Larry Woody: Deer, turkey regulations remain unchanged despite speculation

Larry Woody • May 31, 2017 at 6:24 PM

Despite widespread speculation about some significant changes forthcoming, the state’s deer and turkey regulations will remain unchanged for the 2017-18 hunting seasons.

The Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission left intact the deer and turkey bag limits and other regulations during last week’s meeting in Dayton.

The Commission added more tags for this fall’s elk hunt – from 11 to 15. Seven tags will go to bow hunters, seven to gun hunters and one to the Youth Hunt. The elk hunts will be extended to seven days. Information about applying for the permit draws and the on-line auction of one permit will be announced later.

The Tennessee Fur Harvesters Association was represented at the meeting by Lebanon’s Clarence Dies, an official with the association, who made a pitch for several changes in trapping regulations. The Commission granted all the requests, which Dies said will greatly benefit trappers.

Much of the interest – and debate – going into the meeting centered around deer and turkey regulations.

The turkey population has been in decline in recent years in some areas of the state, and concerned biologists are trying to determine the cause – so far without success.

Given that situation, there was speculation that the four-gobbler limit would be reduced in next spring’s season, and hens would be protected during the fall season. Some hunters submitted both suggestions to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which offers input to the commission. 

The commission, however, elected to leave the turkey regulations as they are. An extensive study is underway in partnership with the University of Tennessee, and concern was expressed that changing the regulations at this juncture could disrupt the study.

There was also speculation that the definition of “antlerless” deer would be changed for the second time in two years, but it too was left as is.

Under the rule, a button buck is defined as “antlerless” if the antler nubs do not protrude above the hair-line. Such bucks can be counted among the liberal “antlerless” limit.

Regulations likewise remain unchanged for antlered bucks – spikes can be taken, but like last year, they count toward the two-buck season limit.

There will be no changes in the big-game check-in process, despite concerns that many deer and turkey are not being checked in as the law requires. As in the past, kills can be checked in on the TWRA website or app, or at designated check-in stations.

Proposals for deer regulations in recent years have ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some would like to see antler regulations done away with entirely and hunters be allowed to harvest whatever buck they wish, within a season limit.

Others advocate for stricter “quality deer” rules designed to let young bucks grow older and produce bigger trophy antlers. A big-antler rule is already in effect on the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, and some hunters are concerned that similar trophy-hunting mandates may eventually be imposed on the statewide hunt.

Complete big-game and small-game hunting seasons and regulations will be detailed in the 2017-18 Tennessee Hunting & Trapping Guide, available this summer at most outdoors outlets.

Larry Woody is The Democrat’s outdoors writer.

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