Tag Archives: hunting

Legislators chipping in to ‘Hunters for the Hungry’ program

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation reports growing success in efforts to have state legislators donate from their campaign funds to a program for providing venison to the needy.

The “Hunters for the Hungry” program, affiliated with the federation since 1998, involves deer hunters donating a slain animal to groups that provide food to organizations serving the hungry, such as Second Harvest Food Bank in Knoxville.

Hunters for the Hungry has recruited 83 meat processors statewide to convert the deer carcasses into frozen venison at a reduced processing price, typically about $40 per deer, according to the foundation’s executive director, Mike Butler.

To cover that cost, Hunters for the Hungry solicits charitable donations. The “legislative challenge” to seek funding from politicians had its origins three years ago when state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, embraced and promoted the program as chairman of the Legislature’s Nutrition Caucus, Butler said. More recently, state Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, have played leadership roles, he said. Continue reading

Deer poachers get TWRA record penalty

Two La Vergne men have been banned from hunting for life in Tennessee and 43 other stats for illegally killing as many as 40 deer, reports The Tennessean. They also allegedly took photos and videos of dead or wounded animals being abused.

Densibel Calzada, 23, and Eddy Albert, 21, received the harshest penalty ever issued by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

“We will never know how many deer these two killed, but we believe they could have poached at least 40,” said TWRA Sgt. Matt Brian. “We charged them with violations based on the strongest evidence we found showing the seriousness of their poaching crimes.”

Search warrants served by TWRA officers on Calzada and Albert’s homes produced cell phones where photos and videos were found of the two disrespecting the animals they had poached.

“They were getting on top of the deer and doing all sorts of things,” said TWRA information officer Doug Markham. “They had one where the deer was still alive and they blew his head off. They were high-fiving each other after showing the hole where they had shot one at nighttime. I didn’t see all of the videos, but the officer said some of it was just really grotesque.”

…Along with the lifetime ban, they also were ordered to pay $1,000 each in court costs, $5,000 in restitution, had their weapons — a rifle and a crossbow — confiscated, must perform 100 hours of community service for the TWRA and were placed on 18 months probation.

“People don’t understand what banning them for life does to them,” Markham said. “It destroys their ability to move around with a gun. If they get caught again, they could go to jail.”

Judge dismisses lawsuit based on TN ‘right to hunt and fish’

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit contending that commercial fishermen’s rights under a 2010 amendment to the Tennessee constitution were violated by restrictions imposed on catching paddlefish in state lakes and streams.

The May 14 ruling by Davidson County Chancellor Russell T. Perkins is apparently the first judicial opinion interpreting Article XI, Section 13, of the state constitution, which declares Tennesseans have a “personal right to hunt and fish.”

The Tennessee Commercial Fishermen’s Association and the Tennessee Roe Fishermen’s Association had also challenged on other grounds paddlefish restrictions — including a complete ban in some areas — that were adopted in 2008 by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, now known as the Tennessee Game and Fish Commission.

Perkins ruled for the commission and against the associations on each of the other claims as well. They included assertions that the Legislature had wrongfully delegated its authority to the commission, that the regulations were adopted contrary to requirements of the state’s Open Meetings Act and that one commission member had a conflict of interest.

Paddlefish, native to Tennessee, are commercially valuable both for their flesh and their eggs, which are processed as caviar. State fishery biologists say populations have been substantially reduced by overfishing in some areas.
Continue reading

Columnist questions hunting/fishing fee increase after ammo tax windfall

Start of Frank Cagle’s column this week:

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency gets a dime for every box of ammunition sold in Tennessee. You may have heard that since Barack Obama has been president ammo makers have added third shifts to meet the demand as many gun owners have stockpiled the stuff and store shelves are often bare. This has meant a $9.5 million windfall for the TWRA, the agency that regulates hunting, fishing and wildlife management. That’s almost $10 million more than had been budgeted for this year, for a total of $31 million from the feds.

But that hasn’t prevented the agency from increasing the cost of buying a hunting license by almost 20 percent, from $27 to $33. That raises an additional $6 million for TWRA coffers. The extra $9.5 million windfall in ammo sales is half again more than the $6 million fee increase. And somebody needs to find out why they are getting only .09 percent interest on millions of dollars in trust funds.

