Tennessee WRC Considers 2009-10 Seasons

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The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency presented its proposals for the 2009-10 hunting season at the monthly meeting of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission held April 22-23 at the Region II Ray Bell Building.

Although there were few changes to the big game seasons, there was a substantial change proposed to the white-tail deer season dates. TWRA recommended unifying the two muzzleloader segments by bringing the December segment forward and attaching it to the tail end of the November segment. This creates a continuous 14-day muzzleloader season that runs right up to the opening day of gun season.

There are a number of potential benefits that go along with this move, according to Daryl Ratajczak, TWRA Big Game Program Coordinator. "No traditional opening dates are changed, no season gains or loses any days, it allows all hunters to hunt the peak of the rut with a muzzleloader or archery equipment if they so choose,” said Ratajcak. “It creates a continuous 12-day fall turkey season, and it appears to be a very popular move among surveyed hunters."

What appears to be the biggest increase in opportunity is that Unit B hunters will now follow the same season dates as Units A and L.

"There would be no more closed days in the middle of deer season for the folks in East Tennessee," said Ratajczak. "That alone will be a tremendously popular move and one that we have been contemplating for a few years. Our regional biologists feel the herd is finally ready to withstand the added pressure."

Besides the season date shift, the TWRA recommended a flat statewide three buck limit, eliminating the two buck restriction in Unit B. Data presented confirms the fact that so few hunters harvest multiple bucks that there is no need for tighter restrictions. It was also noted that there was no change in the harvested age-structure in Unit B after four years of the two-buck limit.

The Agency also adjusted antlerless opportunities in several counties. West Tennessee saw a number of counties increase their antlerless opportunities while a few Cumberland Plateau counties pulled back their antlerless opportunities due to concern for the herd.

In bear and boar seasons, there were no changes from last year's record-setting season other than moving the Nov. 16 dog hunt up two weeks to Nov. 2 to reduce potential conflict between bear hunters and deer hunters.

Turkey recommendations were also minimal. Other than creating the 12-day fall turkey season, Dec. 7-18, a few counties saw increases in their fall turkey quotas. There were no recommended changes to the 2010 spring turkey season.

Lastly, it was revealed that the Agency is making a strong push to unify WMA seasons across the state. Many WMAs were opened to statewide seasons with few restrictions. "Giving hunters a place to hunt is what these WMAs are all about," said Ed Warr, assistant Chief or Wildlife. "Knowing that a WMA is open for hunting the same time a county is open is a tremendous help for those that do not have private property to hunt. Don't worry though, the traditional, highly managed WMAs, that focus on waterfowl or quality deer management, remained as they have been in the past to maintain their management goals."

The TWRC will vote on the proposed 2009-10 hunting changes at its next regularly scheduled meeting, scheduled May 20-21 in Nashville.

A presentation on the status of the October elk hunt application process and the elk hunt Web site was also made. Applications for the first managed elk hunt in Tennessee began being accepted on April 1 and will continue through May 31.

Wildlife Division Chief, Greg Wathen, announced that the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) to participate in the hunt is the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. The TWRF will auction its permit as part of a fund-raising project benefiting future elk restoration in Tennessee. One of the five elk hunt permits had earlier been designated for a NGO to participate. More information on the TWRF auction will be announced at a later date.

In an emergency vote, the TWRC voted to approve the establishment of a temporary TWRA "no wake zone" on the Emory River in Roane County. The zone will include the area where dredging has begun for the Kingston ash spill operations. The action came through a request by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Don King, Chief, Information and Education Division, updated the commission members on the Wild Side Weekly television program. The program began its telecasts on Nashville's News Channel 5+ (Channel 50) the weekend of April 3-5.