The Saturday before Thanksgiving is the traditional opening day of the regular gun season for deer and for most of the Volunteer State’s deer hunters it’s still considered their big day.

Odds are there are more people in the woods and across the rolling hills and farm fields on the opening day of regular gun season than any other day of the year. Spots of fluorescent orange will dot the landscape as deer stands are likely to be occupied.

According to the weather forecast it’s going to be a chilly start as temperatures are expected to dip near the freezing mark the night before opening day but moderate throughout the weekend. Then, by the start of next week another cold front enters the picture where highs will struggle to make it to the low to mid-40s for daytime highs.

It’s certainly going to feel like deer hunting weather. A few fancy deer stands are heated with several amenities but most hunters will rely on whatever’s on their back to keep them warm from the elements.

Although a lot of deer hunters have already been in the woods since the archery season opened in late September and the muzzleloader segment has been in progress since early November the opening of regular gun season is still a special day across the ranks.

Opening day of the regular gun season was timed to coincide with the peak of the rut across the state. However, for the last couple of weeks scores of hunters have been seeing increased activity from bucks chasing does and it appears the biological clock has been ticking for some time.

It should be a good opening weekend. Despite the dark cloud of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) still hanging over this fall’s season across the area, hunters appear to be taking it in stride.

Most are more observant and cautious this year, having been educated by various forms of communication from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency as to the signs of a deer displaying CWD symptoms.

So it’s fair to say the present day deer season is somewhat different from those of times past.

The ramifications of CWD have some hunters worried and concerned as to the long range effects of deer hunting here in Henry County and across the state for that matter.

Meanwhile, hunters are seeing some pretty good bucks roaming the region and some trophy bucks have already been taken by both bow and muzzleloader hunters.

Actually reports thus far have been pretty good in the local area. Yet biologists have learned that bucks are twice more likely than does to have CWD. Older bucks are three times more likely to have it than younger bucks.

Bucks are known to roam more and therefore more likely to transport CWD to new areas. Therefore, biologists encourage the harvest of bucks which will help most with accomplishing the goal of slowing the spread plus allow the agency to sample more deer to better understand the disease.

The wildlife agency encourages hunters to log onto the website CWDinTennessee.com for updated information and more knowledge of the history and disease itself.

Updates on the deer harvest thus far show hunters across the state have already harvested 46,191 deer since the season opened.

Leading the harvest among the state’s 95 counties is Montgomery as hunters there have already checked in 1,274. Sumner County is trailing closely with a total of 1,233. Neighboring Steward County has 1,059 and was one of only three counties to have crossed the four-digit mark as to total harvest numbers.

Locally, Henry County hunters have taken 695 deer as of midweek. A check of neighboring counties showed Benton with 400, Carroll with 658 and Weakley at 514.

And so it is that area hunters kick off the gun season of 2021 with somewhat mixed feelings. Just what lies ahead is somewhat of an unknown as to long range management.

For the year here, hunters have been practicing management for big deer by self-imposed regulations that taught them to let the small deer walk and pave the way for trophy deer. The thought process was “give them a few more years to grow and establish more older bucks that sported hefty racks.”

Just how this will play out now that CWD has entered the picture is a big unknown as to the future of deer hunting and management here locally.

STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s Outdoors writer. His email address is stevemc@charter.net

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