The appointed commissioners who govern the agency can set license fees at will. They can be vetoed by the Government Operations Committees of the House and Senate, but it requires both committees to agree. The commissioners approved the increase in January, the first in 10 years, but it wasn’t until last week that the issue came before legislative committees. The House committee quickly rubber-stamped it, 7-1.

State Sen. Paul Bailey, a first-term Republican, raised some interesting questions on the Senate side. The federal ammo windfall and the millions of dollars in the TWRA reserve funds made him question why hunters were being asked to pay more. Unfortunately, when the House caved, the Senate vote became moot.

…Bailey pointed out that the TWRA has a reserve fund balance of $33 million in hunting and wildlife and $12.4 million for its boating programs. This money is available for agency operations. There is an additional $43 million in trust funds, and TWRA can use the interest from these funds — about $38,000 last year At less than 1 percent, that return is ridiculously low. That money ought to handled by the state treasurer, who is currently getting returns of over 6 percent. A decent return on the trust funds would be $2.5 million to $3 million in additional revenue, making half of the fee increase unnecessary.

It’s a problem when you have an agency essentially outside the state budget process that is allowed to keep millions in a piggy bank rather than responsibly invested.

Move to block higher hunting and fishing fees fails

An effort to block a 20 percent increase in the cost of state hunting and fishing licenses failed in a legislative committee last week, meaning the higher fees will take effect July 1, as approved earlier by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission.

But members of the Joint Government Operations Committee left open the possibility of revisiting funding for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency operations in future meetings or during next year’s legislative session.

State Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, made the motion to “stay” or block the fee increase, contending TWRA has $103 million in reserve funds and will be getting more money from the federal government than anticipated in the coming year.

Chris Richardson, legislative liaison for TWRA, said only two of the six reserve funds referenced can be used for agency general operations, the others earmarked by state law for specific purposes such as wetlands acquisition or boating safety programs.

The agency had to use $5 million from its operating reserves to balance last year’s budget, leaving about $32 million, and will have to use a similar amount this year, leaving about $27 million when the state fiscal year starts July 1, Richardson said. Almost $10 million will be needed to upgrade TWRA’s communications system and other equipment, leaving around $18 million, he said.

In effect, Richardson said TWRA is operating at a deficit, despite budget cuts, and needs the revenue from higher license fees to maintain the status quo.
Continue reading

TWRA proposing 22 percent increase in hunting, fishing license fees

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is proposing increases in the cost of hunting and fishing licenses and related fees, averaging about 22 percent. The proposal comes up for a vote at a Jan. 15-16 meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission at Union City.

The basic annual resident hunting and fishing combination license would increase from $28 to $34 under the proposal. The annual resident “sportsman’s license” – which covers all permits otherwise needed at different fees for activities ranging from big game hunting, trout fishing, duck hunting, wildlife management area admission, archery hunting and the like – would increase from $136 to $166.

In a news release (HERE) TWRA notes the increase is the first since 2005 (when there was a 35 percent increase) and the second in 25 years. It’s needed because the agency’s costs have increased even though it has been reducing staff and taking other economy measures.

Excerpt from the release:

“The reality is that managing our wildlife and fisheries has never been more expensive than it is today,” said TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter. “Our objective with this proposal is to spread the cost of these programs across more user groups who utilize Tennessee’s public lands and waters.”

…If approved, the new fee structure would go into effect on July 1, 2015. Tennessee hunting and fishing licenses expire on Feb. 28, and new licenses will be on sale at the current prices from mid-February through the end of June.

Highlights include: incremental increases for resident hunting and fishing licenses; elimination of certain short-term non-resident licenses; a new fee for professional hunting and fishing guides; new senior citizen license options; and fees related to the use of TWRA firing ranges, as well as for horseback, off-highway vehicle and mountain bike riders whose activities have a maintenance impact on state Wildlife Management Areas.

A full list of the existing old fees and the new proposed fees is HERE.

MS tax-free ‘Sportsman’s holiday’ being advertised in TN

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — If you’re a sportsman, this weekend is your holiday.

Mississippi’s inaugural tax-free holiday will begin Friday. It runs through Sunday.

The Legislature passed a law creating an annual tax-free weekend in September. The law went into effect on July 1. The holiday will be held annually on the first Friday of each September until midnight on the following Sunday.

Individual sales of firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, rifle scopes and certain hunting supplies will be exempt from taxes during the state’s inaugural tax holiday. Mississippi has a 7 percent sales tax.

Louisiana’s sportsman tax-free holiday is also this weekend.

