Deer hunters across Tennessee are entering the home stretch for a season that began way back on Sept. 22 when bow hunters were the first to take to the woods.
Gun season ends on Sunday across the Volunteer State. However, an antlerless hunt begins next Monday for a five-day stretch across deer Unit L, which is all of West and most of Middle Tennessee counties.
Youngsters get the last shot as the final young sportsmen’s deer hunt takes place on the weekend of Jan. 12-13.
As of New Year’s day the harvest across the state among 95 counties showed the total to be 132,851. Henry County has slipped a notch in the statewide standings and now ranks third in the state. The top spot this week belongs to Giles County where hunters have checked in 3,251. Wayne County has now moved up to second place with 3,084.
There are only three counties statewide that have harvested over 3,000 deer since season opened.
Meanwhile, among the ranks of deer hunters both here and in other states is the concern about the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. See additional info below on an upcoming meeting regarding the recent development and discovery of CWD in Tennessee.
PUBLIC MEETING ON CWD
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will host a public meeting to discuss CWD at the Bolivar Middle School gymnasium, located at 915 Pruitt St., Bolivar. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday.
A short presentation will be made with any updates and planned monitoring activities in the areas. Following the presentation, TWRA staff, along with representatives from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, will answer any questions from the public in regard to CWD.
CWD was recently confirmed in 10 deer in Fayette and Hardeman counties. On Dec. 20 in a special called meeting, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to establish a CWD management zone, which also includes McNairy County as a CWD positive deer was confirmed within 10 miles of that county’s border.
For more information on CWD visit CWDinTennessee.com.
GILL NETS COMBAT ASIAN CARP
As part of a larger concerted effort by multiple state and federal agencies in the Ohio River Basin, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has developed an Asian Carp Harvest Incentive Program (ACHIP).
As part of the new ACHIP program and while supplies last, commercial fisherman enrolled in ACHIP shall receive a one-time distribution of 15 TWRA-supplied gillnets from a contracted wholesale fish dealer. A subsequent offering of TWRA-supplied gillnets will be distributed to commercial fisherman enrolled in ACHIP who harvest no less than 60,000 pounds in a six-month period.
The ACHIP program was implemented on Sept. 18, 2018, and already through the month of November has reimbursed ACHIP-contracted wholesale fish dealers for 262,333 pounds of Asian carp.
CALENDAR CONTEST OPEN
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is now accepting entries for its 2019-20 photo contest for publication in Tennessee Wildlife’s annual calendar issue. All interested photographers are invited to submit up to 10 of their best photos on fishing, hunting, boating and wildlife species native to Tennessee.
The photos will be reviewed for publication in the annual calendar edition of Tennessee Wildlife, which is the summer issue. If a photo is selected for the calendar edition, the photographer will receive a cash stipend of $60.
Photographers must submit their photo entries by the March 20 deadline. Photos must be horizontal (landscape), in jpeg format, and submitted on a CD. They must be sized to print no smaller that 8-1/2 by 11 inches and resolution should be at least 300 pixels/inch.
Photographers must be sure to provide their name, address, phone number, and e-mail address with their disk. Disks cannot be returned.
Entries may be mailed to: Tennessee Wildlife, Calendar Issue, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville 37204.
Tennessee Wildlife is the official magazine for TWRA.
LAKE LEVELS SURGE
Since heavy rains drenched the TVA valley last Monday lake levels have gone on a tear, rising abruptly the last several days.
TVA had been dropping lake levels in anticipation of the big rains last weekend and had the reservoir down near 355 range, which was close to winter pool but flooding has changed the picture and the reservoir was expected to rise to the 357.4 range before this weekend and perhaps even higher.
Although TVA is spilling water through Kentucky Dam at a huge volume — 245,000 cubic feet per second at midweek — there was still more coming in than there was going out! Just when the crest would occur was unknown at midweek as to TVA projections.
Surface temperatures reflected the warm weather and had risen to the 50-degree mark at midweek. Water color was dingy in the main Tennessee River channel area and also throughout much of the Big Sandy embayment due to massive runoff.
Both commercial and sport fishermen are talking about the swift currents present in the main channel area this week. Back in the bays anglers are dodging the current and doing their crappie fishing there.
