The traditional opening date for archery deer hunting is the fourth Saturday of September. The first segment is Sept. 28 to Oct. 25; then, after a respite weekend (Oct. 26-27) for the first youth deer hunt, the second archery segment is Oct. 28 to Nov. 8. All the regular big game units, A, B, C, D, and L have the same dates; all of the regular units – except L – have the same bag limits: Two antlered and four antlerless. Unit L bag limits are two antlered per season and three antlerless per day. Those two bucks are the season maximum for all weapons, gun and muzzleloader included.

The new Unit CDL is the eight counties in the southwest corner of the state: Shelby, Fayette, Hardeman, McNairy, Tipton, Haywood, Madison, and Chester. The archery-only season is Sept. 28 to Oct. 25. After the Young Sportsmen weekend, the muzzleloader and archery segment is Oct. 28 to Nov. 8. Gun, muzzleloader and archery segment is Nov. 9 to Jan. 5. The Private Lands hunt is Jan. 6-10.

Also, archery fall turkey occurs on Sept. 28 to Oct. 25 and Oct. 28 – Nov. 8 in most counties (see page 43 of the 2019 hunting guide). Shotgun is allowed for turkey Oct. 12-25. The season limit is one bearded bird per county, no hens.

BEARS: And, bear hunting begins on Sept. 28. The archery season is Sept. 28 – Oct. 25, without dogs, for all of the Bear Hunting Zones: BHZ1 – BHZ4 and Transitional. The annual bag limit is one bear either-sex, sows without cubs.

Next, bear hunting with dogs and all weapons opens in three zones: Oct. 12-18 in BHZ2, which includes Blount, Cocke (south of I-40), Jefferson (east of Hwy 411), and Sevier counties; Oct. 5-13 in BHZ3, which is McMinn (east of Hwy 411), Monroe and northeastern Polk counties; Oct. 5-7 and Oct. 12-13 in BHZ1, which is Carter, Cocke (north of I-40), Greene, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties. The later bear hunts will be listed here soon, but you can see them all on page 40 of the 2019 hunting guide.

FOR THE HUNGRY: The generous community-support program Hunters For The Hungry (HFTH) is positioned for another stellar year. The 2019 season starts with more than 80 processors in 66 counties throughout Tennessee, and every processor has funds to accept donated deer at no cost to the hunter.

One donated deer provides as many as 168 protein meals for Tennesseans in need and is distributed to food banks and soup kitchens across the state. More than 600,000 meals were supplied by the program last year. The Tennessee Wildlife Federation sponsors the HFTH.

There are two ways to help HFTH help the needy in your county or neighborhood. One is to give venison or other wild meat to the program – a few pounds or often an entire deer. The other way is to give cash to help defray the cost of processing the meat. To donate money or learn more about other TWF programs, go to or call Matt Simcox at 615-353-1133.

Hunters can drop off a whole deer donation at no personal cost.

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Tom Wiest is a long time columnist on all matters outdoors. He welcomes news, questions and comments from readers.

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