Even though it has felt like winter weather arrived early, you can still start thinking about dogwoods in bloom and turkey-talking time!
Spring turkey season may seem far away, but it’s time to plan ahead. Application time in approaching for spring quota hunts, and the application will run only through Jan. 16.
Applications are available and will be accepted at any TWRA license agent, TWRA regional office or online at the gooutdoorstennessee.com website.
Applications can be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 16. Mailed applications will not be accepted.
The areas available for the hunts are listed on the instruction sheet. Hunters have up to 13 choices, but will be drawn for only one.
Applicants may not use the same hunt code more than once. A total of 13 hunts are listed, as well as five youth-only hunts. No person may apply more than once.
A computer drawing will be held to determine the successful applications based on a priority drawing system.
Youth hunters (ages 6-16 by the date of the hunt) may submit one application for the regular quota hunt and one application for the youth-only quota hunt.
A permit fee will not be charged to Annual Sportsman (Type 004), Lifetime Sportsman (Types 401-406) license holders or seniors with an Annual Senior Sportsman License (Type 167).
For all other license holders, the cost is $12 per permit plus the $1 agent fee. There is a $2 fee if application is made on the Internet.
When applying at a license agent, hunters must remain at the location while the application is processed.
Hunters will receive a receipt with a confirmation number when the application is complete.
Hunters with Internet access may apply for a spring turkey quota hunt online by visiting https://quotahunt.gooutdoorstennessee.com.
Once the Internet site has been accessed, hunters can follow the on-screen directions.
The 2019 statewide turkey season is March 30-May 12. The statewide Young Sportsman Hunt is March 23-24.
DEER HARVEST UPDATE
Last week, Tennessee’s deer harvest crossed the 100,000 mark and it keeps growing. This week, the statewide total has increased to 108,529!
Henry County hunters are doing well and now rank second among the state’s 95 counties. The total harvest here is up to 2,431.
Neighboring county total show: Benton has 1,377; Carroll, 2,045; Stewart, 1,931; and Weakley, 1,845.
Some hunters report seeing bucks making another surge in the rut as mid-December arrives!
WINGS OF WINTER
Wings of Winter Birding Festival on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley is fast approaching. It’s slated for Jan. 18-20 and registration has been extended through Dec. 31.
Headquartered near Paris, it focuses on the 150-plus migratory bird species that winter in Kentucky and Barkley lakes in West Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
Fifteen full- and half-day tours will feature experienced guides who know their birds and are passionate about helping other birders on their quests.
Tours will crisscross public lands, including hundreds of thousands of wooded acres and shoreline.
Several favorite excursions among last year’s attendees are scheduled for 2019.
“Two behind the refuge gates tours offer a phenomenal, up-close look at thousands of wintering waterfowl during the closed-sanctuary period,” Refuge Ranger Joan Howe said.
“Also new this year is the Kentucky Lake Tour on an excursion yacht that will cruise beneath eagles, waterfowl, gulls and more. Large windows, a heated cabin and a roomie deck will make this a popular event.”
For additional information on the event, contact the refuge office at 642-2091.
WATERFOWL PICTURE STILL FUZZY
For most duck hunters across the three-state region of Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, the waterfowl picture is still a bit fuzzy and out of focus.
Although there have been a few successful reports trickling in, the vast majority of hunters are still hoping for improvement.
Some pretty popular areas — from flooded fields throughout West Tennessee to the Bootheel of Missouri’s rice fields — are experiencing tough times.
No doubt the abundance of water has scattered the ducks, as they have an abundance of places to feed and rest once the Mississippi River backs out and inundates thousands of acres across the region.
The Ohio River has been high, too, so that’s another factor.
Some areas around Stuttgart, Ark., have had abundant water and good duck numbers recently. Hunters there have done well this week, but other zones are less fortunate.
Activity in popular public hunting areas such as Camden bottoms, Big Sandy, Gin Creek and West Sandy have been inconsistent since the second segment of season opened.
They’re not alone, as further west throughout the Obion, Forked Deer and Hatchie bottom areas, duck hunters are singing the same song.
The bottom line is hunters just haven’t seen decent numbers of ducks entering the region lately, despite some pretty good duck weather for early December.
There have been some bone-chilling winds and nasty conditions at times that should have stimulated movement.
It’s still early in the season, so distraught duck hunters are keeping their fingers cross that ducks will descend soon.
Reelfoot Lake has reported mediocre shooting lately, too, with a small percentage of blinds scoring well.
The Dyersburg area hasn’t been red hot either, as some high-dollar hunt clubs are reporting slow shooting as well.
The open water areas of Kentucky Lake have just begun to see a few diver ducks move in, but overall numbers are somewhat below average as well.
Not to worry, as the ducks will get with the program here sooner or later!
COOL WEATHER CHILLS ANGLERS
The majority of anglers continue to toss another log on the fire as they chill out from this nasty late-fall fishing scene.
Winter will officially arrive on Dec. 21. But most Kentucky Lake anglers already are suffering from cabin fever, as they feel like winter arrived a few weeks early this year!
Not many boats have ventured out this week because of the cold temperatures and windy days. That may sound like a broken record, but that’s the story across the area since late November.
The weatherman says we’ll improve to normal temperature ranges by this weekend and throughout next week. That should help the attitude of weary anglers.
Surface temperatures this week have been in the 44-degree range. Water color has been pretty clear.
Lake levels have fluctuated since last week when the reservoir began rising slowly in the aftermath of heavy rains across the Tennessee Valley.
Kentucky Lake crested on Tuesday and began falling slowly. Elevation climbed above 356 last weekend, but has now receded back to the winter pool range of 355.
More rain continues to enter the conversation from weathermen, however, as normal temperatures return.
Crappie may be biting, but most anglers just haven’t been able to get out there and stalk the open-water ledges or pursue deep brushpiles and stakebeds in midrange depths.
If temperatures continue to rebound, watch for several boats to hit the water in the days ahead. Everyone is poised for a rapid rebound!
Dec. 19 — WMA spring turkey quota hunt application begins.