http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/may/2 ... eason-cut/
Now that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission has voted on the 2010-11 hunting seasons, part of the commission's June meeting will be devoted to . . . voting on the 2010-2011 hunting seasons.
In a vote that, reportedly, had some commissioners confused, two weeks were cut out of the archery season for bears. Biologists with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency had recommended a five-week archery season, but that didn't sit well with commissioners Todd Shelton and Eric Wright, who wanted the season cut to two weeks.
Why the cut? Nobody really knows for sure, although Wright said something to Tennessee Wildlife Federation Executive Director Mike Butler about bears being wounded and not recovered. He made the assertion without any biological data to back it up.
It also raises the question: If the commission is worried about bears wounded with arrows and not being recovered, what about deer? Should the commission revisit archery hunting as a whole? Or maybe it's just because some traditional bear hunters have some heartburn that their sport isn't quite as exclusive as it once was?
Archery hunters who enjoyed the extended bear hunts last year - they bagged 162 bears in 2009 - were probably caught off guard by the amendment to the hunting season proposals because it had not been discussed until the Wednesday meeting. Wright did make a similar proposal at the commission's May meeting - which Shelton didn't attend - but it died without a second.
It's not like the commission hasn't slipped hunters and fishermen in Tennessee a few mickies in the past, but Wright was appointed to the commission by Speaker Kent Williams, who has been making a lot of noise about the commission's poor communication with the public and the legislature.
While Wright said he was concerned about wounded bears, many believe the real reason some want the archery season cut back is because dog hunters believe the bow hunters are infringing on their turf. While it's likely some of the bears bagged with bows would have been taken down by dog hunters, all but three of the 162 were killed on private land.
Coming off a record year it appears Tennessee should have enough bears to go around.
TWRC Chairman Mike Chase didn't like the way the amendment was presented with no public notice. Although the amended amendment, which cut the season by two weeks instead of three, passed 6-5, Chase is going to bring the issue back up.
He's going to give the hunters time to comment on the three-week season and if enough don't like the change he will have the issue put on the agenda in June. If nobody says anything, the three-week season stays in place.
The way the bear issue was handled was in contrast to how the agency/commission handled a proposal for duck blind drawings at four units of the Chickamauga Wildlife Management Area. Public input was taken, public meetings were held and despite some resistance from hunters who use the WMA, the proposal was approved.
Nobody can come back on the agency/commission and say they had no idea what was happening.
So give the commission a thumbs-down for cutting the archery bear season without the public knowing it may be cut. Give them a thumbs-up for realizing what they did and for giving the public an opportunity to comment. Now it's up to the public to let them know what they think.
In other actions:
Hunters will be required to check in big-game animals on the day they are killed. Internet check-in for bears has been eliminated to aid in data collection by biologists.
Two new hog hunts were created on the Cumberland Plateau to allow hunting with dogs Oct. 2-10 and Dec. 31-Jan. 3 A hog hunt with dogs also will be opened in Monroe and Polk counties Dec. 31-Jan. 3.
A computerized drawing system for blinds at Chickamauga's four units - Candies Creek, Rogers Creek, Yellow Creek and Johnson Bottoms - will be implemented before the season. The same system, the application process will be announced later, will also be used at Bogota and the new Thorny Cypress Wildlife Management Area in West Tennessee.
The special season fall turkey and deer hunts have been changed to non-quota hunts in many counties, including Knox.