Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency biologists are hoping a new regulation will improve waterfowl hunting on two units of the North Chickamauga Wildlife Management Area this winter.
Last week, wildlife regulators passed a new regulation that forbids access to the Rogers and Vandergriff units during the late portion of the Tennessee duck season during December and January to anyone except licensed hunters on scheduled hunt days.
The North Chick WMA is comprised of six units—Hixson, Rogers, Sutton, Thrasher Bottoms, Vandergriff and Varner. The areas were purchased primarily with Wetlands Acquisition funds, generated by real estate taxes in Tennessee. Ducks Unlimited also contributed to the development of one unit. All funds for ongoing management of the units are funded by hunting and fishing license dollars. A private, nonprofit group called the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy works to protect and enhance the entire North Chickamauga Creek watershed, which includes the TWRA-owned tracts.
All of the TWRA areas are in somewhat urban locations and are popular places for hikers and bird watchers, in addition to hunting activities. North Chickamauga Wildlife Management Area manager Greg Atchley said that hunting opportunities could be improved by limiting wintertime usage to hunters on hunt days only and made that recommendation to his managers. Such recommendations go through a thorough review by regional and central office TWRA staff before making their way to the governing body, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission.
The recommendation made its way through TWRA staff, but not without some complaints from nonhunters, according to Region III biologist Kirk Miles.
"The director [TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter] said he'd gotten a lot of calls and asked us if there was a compromise," Miles said.
The initial proposal would have closed access (during duck season) on three of the six North Chickamauga Units.
Miles said just before last week's TWRC meeting, "We decided to only ask for the closure on the two units—Rogers and Vandergriff—that are basically adjacent to each other on opposite sides of North Chickamauga Creek."
"I didn't talk with him, but I understood Commissioner Brown [from Chattanooga] had heard complaints as well," Miles said. "I understood that he was good with the compromise."
Miles said the measure passed the commission vote with little discussion and that no one was present at the meeting to voice concerns from either side.
"I hope on those two areas it will enable us to hold more ducks and provide better hunting," Miles said. "And of course the other units—Hixson and Varner—are still open to access on nonhunt days."