Second segment of deer season opens Saturday

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) expects more than 150,000 deer to be harvested across the state during this year's hunting season as the deer population continues to be strong across the state.
   "Back 25 or 30 years ago, everybody had to pack up and drive to find a place to hunt," said Allen Ricks, information officer for TWRA's Region IV office in Morristown. "Now, you just have to walk out your back door."
   The TWRA geographically divides the state's deer season into Units A and B. Unit A is comprised of Middle and West Tennessee where the highest population of whitetail deer roam, while Unit B covers 26 East Tennessee counties.
   The 21-county TWRA Region IV area of East Tennessee harvested 15,000 deer last season, according to Ricks. The rest of the state harvested roughly 140,000 deer.
   The state started a project to restore the deer population in the late 1940s. Over the years, the deer population has grown, with the fastest population rise occurring in Middle Tennessee, Ricks said.
   In 1971, the statewide harvest rang in at 40,000, but only about 3,600 were from county hunts; the rest were from Wildlife Management Areas, said Ricks.
   "Now, the vast majority of deer taken are from private areas or county wide hunts," he said. "The availability of deer is so much greater."
   The first segment of Tennessee's gun season for deer, in both Unit A and B, ended on Dec. 1. The second segment of gun season opens on December 21, and goes through January 10 in Unit A and January 8 in Unit B.
   The bag limit is two antlered deer in either Unit A or B. An antlered deer is a deer with antlers three inches or longer. Only one antlered deer may be taken per day and no more than 3 antlered deer may be taken for the year, including all seasons, according to TWRA regulations.
   Approximately 200,000 citizens are licensed to hunt deer in Tennessee, according to the TWRA. A sportsman's license permits a hunter to hunt animals classified as big game, including wild turkeys, deer, wild hogs and bear.
   Seasons are divided into archery, muzzleloader, and gun weapons to take deer. Bag limits restrict hunters to two bucks during the entire gun season and no more than three bucks for all weapons seasons combined.
   Ricks said that bag limits don't have a great affect on most deer hunters since the majority of hunters pursue only one buck per season.
   Poaching is a problem year round, with some hunters using food substances to entice deer or using the infamous "spotlighting" method of tracking deer at night, Hicks said.
   "There are a few hunters that don't want to go by the regulations and that makes it hard on everybody," he said.
   The Agency offers a reward up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of wildlife poachers.
   The state's 95 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are also included in the deer season. Varying in size from 53 acres to 625,000, all WMAs are available to the public for hunting and trapping, under certain regulations. Bucks taken on WMAs count toward the statewide three-buck limit.
   The Cherokee Wildlife Management Area includes Carter, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties in Northeast Tennessee.
   Ricks also noted the importance of check stations that allow hunters to document harvested deer and validate hunting licenses free of charge.
   The TWRA lists nine check stations in Carter County to weigh and field deer:
   * T & C Wrecker & Grocery, Butler
   * Buladean Grocery, Elizabethton
   * Misty Waters Bait and Camping, Elizabethton
   * Superfood Stores, Elizabethton
   * L & J Tobacco Market, Hampton
   * Hampton Bait Shop, Hampton
   * Farmer's Exchange, Roan Mountain
   * Napa Auto Parts, Roan Mountain
   * Jim's Discount Guns, Watauga