Tennessee deer harvest lowest in 10 years

This graph represents the Tennessee deer harvest for each of the last ten years. The most recent hunting season that ended January 14 shows a nine percent decline from the previous season and a 12 percent decline from the 10-year average. (Illustration: Richard Simms)

Mark Gudlin, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Chief of Wildlife, is preparing a report on Tennessee's most recent deer harvest for his bosses - the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission. Gudlin is going to have to report that far fewer hunters were successful this year. Based on data from TWRA's "Hunter's Toolbox," (as of 1/16/2018) hunters killed a total of 143,945 deer during the 2017-2018 hunting season. That's about a nine percent decline from the previous season and a 12 percent decline from the 10-year average of Tennessee deer harvests.

Gudlin blames the decline on two major factors.

"We had an unusually warm weather during muzzleloader season," said Gudlin. "The harvest in that season alone was down 23 percent. We also had a huge EHD outbreak in the eastern half of the state."

EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease) is a fatal disease that periodically hits deer herds. Gudlin said in TWRA's Region IV (far East Tennessee) 724 deer were reported found dead. In Reg. III (Cumberland Plateau) 574 deer were reported found dead. Those are just the deer that someone actually found and reported. The actual number of deer that died and weren't found was far higher.

As for the reduced harvest during muzzleloader season, Gudlin said extreme warm weather has a tendency to keep hunters out of the woods because it's uncomfortable and more difficult to properly care for harvested deer.

"People just won't go when it's warm," he said. "People may choose to go fishing instead."

The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will hold its first meeting of 2018 Thursday and Friday (Jan. 18-19) at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Ray Bell Region II Building in Nashville. Committee meetings begin at 1 p.m., Jan. 18. The formal commission meeting starts the following day at 9 a.m.

Other items on the agenda include:

  • An update on TWRA's campaign efforts to inform the public about chronic wasting disease (CWD) and efforts to keep it out of Tennessee.
  • Preview of 2018-2019 waterfowl seasons, including sandhill cranes. Due to changes in the timing of the federal regulation process in regard to the waterfowl and migratory game bird hunting, the annual proposals are now made in January. The 2018-19 regulations will be voted on by the commission at the February meeting.
  • A follow-up of the December presentation on the status of Asian carp in Tennessee waterways.
  • Retiring TWRA Region IV Manager John Gregory will be recognized.
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