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Why wildlife officials expect busy archery deer hunting season in Tennessee

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 9/24/2020 Mike Organ, Nashville Tennessean
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Part of Barry Cross' duties as a wildlife information specialist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is to let people know how rabid hunters are in the state.

Cross had a personal experience recently that is helping him do his job on the brink of deer archery-only hunting season in Tennessee.

"My daughter hunts and all she does is archery hunting and she is in the market for a new bow," Cross said. "She went to Bass Pro (Shops) Monday and could not find the type of bow she wants. She said their stock was way low. I believe that tells us a lot of people plan to hunt this season."

a person sitting on a deer lying in the dirt: Jody Pierce, 8, shows off the big six-point deer he shot during the archer hunting season on Aug. 30. That was only a three-day season. The next archery season opens Saturday and lasts through Oct. 30. © Submitted Jody Pierce, 8, shows off the big six-point deer he shot during the archer hunting season on Aug. 30. That was only a three-day season. The next archery season opens Saturday and lasts through Oct. 30.

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Season opens Saturday

The first archery-only season opens Saturday and lasts through Oct. 30. The second is Nov. 2-6.

The antlerless deer bag limits for the archery-only season are four in Units A-D and three per day in Unit L and Unit CWD. The antlered deer bag limit is a total of two for the entire 2020-21 deer seasons. The units guide is available at tn.gov/twra.html.

"Gun season in Tennessee is king but archery season, which got its start in the 1980s when you saw people hunting with the newer compound bows, has really exploded," Cross said. "In my opinion, they've done everything they can with a bow and cams to make it fast. We've got compound bows shooting well over 300 feet per second. Then you throw in the opportunity to use a cross bow during archery season that we started a few years back and it's opened up archery to everybody."

Hunting numbers up during pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hunters in Tennessee have headed to the woods in big numbers.

A total of 37,152 sportsman hunting/fishing licenses have been sold at this point compared to 33,384 at the same point in 2019, according to the TWRA. 

Also, 4,441 big game archery supplemental licenses have been sold at this point compared to 3,936 at the same point in 2019.

The increase has included younger hunters and anglers. A total of 18,347 Junior Hunt/Fish/Trap licenses for ages 13-15 have been sold in 2020 compared to 13,653 in 2019.

"We've seen a lot more people go back out in the woods this year," Cross said. "Who knows if that's going to continue past COVID? Our hope is that whatever they find out there this year will resonate with them on down the road." 

Hunters feeding the hungry

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program is accepting deer donations for the 2020-21 deer season to feed Tennessee families in need.

More than 60 deer processors across the state are accepting the donations of deer.

“Because of COVID-19, more Tennesseans than ever are having to rely on hunger relief organizations to help feed their families,” Hunters for the Hungry manager Matt Simcox said. “That’s why we want to encourage even more hunters to donate their harvest this season. Each time they donate a deer, they’re providing 168 meals to our neighbors who need it most.”

Hunters who harvest a deer may donate it at a participating processor. The venison is processed and then provided to community food banks or soup kitchens. 

Since the program began, Hunters for the Hungry has provided more than 7.6 million meals to hungry Tennesseans. 

Hunters can also drop off a whole deer at no cost.  Each year, Hunters for the Hungry covers tens of thousands of dollars in processing fees for donations. If deer donations surpass available funding for this season, hunters can pay a reduced, $50 processing fee or redeem a Deer Coin. 

To see processors participating in the program visit tnwf.org/processors. For more information call 615-353-1133 or visit tnwf.org/our-programs/hunters-for-the-hungry.

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Why wildlife officials expect busy archery deer hunting season in Tennessee

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