GATLINBURG, Tenn. – The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission heard a rule preview of duck blind drawing procedures and public lands duck hunting at its final 2020 scheduled meeting. In addition, the commission was given a report on current deer harvest totals and a chronic wasting disease (CWD) update. The two-day meeting concluded December 11, 2020.
Harvest results to date for the statewide deer harvest and Unit CWD were given in one and five-year comparisons. The statewide deer harvest total as of Dec. 9 is 118,515, a 21 percent increase (20,531) as the same time last year. The total is a 7 percent increase (8,027) from the 5-year average. In Unit CWD, the harvest stands at 12,988, a 33 percent (3,224) increase.
Statewide, minus Unit CWD, harvest is 105,497. That results in a 20 percent increase (17,318) from last year and a 14 percent increase (6,451) from the 5-year average.
Reasons for the harvest increase could be an effect of favorable weather conditions, the COVID influence and an increase in licensed big games hunters, and a result of the new Tag Before You Drag system implemented this year.
Other topics discussed regarding CWD, included the newly leased sampling facility in Jackson, deer carcass disposal management, and the turnaround time for CWD test results TWRA is experiencing this year. On the horizon for CWD in Tennessee, is the continuation of sampling throughout deer season with a deer density estimation and deer targeted removal program in spark areas to begin soon thereafter. Additionally, work is being pursued in partnership with Colorado State University and the National Wildlife Health Center to train dogs to detect CWD from deer and the environment which could optimize targeted removal efforts and identify positive deer carcasses for specialized disposal. Anticipations to also procure an incinerator for deer carcass disposal in Fayette County by the deer hunting season 2021-22 were also conveyed.
The TWRA discussed a rule preview for public land duck hunting and duck blind draw procedures in hopes to provide more waterfowl hunting opportunities while retaining longstanding traditions of Tennessee duck hunting. The TWRA wishes to move from a predominately single type of hunting on wildlife management areas for a relatively small number of hunters to a four-tier system to provide for more hunting opportunity for a larger number of hunters.
In summary, this 4-tier system will continue to provide areas for season-long permits, areas for TWRA-provided blind structures, permits for marked locations, and areas designated as first come, first-served basis open with statewide duck and goose hunting seasons. In tiers 1, 2, and 3, permits will be issued by computer application, unsuccessful hunters will establish priority points, and all vacancy or leftover drawings will be held locally at a TBD location. No permits will be required for Tier 4.
Additionally, no changes will be proposed for private blinds, also known as, permanent registered blinds on certain West Tennessee hunting areas. There is ongoing dialogue with Tennessee hunters and the commission, but the overall goal is to provide options for a system that is fair and equitable for everyone and will improve duck hunting for Tennessee waterfowl hunters.
An R3 (Recruitment, Retention, Reactivation) overview was presented on community fishing lakes, fishing 101 classes, and other efforts to get people outdoors. TWRA has developed a virtual education center online and is offering various virtual opportunities to enhance outdoor skills on topics like wilderness survival, wildlife tracking, deer processing, and scouting. The effort has introduced many to the outdoors and helped increase participation and license sales.
East Tennessee Casting for Recovery coordinator Lindsay Long represented the organization and received a check of $8,205 from the Tennessee Resources Wildlife Foundation. In an effort to help those affected by breast cancer, the TWRA sold pink logo merchandise during October. Casting for Recovery is a nonprofit organization that exists to take women affected by breast cancer fly fishing.
Jefferson County resident, Lynne McCoy was a virtual guest at the meeting. She was recognized for her many years as wildlife rehabilitator which has affected more than 16,000 species. Following their rehabilitation is most cases the animals and birds are released back into the wild.