Crappie fishing continues to be a challenge for most as only a small number of anglers are finding and catching double digit stringers as of late. There have been some exceptions but those fortunate enough to land a limit of keeper size crappie have been in the minority.
Depths of 10-14 feet were giving up a few fish mostly from man-made fish attractors. With the rising water stages look for more crappie to move up and pursue baitfish that are also moving up shallow with the surging water levels.
Anglers will get a warm up this weekend as temperatures are expected to rebound and return to the 60-degree range. That’s a bit unusual for early January but anglers have pretty much had temps working for them since early December.
Perhaps a few more success stories will come in this week as anglers stalk some shallow structure or troll over areas back in bays where crappie may be moving to escape the current and follow the shad.
Bass anglers have been out enjoying some of the mild winter weather too and running up and down the lake as though it was mid to late fall.
Most are tossing spinnerbaits and shallow running crankbaits around shallow structure and gravel points. A few are attempting to harness the current and find fish in eddies around rock points or island rims.
EAGLE TOURS AT REFUGE
The Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge is still planning to once again host the annual Bald Eagle/Waterfowl Tour from noon to 5 p.m. on Jan. 19.
But this depends on President Donald Trump and Congress agreeing to end the federal government shutdown by Jan. 18.
If the shutdown ends in time, the refuge will offer a free event for the public to enjoy an afternoon to view waterfowl and wildlife on the refuge at the Duck River Bottoms, located in Humphreys County at 550 Refuge Lane in New Johnsonville.
Whereas Refuge Lane and Pintail Point Observation Deck at the Duck River Bottoms is always open to view wildlife every day of the year, some of the bottom areas are seasonally closed during the winter to limit disturbance to the visiting waterfowl.
The refuge will open several of these roads up to the public, for one afternoon only, to offer this annual glimpse into the heart of the refuge during winter waterfowl season.
As in years past, the Blue Goose Boulevard interpretive wildlife drive will be open to offer a two-mile self-guided tour.
In addition, guided bus tours with refuge staff once again will be available this year. These buses will start and end at the main event parking lot off Refuge Lane beginning at 12:30 and 3 p.m.
Typically, about 400-500 people attend each year, seeing tens of thousands of waterfowl, and each tour bus counts numerous bald eagles. Along with views of waterfowl and bald eagles, the refuge offers opportunities to see white-tailed deer, wild turkey, many species of hawks, great blue herons, great egrets and many other kinds of wildlife.
Bring the whole family and enjoy a scenic afternoon, compliments of the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge and Friends of Tennessee Refuge.
Refuge staff and volunteers will be available at the main event tent just past the entrance on Refuge Lane. Staff members will be on hand to answer questions, hand out maps for the self-guided auto tour route and direct you to the guided tour buses.
At this heated tent, staff members also will have several items of interest concerning waterfowl, and managing their wetland habitats. The staff also will be explaining bird identification, refuge operations and management and answering any questions visitors have.
The Friends also will be offering complimentary hot apple cider and cookies to the visiting public, as well as telling folks about other wonderful opportunities happening at the refuge.
Along the route, several volunteers will be stationed with spotting scopes to allow the public better views of waterfowl and the bald eagle nest.
The refuge at Duck River Bottoms is about 4 miles south of New Johnsonville. From Highway 70 in New Johnsonville, turn south on Long Street and continue for 2.6 miles to the intersection of old State Route 1 and Long Street. Turn left on State Route 1, go for 0.2 miles, then make a sharp right on Hickman Road. Follow Hickman Road for 0.6 miles to Refuge Lane. Turn left on Refuge Lane into the refuge. We will have signs posted to help you find your way.
To enhance your viewing opportunities it is highly recommended to bring a pair of binoculars, if available, and remember to dress warmly for winter weather.
If you have questions about the waterfowl tour and the shutdown has ended, please call the headquarters at 642-2091, extension 303, or email Joan Howe at Joan_Howe@fws.gov.
Should there be last-minute wintery weather or for updates on the event, be sure to check out the refuge Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tennesseenwr.
Jan. 6 — Deer gun season ends
Jan. 8 — Public meeting addresses CWD, Bolivar Middle School.
Jan. 7-11 — Antlerless deer hunt begins in Unit L.
Jan. 12-13 — Young sportsmen’s deer hunt.
Jan. 15 — Dove season ends.