New hunting seasons have pluses, minuses

Larry Woody • Updated Jul 31, 2013 at 8:27 AM

The 2013 hunting seasons have been announced, and the first thing I saw in the new Hunting Guide was disappointing: muzzleloader deer season doesn’t open until Nov. 9.

There’s no reason why the TWRA shouldn’t open muzzleloader season on the first Saturday in November – Nov. 2.

Instead, muzzleloader hunters have to sit and fidget through a week of prime-time early November deer hunting so bow hunters can have an extra week to themselves.

Understand, I’m not opposed to bow hunting. In fact, I may get my recurve out of mothballs and go a time or two myself. But how long of a special season do bow hunters need? Deer archery season opens Sept. 28 and runs through Oct. 25, then after a two-day break, it resumes on Oct. 28 and runs through Nov. 8.

That’s a 40-day archery season. Muzzleloader hunters get a 14-day season.

Bow hunting, especially with compound bows, has become so technologically advanced that it really isn’t bow-hunting in the traditional Fred Bear sense. And once TWRA began allowing the use of once-banned crossbows, there was little logic for having a special “bow” season.

What I’d like to see – and what I’ve suggested to the TWRA – is a combined archery/muzzleloader season that runs throughout October. The final 10 days would overlap with a fall turkey season; hunters could hunt deer and/or turkeys during that period.

Gun season would start on Nov. 1 and run through the first week of January.

Bow hunters and muzzleloader hunters would have the option of using their bows and smoke-poles during the gun season if they wanted to.

Other than the late start on muzzleloader season, the TWRA’s continued trophy hunting-only restrictions on some WMAs, and a puzzling extension of quail season, I agree with the rest of the Agency’s 2013 regulations.

I like the extension of deer season through Jan. 5. If some hunters think that’s too long of a season and feel burned out by then, they can stay home. A longer season benefits working-class hunters and students who may get to hunt only on weekends.

I also agree with keeping fall turkey season in October instead of December as it had been for years. Moving the season up to milder weather has resulted in more hunters harvesting more birds. This year’s fall turkey season is Oct. 12-25.

Turkey populations fluctuate, and the TWRA adjusts bag limits on a county-by-county basis. In Giles County, for example, the fall bag limit at one time was six; this season it is one. Wilson County’s six-turkey limit remains unchanged.

The TWRA added another option for big-game check-ins: mobile devices. For information about mobile check-ins visit tnwildlife.org or consult the 2013 Hunting & Trapping Guide, available for free at most outdoors outlets. Big game can still be checked in at checking stations or on-line on the TWRA website.

One odd thing I noticed: quail season has been extended through Feb. 28. Last season it ended on Jan. 31. The TWRA last year ended quail season early to see if it would halt the bob-white’s decline. By most accounts it didn’t, so instead of reinstating a longer season, I think the TWRA should place a one-year moratorium on quail hunting.

Hunters’ input will be taken into consideration by the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission next spring when it starts planning the 2014 hunting seasons. The Commission sets the regulations that are enforced by the TWRA.

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