Tennessee hunters are heading into the final days of the 2012-13 deer hunting season. The last day of hunting is Sunday, Jan. 6, except for the special young sportsman hunt Jan. 12-13. Those are days when only youngsters 6-16 years of age can hunt (in the company of an adult).
The total number of deer taken is slightly off pace from last year's season. At this writing, Tennessee deer hunters have taken 163,971 white-tails. That compares to 165,774 taken as of the same time last year. Biologists have long said that, in most areas, Tennessee's deer population has peaked, and harvest numbers are expected to remain fairly stable barring dramatic changes.
Area waterfowl hunters are singing the blues right now. The early portion of the season in Tennessee and North Alabama (where many Tennessee waterfowlers hunt) saw great numbers of ducks and harvests.
However, something has happened in the past week or two. Many ducks seem to have migrated out of the region, and those that remain aren't doing much moving around. Most hunters agree it is a rather odd occurrence for this time of year, when waterfowl numbers are usually increasing. If it's any consolation, it's not just our area experiencing the problem.
Steve McCadams is a well-known duck hunting guide on Kentucky Lake in West Tennessee. McCadams networks with waterfowlers across the country.
"Despite a few cool days during the holiday period, ducks have dodged the decoy spreads of weary waterfowlers over a large portion of western Tennessee and Kentucky, along with several areas of eastern Arkansas and the boot heel of Missouri," said McCadams.
He agrees that cold, snowy conditions to the north should be sending ducks to southern wintering grounds, but hunters haven’t been seeing them in big numbers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicted a record fall flight based on earlier population estimates.
Unlike other types of hunting, however, waterfowlers always have hope because things can literally change overnight.
"January usually brings an influx of ducks," McCadams said.
Hunters have just more than three weeks left until the season ends Sunday, Jan. 27.
Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.