Tennessee deer hunters harvested just more than 134,000 deer this year, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s data base. The season ended last Sunday at the culmination of the two-day Young Sportsmen’s Deer Hunt.

A breakdown of the counties unofficially shows Giles taking the top spot as hunters there checked in 1,721 this year.

Henry County hunters had another good year, checking in 1,372 deer and ranking seventh among the state’s 95 counties.

The tally for the season was 134,090, according to the agency’s website.

 

LAKE LEVELS FLUCTUATE

From the winter fishing scene on Kentucky Lake comes the roller coaster ride now underway with lake levels. The last week to 10 days has seen the reservoir fall below winter pool for a few days — it got down to 353.3 feet for a short period — only to begin a slow but gradual rise which is still in progress.

At present, the TVA was projecting a rise to 358.1 for the weekend but the reservoir could rise higher than that as both the Mississippi and Ohio rivers have been flooded out lately, which diminishes discharge rates.

Surface temperatures this week have been in the 52-degree range. Water color has been clear for the most part.

Despite the changes in lake levels, crappie anglers have managed to score some decent stringers, most of which were caught last week and the first part of this week. 

Rising lake levels now underway could scatter fish, as that’s usually the case, but anglers can also expect some crappie to move up to shallow to midrange depths as they follow their forage base.

Shad usually move up when lake levels rise fast, bringing the crappie with them.

Catches lately were apparently taken from some midrange structure in the 9- to 14-feet depth ranges while a few boats were still targeting deeper dropoffs in the main lake around the 20- to 25-feet depth range.

Most boats are using both jigs and minnows in their presentations plus tipping jigs with Berkley Power Bait at times.

Winter anglers have been lucky overall as weather and temperatures have worked in their favor. Temps have ranged from 10 to 15 degrees above normal at times, which has suited anglers just fine but disappointed a lot of winter waterfowlers who have suffered during the high water and warm temperatures this fall and winter.

Meanwhile, a cold front is in the forecast and will arrive by Sunday, setting the stage for a cold week ahead. 

The return of winter weather will curtail fishing activity for a few days as anglers have gotten spoiled these last few weeks.

 

BIG DOG PREDATOR HUNT

The 10th annual Big Dog Predator Hunt returns to the Henry County area on Feb. 8. However, hunters wishing to participate are advised of the registration deadline of Jan. 31.

Registration forms are available at The Tackle Box, 6160 Hwy. 79 northeast of Paris. The event will be at the Holly Fork Shooting Complex.

Paybacks have increased for this year’s hunt and first place will pay $5,000 to the winning team. 

The biggest coyote taken will earn $1,000 and the smallest will earn $250.

For additional information, contact Randall Bowden at 731-695-2412 or Shannon Bethune at 731-697-4938.

 

EAGLE/WATERFOWL TOUR AT REFUGE

The Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge will host a combination bald eagle and waterfowl tour on the Duck River Unit of the refuge on Jan. 25. Hours of the tour will be noon until 5 p.m.

Refuge staff will be on hand to help visitors identify the various species of waterfowl. For additional information call the refuge office at 642-2091.

 

ASIAN CARP AT CHICKAMAUGA LAKE

The TWRA received a report on Jan. 10 that a silver carp was captured on Chickamauga Lake in October. The angler, Dustin Hinkle, said the invasive fish “jumped into the boat as I deployed my trolling motor.” Hinkle encountered the fish near the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, and stated he “saw 15-20 more fish near the surface” exhibiting a feeding behavior.

“No additional reports have been made since this occurrence,” said Cole Harty, TWRA’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator. “This is an excellent reminder to report carp sightings from East Tennessee, where carp are not already known to be established. We encourage anyone reporting to include photos, location information and, if possible, keep a fish frozen to share with TWRA.”

Reports can be made by calling the nearest TWRA regional office, or by emailing ANS.TWRA@tn.gov.

It is likely that these fish traveled up the Tennessee River through navigation locks, ultimately finding their way to Chickamauga Lake.

“TWRA has been working with multiple partners to limit the spread and impact of invasive Asian carp in Tennessee,” said Frank Fiss, TWRA fisheries chief. “This new observation demonstrates the urgency of the issue.”

 

CONSERVATION PROGRAM SIGNUP

A general CRP (Conservation Reserve Program), Signup 54, is underway and will extend through Feb. 28. The signup provides opportunities to enroll erodible, unproductive and other sensitive crop land in contracts of 10-15 years in return for annual rental payments and possibly other financial incentives.

Eligible land would need to have a cropping history for at least four of the six years from 2012-17 or be an expired contract from the last three years that did not have a chance for re-enrollment. 

The CRP has been in effect since 1985 and is credited with saving billions of tons of soil from eroding, improving water quality, and restoring millions of acres of wildlife and pollinator habitat. 

Since 2008, there has been a State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Bobwhite Habitat Restoration practice available in Tennessee. The practice is targeted to provide high quality habitat to benefit Tennessee’s state game bird, the bobwhite quail, and other declining wildlife such as cottontail rabbits and prairie warblers.  

The SAFE vegetation, comprised of native grasses, forbs and shrubs, is often also used by deer and turkey. A survey of SAFE land owners conducted by the TWRA indicated almost half of SAFE participants’ perceived bobwhite populations had increased on their SAFE tract while only 6 percent thought they declined.

This SAFE practice was previously offered under a continuous signup, but will now only be offered by the USDA-Farm Services Agency under annual general signups where offers will compete with offers from applicants nationwide. SAFE practice offers should rank high in consideration for acceptance, as planting or establishing the highest scoring wildlife cover mixture is the best way to improve chances of offer acceptance.

All Continuous CRP practices are eligible for a signing incentive payment and a practice incentive payment. No general signup practices are eligible for either of those two incentives.

A signup period for existing grasslands will be held from March 16 to May 15. Enrolled grasslands can be maintained as grazing lands.

“For land owners looking to retire sensitive or unproductive fields from crop production, enrolling them in selected CRP options can be profitable and also provide some great wildlife habitat,” said Mark Gudlin, habitat program manager for the TWRA.

Questions regarding the current CRP general signup, continuous signup and upcoming grasslands signup should be directed to your local USDA service center.

 

GREAT AMERICAN BIRD COUNT

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a free, fun and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. 

Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org. 

Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.

Each checklist submitted during the event helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing, and how to protect them and the environment we share. Last year, more than 160,000 participants submitted their bird observations online, creating the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded.

The 23rd annual event will be Feb. 14-17. Visit the official website at birdcount.org for more information and be sure to check out the latest educational and promotional resources.

For additional information, contact the National Audubon Society at citizenscience@audubon.org.

 

SPORTSMEN’S CALENDAR

Jan. 25 — Waterfowl/Bald Eagle Tour, Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Duck River Unit.

Jan. 31 — Duck season ends.

Jan. 31 — Big Dog Predator Hunt registration deadline.

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