi River. All tests submitted by LDWF were returned as not detected for CWD.
Process for issuing Alligator permits remains the same for 2018
The statewide public waters alligator season will offer 930 permits within 7 hunting zones across the state for the 10-day season, August 31 - September 10. The process for issuing permits will remain the same as in 2017--an electronic application process followed by a random drawing of applicants. Applications will be accepted from June 1-7, via the MDWFP website. The first drawing will take place on or about June 13.
A private lands alligator hunting season is available to landowners whose properties meet specific qualifications within 34 open counties. Grenada County has been added for the private lands season for 2018. Applications and instructions for private lands permits are available online. Applications with all required documents are accepted by mail to the Jackson Central Office beginning May 1 and must be submitted by July 1.
It's that time again – Hand-grabbing season for catfish
Hand grabbing for catfish has been around for centuries. Depending on where it is practiced, hand grabbing is known by an assortment of names, including noodling, hogging, and tickling. Some might refer to it as crazy, but in Mississippi, it is a time-honored tradition.Hand-grabbing season began on May 1 and runs through July 15. This period coincides with spawning season when catfish are looking for cavities in which to spawn. Common spawning sites include hollow logs, stumps, or holes in a stream bank; however, artificial structures are also used. Flathead catfish and blue catfish are the two most common species caught by hand grabbers, but channel catfish are also caught.
Ross Barnett is a popular destination for hand grabbers, but there are many other places across the state where it is practiced with success. Pickwick Lake and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (TTW) are popular choices in northeast Mississippi, as are the "Big 4" flood-control reservoirs (Arkabutla, Enid, Sardis, and Grenada) in the north-central part of the state. Delta oxbows along the Mississippi River, along with oxbows of the Pearl and Pascagoula rivers in south Mississippi, can be great choices, depending on water levels. Okatibbee Reservoir near Meridian is another popular spot for hand grabbing.