TVA sings a new song about hunting

For waterfowl hunters willing to make the effort, there are plenty of duck hunting opportunities on TVA reservoirs. And unlike in years past, TVA is promoting those opportunities. (Photo: Richard Simms)

The Tennessee Valley Authority is actively promoting hunting on its open, undeveloped lands and waterways - seemingly a very far cry from the Agency's policies in years past. TVA recently posted a article on its website dedicated to promoting and educating people about waterfowl hunting on TVA lands and waterways, calling it "the perfect place for hunting waterfowl."

That is a very different story from the one TVA told - or didn't tell - 18 years ago. In the Year 2000 TVA spent a massive amount of money producing what it called, "a comprehensive guide to the varieties of fun that families can find at TVA reservoirs." It was called "Tennessee River Country," a slick little handbook called a glovebox guide supposedly promoting all the various outdoor recreation opportunities on TVA lands. As far as I can determine it is no longer in publication but you can find used copies on Amazon.

There was one major problem with the glovebox guide - the publication totally and completely ignored hunting. The 102-page publication included great narratives, maps and guide symbols directing readers to wonderful places to go camping, fishing, canoeing, hiking, bird watching and swimming, just to name a few. But throughout the publication there was absolutely zero mention of hunting. The word "hunting" NEVER appeared. Not once!

My impression was that the Agency was subliminally trying to discourage hunting. It was a gross oversight and a slap in the face to those of us who consider hunting a valuable and note-worthy part of our lifestyle and heritage. I wrote an editorial on the subject for another Chattanooga media outlet, including a very lame excuse from one of the TVA spin doctors at the time.

Fast-forward 18 years - it is very refreshing to see that the TVA media and marketing managers have come around. They are no longer ignoring or shying away from the subject previous managers apparently considered taboo.

“The Tennessee Valley is an important stop for birds migrating down the western side of the Appalachians,” says TVA Natural Resources manager David Brewster. “We work year-round improving habitat on our public lands and the cold doesn’t stop us from promoting recreation.”

Obviously that now includes hunting.

There are rules hunters must abide by when using TVA lands. One of the biggest complaints managers hear is when waterfowl hunters hunt too close to occupied homes.

State law forbids anyone from hunting (without permission) within 100 yards of an occupied home. However many lakeshore homeowners still consider that far too close. Stories abound of hunter/landowner conflicts on and around TVA reservoirs. In many of those cases hunters are perfectly legal and well within their rights. However the ensuing conflicts do little to enhance the image of hunters, even if they are legally within their rights. Sometimes common sense does all hunters a lot more good in the long run, in my humble opinion. But I digress.

Those shotgun volleys that ring up and down the river also mean something else - money. In the article TVA points out that decoys, duck calls, and steel-shot ammunition are just another piece of the puzzle that support businesses and jobs in the Tennessee Valley. They say that overall, TVA reservoirs generate $12 billion to local economies every year.

Make no mistake. Waterfowl hunting on the Tennessee River in East Tennessee will never compare to the West Tennessee or Arkansas swamps and backwaters in the very heart of the Mississippi Flyway. But there are opportunities for the waterfowlers who are willing to do the work - scouting and spending the time needed to figure out when and where ducks or geese are taking advantage of TVA reservoirs.

Waterfowl hunting isn't the only opportunity. Many deer and small game hunters take advantage of the undeveloped TVA lands along our lakeshores. Many of those properties are only publicly accessible by boat which means they are often not crowded. You can access an online map that shows areas you can legally hunt on TVA land.

Hunting is alive and well all along the Tennessee River shorelines. And thankfully, now TVA isn't afraid to say it.

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