The most popular species hunted in Tennessee — and the United States — is the white-tailed deer. Traditionally the weekend before Thanksgiving is the opener for the gun deer season statewide. The dates this year are Nov. 23 to Jan. 5 in all of the big game units. Private lands in Unit L also have an antlerless season Jan. 6-10.

The antlered deer bag limit for all seasons (archery, muzzleloader and gun) is two (maximum one per day). The antlerless bag limits differ for each big game unit: Unit L is three per day; Unit A is two; Unit B is one; Unit C is one through Dec. 8 only; Unit D is one through Nov. 29 only. Hunters may take an antlerless bag limit in each big game unit. Some hunters need a Type 094 permit to hunt does, but not Sportsman and Lifetime licenses or landowners on their own land.

In Unit CWD the gun season begins early, Nov. 9 to Jan. 5. See page 35 of the 2019-20 hunting guide for special harvest programs in this unit, such as Earn-A-Buck and Replacement Buck.

The first of three quota deer hunts on the Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area was held on Nov. 2-3. A total of 113 deer were taken, 61 bucks and 52 does. The largest buck field dressed at 181 pounds; the biggest rack was 13 points; the largest doe weighed 109 pounds. One turkey was taken, weighing 17 pounds and having a 9.0 inch beard and 1.0 inch spurs. No deer or turkey were retained for internal radiological contamination.

STATS: For those hunters that like to follow the big game harvest numbers for Tennessee, there is a setback in available data coming from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Previously one could go to the Hunting section on the TWRA website and select “Hunters Toolbox, Reports and Statistics”. Here there were lots of details on any period of the season, including say, for deer: Antlered, antlerless males and females, fawns, as well as a breakdown for each county’s harvest.

A TWRA representative explained that the previous reporting system was susceptible to many mistakes and was inaccurate; therefore, the Hunters Toolbox is being redesigned. Presently the Hunters Toolbox will only report gross totals for deer, bear, turkey, and sandhill crane. A map of counties is included and selecting a county will give you its total harvest number.

For the Youth Hunt on Oct. 26-27, the statewide harvest of deer was 3,470; two bear were taken in Sevier County total. For year-to-date the statewide deer harvest is 18,645; the bear harvest is at 301. The top five counties so far for bear are: Carter 40, Polk 37, Monroe 35, Cocke 34 and Sevier 30.

TRAPPING: Nature prepares furbearing animals for winter with thick, prime pelts. For Tennessee pelts are prime from mid-November through February. Tennessee’s trapping season corresponds to that time and is Nov. 22 – Feb. 29.

Eligible furbearers are: bobcat, fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, river otter, raccoon, skunks (striped and spotted) and weasel. There are no daily or annual limits. Beaver, coyote and groundhog can be trapped year round since they are such costly pests to farmers, stockmen and landowners.

Modern trapping is highly regulated by state wildlife agencies and it is similar to hunting as an effective tool for controlling populations of target species. Such regulations include the style and size of traps, identification tags on all traps, and frequent inspection of trap sites. See pages 15-16 (Manner and Means section) and page 19 (Trapping Seasons) of the 2019-20 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide for more details; also at

ART: The State-Fish Art Contest is entering its 22nd year, bringing children, art and aquatic conservation together. The contest is for all grades from K-12. The young artists in four age categories will create an original illustration of any official state-fish and one page of writing (a personal one-page written essay, story or poem) detailing its behavior, habitat, and efforts to conserve it. Winners receive prizes and national recognition. Wildlife Forever created this award-winning program, and Bass Pro Shops again is this year’s sponsor.

New for the 2020 contest is the Fish Migration Award, created in partnership between Wildlife Forever and the World Fish Migration Foundation. Contestants may choose to apply in either the State-Fish Art Contest, the Fish Migration Award or both. Art will be judged in two age categories, 5-11 years old and 12-18 years old.

Educators, homeschoolers and parents nationwide can utilize a lesson plan for the contest called “Fish On!”, which is available for free on CD and for download. Entries are due by March 31, 2020. Judging will be held in April and winners announced early in May. For more details and to view the 2019 winning art and writings visit Tennessee has two official state fish, the largemouth bass and the channel catfish.

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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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