First-ever 'velvet buck' hunt begins Friday
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WTVC) - Beginning Friday, Tennessee hunters will have their first-ever opportunity to participate in Tennessee’s inaugural August deer hunt that some have referred to as the "velvet buck hunt." The three-day season (Aug. 24-26) is open statewide -- only for archery hunters and only on private lands for antlered bucks.
Some deer hunters are excited about the prospect, while others are vehemently opposed.
At the urging of Wildlife Commissioner Angie Box from Jackson, Tennessee, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission voted at its May meeting to establish this short season to give hunters an opportunity to harvest a buck with velvet-covered antlers. Any buck taken does count against a hunter's annual bag limit of no more than two bucks.
Deer and elk antlers are the fastest-growing animal tissue on earth. Every year in late winter, deer and elk lose, or shed their antlers. Over the next six or seven months the animals re-grow potential enormous antlers. During the growth stage the antlers are covered with a "velvet-like skin" which provides the nutrients for the incredibly fast growth. When antler growth stops, deer rub their antlers against trees, removing the velvet-like covering -- usually before regular deer hunting seasons open in late September.
Commissioner Box said a group of hunters approached her requesting the early archery season so they would have an opportunity to take bucks still in the velvet antler phase.
There was a long discussion of the issue at the May TFWC meeting and TWRA Deer Program Leader James Kelly even asked that commissioners hold off on passing the measure until staff biologists had more time to study the issue.
Kelly said, "Since this is not an urgent conservation issue, but rather one of hunter preference, I would ask that you allow the deer team to thoughtfully address this issue during the implementation phase of our strategic plan. I think it needs to be more thoroughly vetted."
Commissioner Connie King from Clarksville, Tennessee, spoke against the measure as well. King expressed concern expressed to her by hunters that in August, "bachelor buck" groups might be too easy to pattern and harvest.
Commissioner Kurt Holbert said, "As an avid bowhunter, just because they're gathered in an area every day, you still have to get them within 30 yards. That's a huge difference. To say it's going to be an easy kill, I believe that's way overstating it because I've never seen an easy kill with a bow."
Box added that she "spoke with (a) Kentucky biologist where they've had an early September bow hunt since the year 2000. It's had no negative effects on the resource whatsoever in 18 years."
In the end, wildlife commissioners passed the measure on a voice vote (meaning it is not clear on exactly who supported the measure and who was opposed).
On Facebook many hunters seem apathetic about the early season hunt.
Jim Ault said, "Still too hot for me. I'll just wait."
Charlie Wrenn said, "While I don't see any particular harm it will cause, I also don't see any particular good that will result. I would use the term 'unnecessary.'"
Others were strongly opposed, such as Gene Martin who wrote, "It's another stupid idea of TWRA!! It's a money ploy to try and get extra revenue! Period." (Editor's Note: One day of the three-day hunt, Saturday, is actually Free Hunting Day when Tennessee hunters are not required to have a license at all.)
Mike Bailey, a retired TWRA wildlife enforcement officer wrote, "There is NO research or scientific data to support [this hunt]. This is another one of the TWFC's 'pseudo science, white elephant' projects aimed at trophy hunting."
Others felt strongly that it's another excellent opportunity for Tennessee hunters.
Chris Sanders said, "I think it’s a good idea and a neat opportunity. I applaud the Commission for giving hunters more opportunities."
Rodney Owen added, "It's always been a special treat for a bowhunter to take a buck still in velvet antler phase. All they are trying to do is give the hunter a better opportunity to do so. The only people I see benefiting from this may be the taxidermist."
Gil Lackey agreed, "TWRA has offered up a fantastically fun opportunity for those with a passion for deer hunting. And the bonus is we get to hunt deer in velvet, a beautiful antler phase. By all means, don't take advantage if it's not your thing. But don't be a hater."
TWRA has three previously scheduled public meetings seeking public input regarding deer management in Tennessee. The closest on to our area will be held Sept. 6 at the University of Tennessee-Plant Biotech Building (Rooms 156/157) at 2505 E.J. Chapman Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee, 37996 (7-9 p.m. EDT).