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Commission Approves 2016-17 Waterfowl and Migratory Bird Hunting Seasons

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NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission approved all 2016-17 waterfowl and other migratory game bird hunting seasons during its April meeting on Friday. 

In addition to setting the waterfowl hunting seasons, the TFWC also heard a preview of all the proposals to the state hunting seasons for 2016-17. The meeting was held at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Ray Bell Region II Building.

Joe Benedict, TWRA Assistant Chief of Wildlife and Forestry, made the presentation on the waterfowl and migratory bird seasons. Waterfowl seasons are now set earlier in the year due to a change in the timing of the Federal Regulation Process.

All duck, goose, dove, and other migratory game bird seasons will be similar to last year after calendar date changes, with the following changes approved by the TFWC. The common moorhen, purple gallinule, Virginia and sora rail seasons move earlier (Sept. 1-Nov. 9), to better align with bird occurrence in Tennessee and a change in the Brant season to align with the duck season (Nov. 26-27 and Dec. 3- Jan. 29, 2017). 

In addition, a shift was approved for the third segment of the dove season based on public input. This segment will occur 13 days later than previously, from Dec. 8-Jan. 15. 

The sandhill crane hunting season will enter its fourth year in 2016-17. Due to the new timing of the federal process used for season setting, an operational crane season cannot be implemented until next year.  The commission considered the agency recommendation of no change to the crane season, but voted to extend the season to 55 days and move it later in the season.  The season will be Dec. 3. -Jan. 12 and Jan. 16-29, 2017 and includes a three day closure (Fri.-Sun., Jan. 13-15) for the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival. The 400, 3-permit packets will be issued at a drawing to be held Aug. 13 in the Hamilton County community of Birchwood.

It was announced during the presentation that for the 2017-18 duck, goose, crane and all other migratory game bird seasons, public comments will be invited from Oct. 15-Nov. 15, 2016. Proposed seasons will be presented at the January 2017 TFWC meeting, with final approval the following month at the February meeting.

Chuck Yoest, Assistant Chief of Wildlife and Forestry, presented the Agency’s recommendations for the 2016-17 deer seasons. Recommendations included simplifying antlerless regulations, allowing additional antlerless harvest during gun season, establishing two new deer harvest units and eliminating the Claiborne County special red deer hunt.

Following Yoest’s presentation, the commission requested that the agency draft a new definition for antlerless deer. The current definition is those deer with antlers less than three inches in length.

Dan Gibbs, Bear Coordinator, presented the agency’s one recommended change to bear regulations to allow small game hunting in the bear reserves during bear still hunts.

John Mike, Region IV Wildlife Program Manager, presented an agency recommendation to add four new private land only elk tags, including one designated for youth.  Tags will be issued for three new private land elk hunting zones that include Campbell, Claiborne, Scott, Anderson and Morgan counties. The zones will facilitate implementation of the new private lands hunt. Six elk permits will again be issued for the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.  

Joy Sweaney, Wild Turkey and Wildlife Management Area Coordinator, presented the Agency’s recommendations on both of these topics.  These Agency recommendations included several changes to hunts on Tennessee’s public lands and lowering the bag limit for fall turkeys from six to three in 16 Middle Tennessee counties and from three to one in two additional Middle Tennessee counties.

Mark Gudlin, Chief of Wildlife and Forestry, presented an overview of a potential six year research project with the University of Tennessee to monitor radio-marked wild turkeys during five field seasons. If funded, the Tennessee Southeastern Cooperative Wild Turkey Research project would include several counties in southern Middle Tennessee.

The TFWC will hold its next meeting May 12-13 at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC).

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