Commission Sets Two Buck Limit Effective With State’s 2015-16 Hu - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Commission Sets Two Buck Limit Effective With State’s 2015-16 Hunting Seasons

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NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC) has voted to reduce the white-tailed buck limit for the 2015-16 seasons. Deer hunters will now be able to take a total of two bucks throughout the deer hunting seasons. 

After months of discussion and consideration, the action came during the TFWC's May meeting which concluded Friday at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's Ray Bell Region III Building.

The TFWC also approved the motion to extend the season for antlerless deer in Unit L counties for five days following the conclusion of the regular deer season in January. The hunting opportunities for antlerless deer will now extend through the day before the Young Sportsman Hunt.

“This issue has created more public discussion than any I can remember, which demonstrates the passion of our state's deer hunters,” said TFWC Chairman Jim Bledsoe of Jamestown. “We share that passion, and we have spent a lot of time exploring the harvest data and working with our TWRA biologists to develop this proposal.

“We are focused on enhancing hunter opportunity, and only a small percentage of hunters have historically taken three bucks in a year. We believe that protecting this small percentage of antlered deer will have a positive impact on the percentage of mature deer in the herd. Within a few years, we should be able to measure the benefit.”

Deer harvest data from the 2014-15 season, gathered from the mandatory big game check-in process and field surveys, showed that less than 2,700 of 240,000  Tennessee deer hunters took a full limit of three bucks. 

TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter said that, from a herd management standpoint, some areas in Middle and West Tennessee could benefit from the anticipated increased doe harvest where overall deer population numbers need to be stabilized, or in some cases decreased.

 “Many of our deer hunters are filling their freezer, and we encourage that – our state's deer herd is generally healthy and strong,” said Carter. “We have to continue to manage the numbers so that the deer population can continue to grow in places where it is below optimal levels, but maintain or decrease those numbers in other areas. 

“This new approach of a reduced buck limit may result in an increased doe harvest in certain parts of the state and ideally will increase the harvest of mature bucks over time.  It is unlikely that we will see a decrease in the overall annual deer harvest as a result of these changes.”

Quota hunts, where a limited number of bonus buck tags are made available by random draw on certain TWRA Wildlife Management Areas, allow permitted hunters to take additional bucks during those dates. Carter says TWRA deer biologists are continually looking for ways to provide more opportunities for hunters while managing the resource most effectively. Herd management proposals, including season dates and bag limits, are significantly influenced by public input. 

“The Agency received a significant number of public comments during this year's season setting process,” Carter said. “The opinion and desires of Tennessee's outdoorsmen and women are an important factor in crafting our recommendations to the Commission and we will continue working to provide more ways for the public to be able to weigh in on an ongoing basis. We are all in this to protect the resource, create opportunities for people to connect with the great outdoors and to provide an additional source of food for families. 

“With our ongoing sound management practices, we believe Tennessee will continue to provide excellent deer hunting opportunities for all to enjoy.”

The Agency rescinded its earlier recommendations for fall turkey hunting season that called for the closing of four southern Middle Tennessee counties, Coffee, Franklin, Lincoln, and Moore.  Also, the Agency rescinded its proposal to reduce the fall turkey bag limit fall from six to three birds in 16 counties in the mid-state area. Fall turkey hunting will remain closed in Wayne, Lawrence, and Giles counties as set last year.

The Agency added two new elk hunting zones (EHZs),  EHZ 6 (Braden Mountain) and EHZ 7 (Tackett Creek), but will close EHZ 1 (Chestnut Ridge and Fork Mountain) and EHZ 4 (Anderson and Masengale Mountain). The closure is designed to reduce pressure on herd bulls in those two areas. 

A date change to the bear dog training season and a zone expansion in a transitional bear hunt zone was approved. A shift was made for bear dog training dates in bear hunting zone 3 to comply with a request by the U.S. Forest Service to avoid the Labor Day holiday. The bear zone expansion now includes all of Hamilton County.

Several minor WMA regulations were also passed for WMAs in the TWRA four regions. All changes will be reflected in the 2015-16 Tennessee Hunting and Fishing Guide which becomes available in late July.

In other agenda items, the 2014 Shikar Safari Wildlife Officer of the Year was recognized. Jefferson County Wildlife Officer Wayne Rich received the award.

In another special presentation, TWRA Assistant Executive Director Steve Patrick was presented the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Patriotic Employer Award. He was nominated by Region II Regional Manager, Tim Cleveland, who is also a Lt. Colonel in the Tennessee Army National Guard.  He was presented the award by Major General Max Haston, Tennessee Adjutant General.
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