Tennessee's Best Military-Land Deer Hunts
October 04, 2010
There is some very good deer hunting on military bases and other military land in this state. If you haven't tested these hunts, here's your chance to get started. (August 2009)
The tragedies of September 11, 2001, are still etched in our minds and will never be forgotten. The effects are far reaching and have even echoed into our deer-hunting lives in some manner or another. A couple of years after the terrorist attacks, we took a look at these implications in the way of cancellations, postponements, restrictions -- and some very good hunting that remains -- on many of Tennessee's military lands that feature deer hunting.
From draw hunts to other non-quota open deer hunts, the plans of many hunters had to change in the time period after the attacks. Unbelievably, it's been eight years since the event and the effects are still lingering in some cases. So, to help you plan your fall deer hunts, we've once again talked with federal land managers to see if and how the fallout of September 11 is still affecting the deer hunting and accompanying seasons on the lands they manage.
Let's see which escape routes have opened or closed in the recent years at places like Fort Campbell, Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HAAP), Milan Army Ammunition Plant (MLAAP) and Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area (WMA).Fort Campbell
Let's start our post-9-11 look at the biggest military installation in the Volunteer State. Van Stokes of the Public Affairs Office at Fort Campbell said following 9-11, Fort Campbell experienced a reduction in available areas for approximately two months as they implemented various "force protection" measures on the installation. Eight years later, he said hunting opportunities continue to be provided and they have not had to cancel any programs as a result of September 11.
"When our soldiers are deployed, civilians have an increased opportunity to hunt on Fort Campbell," explained Stokes. "Understandably, when the soldiers redeploy, many of them are anxious to hunt."
Although there are no areas permanently closed as a result of 9-11, Stokes said there's still an effect from the war on terrorism. Primarily, military training continues to be most important. When the land is not being used for military training, they have more opportunities for hunters and recreational use.
However, as a result of 9-11, Stokes said they are highly conscious of force protection issues and security on the installation. They work as a team with law enforcement personnel and their Garrison staff to maintain a safe and secure environment.
There are there still updated safety checks and requirements (photo IDs, safety talks and orientations) for hunters in place. Stokes said every person desiring to hunt on Fort Campbell must have a valid hunting license, a post permit, and an area assignment issued by the Outdoor Recreation Office. Before receiving a post permit, every hunter must show proof of having completed a state-approved hunter safety course. They also conduct hunter safety classes at different intervals in the year. Their staff also provides detailed information to include maps, regulations and guidelines.
Although these requirements are more complicated to comply with than are the requirements for hunting other public and private land in Tennessee, they are not onerous. And hunters who do go through the process have access to some good hunting.
Stokes mentioned that deer populations and land management changes have not greatly affected harvest numbers. Factors affecting the deer harvest include weather, lack of rain, and lack of hunting areas available because of military training. Their harvest data has remained steady, averaging 840 deer harvested for the past nine years.
Also, their hunts and bag limits have not had to be seriously adjusted. Fort Campbell's bag limits have remained similar through the years, and they have not had any major adjustments as a result of restrictions or cancellations.
On a good note, Stokes said the overall reaction to administrative changes has been positive. The computerized assignment system allows managers to make assignments on a fair and honest basis, while providing a high level of accountability to all stakeholders. He added they are always looking to improve on their game management strategy and administrative processes to provide quality deer and an enjoyable experience for our hunters. (Cont.)
Stokes said hunters have been very understanding about the situations that affect their opportunities. They are supportive of Fort Campbell's military training requirements and appreciate the chance to hunt on the installation. Stokes feels such an attitude is something that directly contributes to the morale of our soldiers.
MILAN ARMY AMMUNITION PLANT
Steve Stephenson, the Natural Resources manager at the Milan Army Ammunition Plant (MLAAP) in Milan, says the installation did experience cancellations relating to 9-11 early on. The MLAAP hunting/fishing program was totally shut down following 9-11 and remained closed until March 2002. In the years following 9-11, however, he said all the types of hunts were in place pre-9-11 have resumed.
