This Jan. 7 photo shows a deer grazing in Nashville. Tennessee wildlife officials say the deer season concluding was a good one that colder weather would have improved even more. (Associated Press)
NASHVILLE — Tennessee wildlife officials say the deer season was a good one that colder weather would have improved even more.
“I would call it a normal harvest,” said Chuck Yoest, the state big game coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The count stood at about 165,000 on Jan. 4 with two days of the season and a youth hunt on the following weekend remaining. That was about 3,000 more deer killed than at the same point last season.
“We’ll see that number rise in the next couple of weeks as late tags come in,” Yoest said. “It could break 170,000.”
The number of deer taken by hunters has rebounded well from an outbreak of a hemorrhagic disease commonly called “blue tongue” that reduced the number of deer killed in 2007.
“Our harvest was down sharply then,” said Randy Cromer, who manages the Cheatham Wildlife Management Area near Ashland City.
Cromer said hunters had no complaints this season.
TWRA spokesman Lee Wilmot said, heading into the final regular hunting weekend, sportsmen had taken 164,549 deer since the archery-only season began Sept. 22. That was followed by a muzzle loading gun season and then the modern gun segment.
Agency records show Giles County in southern Middle Tennessee was the hot spot for hunters this season, with more than 5,000 deer harvested there.
The harvest was strong in West Tennessee as well, with Fayette County and Henry County coming in second and third with nearly 5,000 deer taken in each.
“We have higher deer density in West (Tennessee) and Middle than in East,” Yoest said. “The bucks tend to be larger. Northern Middle Tennessee is where we see our biggest racks, but those Mississippi River deer produce some large racks, too.”
Dave Johnson, a semiretired police officer who lives in Cheatham County, said he shot only one buck, although he saw more. His kill had an eight-point rack and Johnson said he ground the venison to make summer sausage. Hunters are allowed three bucks each season and more does.
Johnson spent more time shooting video, which he then edits into wildlife footage for the benefit of family and friends’ viewing.
Johnson said the season got off to a great start, but nearly ground to a halt when a warm spell and full moon occurred the second week in December.
“There was nothing moving,” said Johnson, who took to the field three mornings and five evenings that week.
“The deer have their winter coat on, but unlike you and me they can’t take it off,” he explained. “It was too hot for them to move during the day and, with a full moon (to see by), they waited until it cooled off.”
That also protected them from hunters, who can’t take game after sunset.
Yoest said the agency will compile biological information on the hunt to help set rules for next season.