Final harvest figures are in for the recently-completed deer season, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reports a sizable increase over last year.
A total of 159,895 deer were checked in, up from 135,135 the previous season.
There were 88,641 antlered bucks killed, up from 73,653 the year before.
There were 64, 812 does tagged, up from 56,031.
There were 6,442 antlerless bucks killed, up from 5,451.
The big increase occurred amid concerns over Chronic Wasting Disease which has impacted deer in seven West Tennessee counties.
Those counties were designated a “CWD Zone” and managed differently from the state’s other deer hunting zones. Deer killed there were included in the state-wide total.
The season opened with a “velvet hunt” on August 28, and ended with a final Young Sportsman hunt on Jan. 10. There were special segments for bow hunters, muzzleloader hunters, gun hunters and youth hunters.
The increase in antlered bucks may reflect the Agency’s management practices designed to produce more big deer.
Only two antlered bucks per season can be taken, letting more little bucks survive to grow bigger.
The TWRA has struck a fair balance, allowing bucks with antlers under three inches to be taken and counted as “antlerless,” and permitting a virtually unlimited harvest of does – three a day in most counties.
Hunters seem satisfied with that arrangement, which produces more big bucks for trophy hunters, while allowing others to harvest plenty of smaller deer.
More good news for deer hunters was that there were no positive tests for CWD in Middle or East Tennessee. That indicates the TWRA’s efforts to contain the deadly disease so far are working.
CWD testing was conducted throughout the season at sites around Middle Tennessee, including Cedars of Lebanon State Park and local deer processing plants, with negative results.
There is no known cure for CWD once a deer is infected.
The TWRA’s strategy is to try to contain it to the areas in which it exits, exterminate infected animals, and prevent its spread.
As part of the latter effort, the Agency discourages the use of deer feeders by hunters and wildlife watchers, because one diseased deer can infect all others using the feeder.
While CWD is not transmitted to humans, livestock or other wildlife, it can devastate a deer population in a given area.
That represents a serious threat to the state’s most popular form of hunting, and the subsequent billion-dollar industry.
The TWRA and the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission will analyze the deer-harvest results and CWD data and decide what, if any changes, will be made in this fall’s hunting regulations.