The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission has finalized this fall's hunting seasons, and the opening of muzzleloader season starts later -- Nov. 8 -- than some hunters had requested.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency each year invites hunters to submit comments and suggestions about the seasons, and one suggestion for 2014 was to move up the start of muzzleloader season.
However, the muzzleloader season will run Nov. 8-21, overlapping with archery season which opens Sept. 27. Some hunters would like the archery/muzzleloader seasons more equally divided.
Deer gun season traditionally opens the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, which this year is Nov. 22. It runs through Jan. 4, 2015.
There are no changes in deer hunting regulations and bag limits. An internet rumor had circulated about a reduction of the four-buck season's bag limit, but the TWRA said it was untrue.
In recent years there has been a growing debate about a "quality deer" program -- protecting younger bucks in order to allow them time to grow bigger antlers -- but so far the regulations remain unchanged. Such "quality management" rules remain in effect on some Wildlife Management Areas, but so far have not impacted statewide regulations. Hunters are divided on the issue.
The Young Sportsman deer hunts will be held on Oct. 25-26 and Jan. 10-11.
The fall turkey season will remain in mid-October (Oct. 11-26), but is being suspended in three counties: Giles, Wayne and Lawrence due to an abrupt -- and puzzling -- decline in the turkey populations in those areas. The TWRA does not know what caused the decline and biologists continue to study the situation.
A 44-day spring turkey season will open April 4 with no changes in bag limits and regulations.
Small-game seasons likewise remain unchanged. There had been suggestions to temporarily suspend quail season to see if it might help halt a decades-long decline in the birds' population. However, biologists don't believe hunting pressure is to blame, and that halting hunting for quail would not solve the problem.
Not yet finalized are details about dove season. Because doves are classified as migratory birds, the season is set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The traditional Sept. 1 opening of dove season is expected to remain in place, but there could be tweaks made to the three segments of the 90-day season.
The Commission finalized plans to open bear hunting in 15 new counties, including some on the Cumberland Plateau. In recent years the state's bear population has increased, and the animals have gradually expanded their territory from traditional East Tennessee counties.
Details about the hunting seasons are posted on the TWRA website (tnwildlife.org) and will be in the 2014-15 Tennessee Trapping and Hunting Guide, available at most outdoors outlets later this year.