Hunters will be glad to know there are no permanently closed areas here. Stephenson said all hunting areas that were hunted before 9-11 are currently being hunted. MLAAP hunting regulations state that hunting access may be limited or denied because of higher security conditions, but specific additional security measures related to elevated threat levels are not public information.
However, certain safety measures do remain in place. Stephenson said background checks and photo IDs were added following 9-11 for some categories of hunters who did not have current background clearances. Hunter safety and hunter orientation were required before 9-11 and have not changed.
Like most people, managers at MLAAP thought the early restrictions just after 9-11 would increase deer populations. Stephenson said it was originally thought that hunting closure would result in a rapid increase of deer numbers and older age-class deer. The deer population did not increase as expected, but they did experience a substantial increase in older age-class deer. MLAAP experienced a herd reduction, as did much of West Tennessee from epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). Aerial infrared deer surveys, as well as ground camera surveys, indicate a reduced population.
Because of the EHD effect and not the war on terrorism, he said the number and type of hunts has not decreased, but they have had reduced bag limits in an effort to allow for a deer herd increase. Hunters seeking access or hunt permits at MLAAP have generally had good reactions to the changes.
HOLSTON ARMY AMMUNITION PLA
Like most federal installations, the Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HSAAP) wasn't exempt from the effects of 9-11. Bruce Cole, the area's natural resources specialist, said all of the deer hunts that were scheduled before September 11 were cancelled after that fateful day because of security issues. In addition, no spring turkey hunts were planned the following spring because of security issues.
Since that time, other changes have been seen at HSAAP. Cole said HSAAP cancelled all of its hunts in 2007 because of new safety and security requirements that were indirectly brought about by the events of 9-11. However, deer hunts were implemented once again in 2008 and are expected to continue at this time. He added it is unlikely that the installation will host spring turkey hunts in the future because of these new requirements.
There are still other lingering effects from 9-11. Cole said although there are no areas permanently closed to hunting as a result of 9-11 at HSAAP, some areas have been put off-limits to firearms and are now archery-only areas.
Just two years ago, HSAAP was required to meet a large number of new security and safety requirements that were indirectly brought about by the events of 9-11. Again, because the installation was unable to meet these requirements before the 2007 hunting season, all hunts were cancelled that year. However, in 2008, HSAAP was able to again hold its deer hunts with the new requirements in place. These new requirements with which hunters will have to meet in order to hunt on the installation include the following:
All hunters are required to obtain and provide a local background check with their application. The background check and application must be approved by the installation commander before the applicant is allowed to hunt.
- All hunters, regardless of age, will be required to show proof of having completed a hunter safety course.
- Hunters are restricted to a limited number of shells, depending upon their hunt.
- Hunters must undergo a one-hour safety and security orientation before their hunt.
- Hunters will have to provide a photo ID during check in.
Subsequently, because HSAAP had a quality deer management program (bucks must have at least 8 points to be harvested) in place before the cancellation of hunts following 9-11 and again in 2007, there doesn't appear to be any change in the adult sex ratio on the installation as a result of canceling hunts on HSAAP. The deer population was slightly higher following the cancellation of hunts the year of 9-11, but population numbers were quickly reduced during the following years. The current adult buck-to-doe ratio on HSAAP is one buck to 1.5 does.
Also, Cole said because of the new requirement effective in 2008 for hunters to submit background checks, HSAAP's ability to host TWRA special antlerless quota hunts was affected because of time constraints in the approval process following hunter selection by TWRA. In an effort to achieve the necessary doe harvest without these special quota hunts, HSAAP implemented an "earn a buck" program for the first time in 2008 and will continue to do so in the future.
Under this program, all HSAAP hunts for which hunters may apply will be antlerless-only hunts. All hunters who harvest an adult doe during one of these antlerless-only hunts will automatically earn a permit for a buck hunt, which will be held that same year.
