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American deer hunters are killing the highest-ever percentage of bucks age 3˝ and older, according to data gathered by the Quality Deer Management Association for its 2015 Whitetail Report.

In the 2013-14 season, the most recent season with compete deer harvest data available from all states, 34 percent of bucks harvested in the states that collect buck age data were 3˝ or older. That statistic is up from 32 percent the season before, and significantly up from a decade before in the 2003-04 season, when only 23 percent of the national buck harvest was mature. These gains have been made while the percentage of yearling bucks (1˝ years old) in the harvest has steadily declined, reaching a record-low of 36 percent.

"This is a testament to how far we've come as hunters in the past decade," said Kip Adams, QDMA's Director of Education & Outreach, who compiles the annual Whitetail Report. "More hunters are choosing to protect yearling bucks, and they are being rewarded by seeing and killing more of them as mature animals."

By Steve McCadams

It began way back on the fourth Saturday in September when warm temperatures were keeping a lot of hunters out of the woods. Foliage was thick. Seed ticks were still out and it was just too hot for some to climb up in a stand.

A lot of hunters wait on a cool snap when the archery season first opens as they just don’t want to worry about getting an animal to a cooler or processor before the meat spoils.

The first youth hunt of the season was held Oct. 25-26 and the young hunters had a harvest of 5,663. The gun season for deer for everyone across the state began November 22. Muzzleloaders had a segment to all their own from November 8 -21 so pretty much everyone in deer world has had ample opportunities across the Volunteer State.

Tennessee’s deer season looks to have been a pretty good one across the state as figures showed hunters checked in a total of 164,650 this year.

The last weekend’s special Young Sportsman’s Deer Hunt for youngsters ages 6-16 years of age ended on a decent note and that brought the official end to deer season that started way back on the fourth Saturday in September when archery kicked it off.

Henry County deer hunters fared well again this year. Harvest figures showed Henry ranked third among the state’s 95 counties as hunters checked in 4,444 deer.

Giles County took the top spot this year with a total of 5,239.


It was referred to for years as the official opening day of the deer season. Even though archery season opened much earlier folks just referred to the first day of gun season as “opening day”.

Things have changed since over the years as the deer population exploded. Season dates and bag limits are more liberal than yesteryear.

Since the fourth Saturday in September, which is the traditional opener for archery season, deer hunters have had a lot of days in the woods. Not only have bow hunters had a wide window of opportunity but by the time the regular gun season opens Saturday deer hunters of all ages have had an opportunity to hunt with either a bow, regular gun or muzzleloader.

The special youth hunt back in late October allowed youngsters a weekend of their own to hunt with regular gun. And, the big guys have been in the woods with muzzleloaders for almost two weeks so they too have hunt opportunities with guns.

So, by the time the regular gun season opens on its traditional fourth Saturday in November most hunters have already been in the woods and fields. That takes a little cream off the top of the regular gun season opener compared to times past but it’s still a big day for deer hunters across Tennessee.

Some hunters have been passing up smaller deer and waiting for that bigger buck. And, it appears that atmosphere has spread among the ranks of Henry County deer hunters as most feel bigger deer are being seen and taken as a result.

“There have been some very nice bucks taken so far this year! Just not by me,” said veteran hunter Keith Hickman. “I definitely think the cold temps kicked in the rut; I personally think it might be a week or so early. Just my observations.” “I’ve seen more deer this year than in the past but I attribute that to the cold temps keeping the deer on their feet and moving!”

With the rut now in progress hunters are hoping that big buck will be careless and show himself more often in the pursuit of does.

“I believe the rut will be in full swing next week,” said Henry County Wildlife Officer Clay Riley. “Some bucks have been chasing does for the past couple of weeks but the rut should peak the week of Thanksgiving. The extra heavy acorn crop has kept the does in the woods and they seem scarce. They should begin to move more if we get some rain to sour the acorns on the ground.”

For the fourth year, sportsmen will find one continuous season that will continue through Jan. 4, 2015. The continuous season replaced the previously two segmented hunting seasons that were in place prior to 2011. Archery and muzzleloader equipment are legal during gun season.

TWRA personnel will be collecting data at selected check-in stations across the state on opening day. Antlered bucks will be measured and aged for management purposes. The second Young Sportsman Hunt will be held the weekend of Jan. 10-11, 2015.

Updated harvest figures at midweek showed hunters had checked in 66,046 statewide. Montgomery County was leading among the state’s 95 counties with a total of 1,760.

Locally, Henry County was in the top five ranking with 1,488. Neighboring Stewart County had a total of 1,595.

Here’s hoping you have a good weekend in the woods.

Steve McCadams

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