“We’re very excited about this weekend,” said Tom Oaks, owner of Lonnie’s Sporting Goods in Corinth. “It’s going to be a great thing for both our customers and us.”

While a large turn-out is projected for the weekend, Oaks believes it would have been even more popular had it not been for the exclusions.

“I do think it’ll be big, but it could have been even bigger. Louisiana is in their fourth year of doing this and everything is included. Sportswear, hunting boots and other types of gear are excluded from ours.

“While I am definitely looking forward to it, it is not what it should have been,” Oaks said.

Oaks said he has advertised in Tennessee in hopes that more shoppers will be enticed to visit Lonnie’s and take advantage of the special opportunity.

“I’m thinking it’s gonna be crazy; it’s gonna be like Christmas time,” said Corey Campbell, manager of Scruggs Sporting Goods in Tupelo.

“Expecting a lot more bigger crowds,” Campbell said. “In the last week or two people have been in shopping, seeing what we had.”

While firearms are always a popular sell, retailers say ammunition will be their most popular item.

“Ammunition is gonna be a big one,” Alabama resident Calvin Kluesner said. “I suspect the closer we get to hunting season it will be like it has been the last few years. We won’t have any ammunition; it will be brought out pretty quick.”

A tax free weekend could make ammo much more affordable even for out-of-state people like Kluesner.

“Ammunition, scents, anything with hunting you know things that hunters are gonna start looking for pretty quick,” Kluesner said. “With the hunter tax free weekend I couldn’t think of another opportunity for hunters to get out and get those items that they are gonna need for hunting season.”

‘What is the daily bag limit on drones?’

After a round of joking and some serious discussion, the House has given final legislative approval to a bill that would outlaw the use of drones to watch people who are “lawfully” hunting or fishing.

“I would absolutely love for a drone to come by me while I’m hunting,” declared Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester. “They say you have to boil them a lot (for eating).”

“What is the daily bag limit on drones?,” asked Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, at another point in the House floor discussion of SB1777.

“It’s unlimited. They’re a nuisance,” replied the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma.

More seriously, Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, asked what Matheny what would be the legal situation if a drone being used by a landowner was shot by Alexander while he was hunting on adjoining property.

Matheny said that “would be a case between you and he” with a court decision probably pending on intent of the parties — whether the drone owner was “seeking to disrupt legal activity” and whether the shooter intended just to destroy property.

Dean asked if a landowner could send a drone out to check hunters on his own property, perhaps without permission. Matheny said that would be legally permissible.
The bill passed the House 87-0. It had earlier won 31-0 and now goes to the governor for his signature.

Senate votes to ban drones from watching hunters, fishermen

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would prohibit the use of drones to conduct video surveillance of outdoorsmen in Tennessee without their permission has passed the Senate.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville was unanimously approved 31-0 on Thursday.

Bell says his legislation (SB1777) would be added to the state’s current law that protects hunters or fisherman from harassment. He said the law should be updated as technology changes.

The companion bill is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Last year, the Tennessee General Assembly passed and the governor signed a measure to ban most warrantless surveillance by unmanned drones in Tennessee.

Hunters bag at least 118 sandhill cranes in first open TN season

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee officials say hunters took at least 118 sandhill cranes during the state’s first season, which ended Jan. 1.

Biologists told WTVC-TV (http://bit.ly/KJa3qg) that a handful of additional harvest reports would likely filter in.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Chief of Wildlife Daryl Ratajczak said the state provided 1,200 harvest tags. He says that’s roughly a 10 percent harvest rate.

Hunting was restricted to an area south of Interstate 40 and east of Tennessee Highway 56.

Opponents of the hunt had expressed fears that allowing the hunt might scare the birds away from the Hiawassee Refuge, where they winter, but Ratajczak said there’s no evidence that occurred.

Tennessee resident Tony Sanders said his endeavors to hunt the birds were unsuccessful.

“They are the hardest bird to pattern I’ve ever seen,” Sanders said. “We were hunting an area right beside the refuge. But one day, they would fly one direction, the next day, another. There were about 10 of us hunting the area, and I think we got a total of five birds.”

Ratajczak said state officials will decide later whether to make any changes before the next hunt.

“The zone where we are allowed to have sandhill hunting is set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” he said. “We did choose to cut back the season length and number of permits that would have been allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. So we could potentially increase the number of permits allowed or the season. But there have been no decisions made. That’s something we’ll be looking at.”