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Deer season ends with a blast -- cold, that is

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:12 PM

My hunting buddy decided to skip the last week of deer season because he knew it was futile to try to shoot one -- the deer were frozen so solid that a bullet would bounce off.

That might be an exaggeration, but only slightly.

A frigid Arctic blast roared through, plunging temperatures to record lows during the final days of the season that ended last weekend. Being outdoors in that kind of weather isn't just uncomfortable, it's dangerous -- not to mention having to drive to and from hunting areas on treacherous, ice-slickened roads.

As much as hunters might have wanted to get out in the woods for the season finale, it wasn't worth risking frostbite and hypothermia. Also, the bitter cold is especially dangerous for anyone with circulatory or respiratory ailments.

It was a frustrating end to a season that deer hunters had looked forward to for so long, and it reinforced what a lot of us have been campaigning for: an earlier start.

Remember the golden, idyllic days of early November? They were perfect for deer hunting. But the muzzleloader season didn't open until Nov. 9. Nine gorgeous days, wasted.

Granted, archery season was open, but that didn't help those of us who don't feel sufficiently skilled to shoot arrows at deer. Today's muzzleloaders, on the other hand, are as efficient as any modern rifle, and decrease the chance of losing a wounded deer.

There's no reason to delay muzzleloader season and deny hunters those prime early-November days. The season should start on Nov. 1 at the latest.

In fact, I favor opening muzzleloader season in late October, after fall turkey season. Bow hunters would still have late September and most of October to themselves, and could continue to hunt with a bow if they wanted to during muzzleloader and gun season.

It's not fair to gun hunters to simply tack on a week in January, because the weather during that time is generally too raw and miserable to enjoy being outdoors -- and can be downright dangerous, as was the case last week.

Deer hunting is supposed to be fun, and it's no fun to get frostbitten.  And as far as taking youngsters on a hunt in such frigid conditions, forget it -- the experience could sour them on hunting for life.

Every year the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency invites hunters to offer input and suggestions about hunting seasons and regulations (TWRA.Comment@tn.gov) and every year I lobby for an earlier start to muzzleloader season.

The TWRA should make hunting as enjoyable as possible for as many hunters as possible. Most would agree that sitting on a deer stand during the first week of November is a lot more pleasant than sitting on one during the first week of January.

A few years ago the TWRA heeded hunters' requests to move the fall turkey season from mid-December to mid-October to take advantage of better weather. Hopefully it'll do likewise with deer season, and move up the start.

Hunting and hypothermia don't mix.

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