Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This, that and the other

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Bill Stephens killed this dandy Thanksgiving Day 2015. This is an anomaly for Wilson County.

By now, most of you deer hunters have heard about the change in the regulations concerning what is checked in as a buck. For many years, if the animal had antlers three-inches or more, it must be checked in as a buck. A deer with shorter antlers but still visible was classified as antlerless and checked in as something besides a buck. From day one, I opposed that. My stance was and is, if it was a male animal, regardless of antler length, then it was a buck and should be checked in as one.

Well, the rules have changed. Starting this fall, if the deer has visible antlers that have broken the skin, it is a buck and must be checked in as a buck. I support that and fully realize it will have very little impact on anything other than some hunter's score sheet. He can say, "I limited out on bucks." That is all it will do in terms of balancing the actual sex ratio in our statewide herd.

Yes, I'll explain that.

That new rule will keep the honest hunters honest. They will abide by it. A deer hunter who makes a mistake, thinks he is shooting a doe, then, discovers it has antlers breaking the skin, if he is honest will use one of his two buck tags when checking it in. Those who are not honest, will use the online check in and either check it in as a doe or not check it in at all.

In the statistics, our annual, statewide buck kill will increase and to some extent, our antlerless kill will decrease. Deer formerly checked in as antlerless will now be called bucks. But what will the overall, actual impact be on deer management in Tennessee? ZERO.

Although, as I said, I support the new regulation and believe it is an important factor in deer management on private land, I fully understand it will do not one thing in terms of producing Midwest antlers on Tennessee bucks. That simply cannot be done. It is impossible. I have said this many times.

Unfortunately, I believe there is a vocal and perhaps influential segment of Tennessee deer hunters who simply do not understand that. I think this segment may have some input on the Commission and would like to see trophy deer management replace quality deer management in Tennessee. That, I oppose.

Understand this: TWRA does not make the rules. They simply enforce them. They make recommendations to the Wildlife Commission and they make the rules. Sometimes they follow the recommendations, sometimes not. So what about antlers?

Once again, I will try to explain how it works.

There are only three factors involved in producing big, Midwest or Canadian size antlers on deer (what the trophy guys want).
(1) Genetics (2) Age (3) Nutrition. That is all.

In any given area, you can manage the deer population to produce the very best animals those three factors can provide.

You cannot produce animals who do not genetically have the ingredients to produce something better.

If a male deer has the proper genes, the best nutrition and reaches maturity, it can sport huge antlers. In a penned situation, certain antler enhancing drugs can be added but we are not talking about that.

The deer in most parts of Tennessee do not have genes to produce huge antlers in most cases. There will be the occasional anomaly.

We can, to some extent control age and allow one segment of the male population to reach maturity. In fact, that is now being done.

We can, if we have private land, provide outstanding nutrition.

But there is not one thing we can do to improve genetics on free ranging deer. We could not import enough deer from the Midwest or Canada to make one iota of impact on our free ranging deer herd. What we can do and are doing to some extent, is producing the best animals, antler-wise, that that area of Tennessee can produce.

So while I support the new regulation, been saying that is the way it should be for over 30-years, I realize I am not going to start seeing 170-inch antlers running around Wilson County with any regularity.

IMO -- The TWRA is doing an outstanding job of deer management and the Commission should listen to the qualified biologists.

Now. Let's all go fishing. Brent Turner is catching some trophy-size crappie using his spider rig and fishing minnows 16-16 feet down on Old Hickory.

And Mark "Big Bird" Campbell is catching nice catfish while bass fishing.

And, I am dealing with a haint. For no reason, the freezer in my garage quit working. A week later, the tail light on my truck went out.

The good guys at Crook Automotive fixed the short in the wires, the tail light works fine and the freezer started working just fine, too.

Now y'all figure that one out.

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