White-tailed deer are the most popular quarry in Tennessee. Traditionally the weekend before Thanksgiving is the opener for the gun deer season statewide. The dates this year are Nov. 17 to Jan. 6 in all of the big game units. Private lands in Unit L also have an antlerless season Jan. 7-11.

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. 2 only; Unit D is one through Nov. 23 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.

The first of threequota deer hunts on the Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area was held Nov. 3-4. For the second year, the bag limit was increased to two does and one buck; and the harvest this year was an improvement over last year’s pitiful 32 deer, but still way below the normal take.

A total of 89 deer were taken — 56 bucks and 33 does. The largest buck field dressed at 171 pounds; the biggest rack was 12 points; the largest doe weighed 126 pounds. Two turkeys were taken, with the larger one weighing 22 pounds. No deer or turkey were retained for internal radiological contamination.

Last year, the opening day for this first hunt saw heavy rain, which obviously discouraged hunters. A more typical harvest for the first hunt at Oak Ridge would be like the 2016 take of 131 deer, but the totals can vary dramatically. In 2015, there were only 86 deer taken, and in 2014 the total was 238.

You never forget your first duck. And Delta Waterfowl (DW) will help to memorialize the moment with a “First-Duck Pin.” Hunters young and old can earn their pins and other prizes by sending DW an email or letter detailing the experience, along with a high-quality photo. Emails go to firstduck@deltawaterfowl.org and mail goes to Worth Mathewson, P.O. Box 130, Amity, Ore., 97101. Membership is not required to receive the first-duck pin, and more information is available on the pin at www.deltawaterfowl.org.

Since 1998, Hunters for the Hungry has provided more than 6.5 million meals to Tennesseans in need. Hunters for the Hungry is positioned for another stellar year, including a special promotion by Knight Rifles. Anyone who donates a deer to the program in the 2018-19 season will be entered into a drawing for one of four Knight Mountaineer muzzleloaders.

The 2018 season starts with more than 80 processors in 66 counties throughout Tennessee, and every processor has funds to accept 10 or more donated deer at no cost to the hunter. One donated deer provides as many as 168 venison 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 program.

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 www.tnwf.org or Matt Simcox at 615-353-1133.

High school students should check out the TWF’s Hunger Challenge, a competition among high school clubs and other organizations. The clubs earn points by raising critical funds to help feed Tennesseans in crisis; in addition, participating students gain important skills in leadership, club-building, humanitarianism and philanthropy.

The local area’s participating HFTH processors include: (Blount County) Village Meats, 1005 William Blount Drive, Maryville, 865-984-6626; (Anderson County) Adams Taxidermy and Processing, 102 Shipe Road, Claxton, 865-945-3553; and (Knox County) Broken Wing Meat Processing, 3217 Riverside Drive, Knoxville, 865-522-6914. A complete list of participating processors and remaining funding quotas are available on the above TWF website.

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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