Senator says TN has too many deer, opposes bill raising penalties for killing them illegally

Outdoors writer Bob Hodge watched a Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources hearing on SB904, which would increase financial penalties for illegally killing big game animals. In a News Sentinel column, he’s somewhat critical of Sen. Frank Niceley’s opposition to the bill on grounds that deer “on on the verge of being a nuisance” statewide.

By putting more teeth in the law, the TLC representative believes some of the folks who are willing to gamble on illegally shooting a deer, bear, turkey or anything else, might think twice if they were facing a four- to five-figure fine.

Niceley wasn’t convinced by the argument because, in his view, poachers are actually doing us a favor because Tennessee is being over run by deer.

He mentioned a town north of Nashville that has a deer population problem and would “welcome” poachers. He mentioned a recent fatality that was the result of a car hitting a deer because there are too many deer.

Poachers? Maybe we should call them community activists.

“I just talked to legal and they said I could take my six counties out of this,” Niceley says during the meeting. “We don’t have a problem. I don’t see any reason for my counties to be in it.”

Poaching not a problem in any of his six counties? A landowner in one of the counties Niceley represents said “It’s like deer hunting is a 24/7 thing here. Road hunters, jack lighting … and it’s year round, not just during deer season.”

The landowner did point out that if you’re going to be hunting off the road and at night, then season dates probably don’t represent a big deterrent anyway.

But Niceley seems to believe poaching is OK because “Deer (are) on the verge of being a nuisance all across the state.”

…(Under the bill) Any deer you get convicted of (illegally) killing in Tennessee would cost you $1,000 and add another $1,000 for an antlered buck. It would be another $500 per point for an 8, 9 or 10 point and $750 a point for anything over 11.

That would mean a 12-point buck could cost you $11,000 and your hunting privileges until the money is paid.

That’s not about deer management. That’s a deterrent to being an outlaw.

Obviously not everybody can tell the difference.

Note: The committee put off a vote on the bill until next week. As Hodge notes in his column, Nicely suggested he may prepare an amendment to exempt the counties he represents from being covered by the proposed new law.