The new regulations had another effect that may or may not have been expected. Cole said with the reimplementation of the HSAAP deer hunts in 2008 with the new security and safety requirements in place, there was a 30 percent reduction in the number of applications received for the HSAAP deer hunts. In all likelihood, he said the requirement to provide a background check resulted in the majority of this reduction in applications, although undoubtedly, many older hunters who were not required to have hunter safety training per state regulations were not willing to obtain this training in order to hunt at HSAAP.
In addition, Cole believes some hunters were not willing to apply for antlerless-only hunts with the chance to harvest a doe and earn a buck permit. But based on hunter reaction, the new "earn a buck" program implemented in 2008 has proven popular with the majority of hunters who participated in this program in 2008.
Cole says hunters have been very willing to comply with the new requirements in order to have the opportunity to hunt on the installation. He added September 11 really drove home the point that HSAAP is an army facility with a required military mission and not a wildlife management area that exists for the purpose of providing a place for the public to hunt.
With the implementation of the new security requirements, they also realize that there is a tremendous amount of effort and coordination involved in allowing hunts to take place on the plant while still maintaining the required safety and security measures.
OAK RIDGE WMA
Immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9-11, the 2001 deer hunts at Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area (WMA) were cancelled, but were resumed in the fall of 2002. Also, with the increased terror alert in relation to the Iraq war, the turkey hunts for the spring of 2003 were cancelled. Since that time, however, hunting for the most part at Oak Ridge returned to normal.
Nevertheless, there are certain limits and restrictions that haven't been lifted. Entry through the guard portals on Bethel Valley Road is still restricted. And the west portal is closed to hunter access. Hunters entering the WMA can also expect more safety precautions than in the past. Bowhunters with archery permits west of the east portal on Bethel Valley Road must clear the check point with their permit, have their photo IDs, and face a potential vehicle search.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency manages the hunts held at the Oak Ridge WMA and Jim Evans is the WMA manager. He said for the most part, other than the travel restrictions, things are back to normal at the Oak Ridge WMA, at least when it comes to the hunting itself. Again, he said the obvious obstacle at Oak Ridge currently is the travel restriction on a couple of roads. Bethel Valley road remains closed to the public. That makes access to the Check Station for hunters using the west side of the WMA a little time consuming.
Given the type of bucks that Oak Ridge has come to be known for, it's probably safe to say that hunters will continue to endure the slight travel headache in exchange for the opportunity to hunt quality whitetails. But do keep in mind that unlike the other military installations we've discussed, Oak Ridge is a different animal so to speak because it falls under the control of the Department of Energy. They dictate access, and let's hope our deer-hunting situation there never has to change because of an increase in any production that would limit access completely.
Tennessee hunters are extremely fortunate to have the opportunities to hunt on the above-mentioned federal lands. While there, let's take a moment to remember the fighting men and women that are away while we enjoy what they're out preserving. And please remember to
follow any and all rules to ensure that these opportunities will always be available to us.
MORE DESTINATION AND HUNT INFORMATION
Whether you've been drawn on a quota hunt, plan to hunt on an area's non-quota dates, need hunt information or want to inquire about future hunts, here are some links and phone numbers to gather details.
Milan Army Ammunition Plant ---- There is plenty of information about hunt dates, regulations on the site's Hunting Notice Page at www.milanarsenalhunting.com.
Oak Ridge -- To see the 2008 harvest figures and to research this year's hunts, go to the Web at www.ornl.gov/rmal/huntinfo.htm.
Fort Campbell -- For more information about Fort Campbell's hunts, call (270) 798-2175, or go online to www.fortcampbellmwr.com/ Recreation/HuntingFishing/. You are required to have a hunter's safety certificate to hunt Fort Campbell.
Holston Army Ammunition Plant -- The Hunt Information Line for Holston Defense is (423) 578-6291.