This should be a great year to view the best natural fireworks show in the northern hemisphere: The Perseid meteor shower. It peaks each year around Aug. 11-12, building steadily the preceding three weeks and dropping off rapidly after Aug. 13. On a dark night expect to see 60 to 100 shooting stars per hour over the entire sky, and more large “fireballs” than any other meteor shower.

A bright moon will spoil any meteor shower, but this year the slivered first-quarter moon will be gone soon after sunset. The best viewing times are after midnight, but any time after dark will do. Binoculars are not necessary. Find a dark sky and clear horizon far from city lights and get comfortable (lounge chair, snacks, insect repellant, etc.). It is a great time to go night fishing, too.

As a bonus this year, Mars will be incredibly close to Earth right now and incredibly Bright! Being near opposition to the sun, reddish-orange Mars will rise as the sun sets and will be visible until about 4:00 a.m. local time. And that bright cream-colored object just to the west of Mars is Saturn; it will set around 2:00 a.m. Venus and Jupiter will be visible earlier in the evening.

The Perseid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the debris from the orbital path of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Their flight paths will appear to travel from the constellation Perseus in the northeast, but they will occur all over the sky.

Do not forget: The deadline for the first Tennessee elk raffle is Aug. 15. This year, instead of an online eBay auction for one elk permit, an old-fashioned raffle will be held for that ticket. And you can buy as many chances as you want for $10 per. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation (TWRF) is the non-governmental organization that will run the raffle, and all proceeds go to the Tennessee elk program.

As a bonus, the raffle winner will also get a new Tikka T3X Lite Stainless bolt-action rifle in 7mm Remington Mag, topped with an Oculus Pro Team HD 3x9x40 mm rifle scope, a $1,000 package value. This is a donation from Bass Pro Shops.

The raffle drawing will be held on Aug. 15 and the winner announced at the Aug. 24 meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission in Nashville. The raffle winner will join the computer drawing winners in the 2018 hunt in mid-October at one of the elk hunting zones on North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.

Tennessee state law requires that applicants must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen eligible to legally own a firearm according to federal law. The winner is responsible for all taxes and fees associated with the prize, and will need to purchase the required elk license.

To purchase tickets for the raffle, visit the TWRF website at http://www.twrf.net/store/2018-elk-tag-raffle.

TWRF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting habitat conservation, responsible land stewardship, and Tennessee’s hunting and fishing heritage for the benefit of Tennessee’s outdoor enthusiasts and the TWRA. Check them out at www.twrf.net.

Now is a good time for a new hunter to get a hunter education certificate – that’s anyone born after 1968. You must go online to sign up for a hunter education class. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency lists the upcoming classes on its website, which you can see by going to www.tnwildlife.org and selecting Hunting, then Hunter Education Classes. Students must be at least nine years old to earn a certificate; they should bring a pencil and their Social Security number (mandatory). Do not bring a gun.

Presently there is a class scheduled for Knoxville’s John Sevier Hunter Education Center beginning Aug. 13 (M-Tu-Th-F). Other classes may be added at any time, so check often. For those persons without computer access, they are encouraged to visit a local library or call a TWRA regional office for further assistance. Region IV’s phone number is 800-332-0900.

Are you having trouble scheduling the time for a hunter education class? For many years there has been an online alternative with an online written exam and a required field day for live shooting; but, now there is an exemption to the field day for those 21 years or older. The following steps are required:

Complete the online class (for age 21) at www.Hunter-Ed.com. This course costs $24.50 and it is interactive, narrated, and offers daily (including weekend) live customer service via email or telephone. Complete the form provided for the exemption and mail, fax or email it with required documentation and payment to the address listed on the form. To request a form contact the Hunter Education Coordinator at 615-781-6538. Your certificate will arrive in three to five business days after submission.

Email wiest.tom@gmail.com to share with your news and comments with Tom Wiest.

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

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