Tennessee Deer Hunting Forecast for 2014
October 01, 2014
The cool evening breeze heightened my excitement as I gathered my gear for a short evening hunt on some new property. The short, five-minute drive and its excellent whitetail population made everything even more exciting.
After arriving, I changed into my camouflage, slipped on my boots and conducted a quick check of my muzzleloader and its essential components. I made my way to a stand situated on a field edge between two tracts of hardwoods. Prior to this hunt, I had had a few encounters with a nice looking buck that was frequenting a natural funnel near my stand. He appeared to be a heavy-horned, mature whitetail. He also seemed to know how to stay just out of range for a bow shot. I was hoping that he would continue that pattern while I was holding a sporting arm that could reach a little bit further.
Within minutes of climbing up, I started hearing deer walking in the leaves to my left. Not long after, a doe with a fawn strolled to the field edge to graze. More movement out front revealed another doe in the field a little more than 100 yards from my position. About that same time, a small 4-pointer joined the doe and fawn that now were less than 20 yards away.
The evening events were unfolding fast when I noticed a limb shaking on the far side of the field. Grabbing my binoculars, I watched as that heavy-racked buck strolled into the field. Head up and majestic, he was walking straight toward me.
Quickly, I readied my CVA Optima into position. Unfortunately, the nearby doe caught my movement, snorted and bolted to the middle of the field. Reacting to the doe's alarm, the big buck I was after quickly followed after her, along with the smaller buck, a few more does and that doe's little fawn. Knowing that my chances were diminishing, I yelled out, hoping to get his attention long enough to take a clean shot. It worked because he stopped in a precut shooting lane directly in front of me and presented a 120-yard broadside shot. Trying to keep steady, I held just a little high as I slowly squeezed the trigger.
Through the white smoke, I watched him drop, right where he stood. I immediately reloaded, gathered my gear and descended my elevated position. There was no blood trail to follow and I quickly realized that he was better than what I had first thought.
The rack sported 10 points, with good mass throughout and contained a small kicker point on one of the G2s that was just a little shy of the inch requirement. He looked to be at least 3.5 years old to me, judging by body size and mass, which appeared double the size of the other deer in the field. He only green-scored in the 130-class neighborhood, but I was still ecstatic. Regardless of score, I had taken a good buck, obtained some great table fare and made some memories.
Similar white-tailed deer hunts take place every fall across the Volunteer State, and whether on public or private land, Tennessee offers some great opportunities to fill a tag and a freezer with a whitetail, be it a buck or doe.
Last season, whitetail hunters harvested 168,449 deer using all methods (bows, crossbows, muzzleloaders and rifles). Of that total, 79,599 were antlered bucks and 88,850 were antlerless, of which 8,556 were considered button bucks. On private land hunters took 162,635 deer, leaving 5,812 being harvested from wildlife management areas. Let's take a look at how each region and county stacked up and which WMAs produced the most numbers.
County By County
Once again, Giles County led the state in total harvest last season with 5,418 total whitetails taken. Of those, 2,418 had antlers and 2,604 were antlerless. The only drawback is the lack of public hunting access in this Region 2 county. Still, Giles consistently puts up exceptional numbers each year. Knocking on some doors or joining a hunting club could lead to many opportunities in the Giles County deer woods.
Taking the second spot was Lincoln County with a total harvest of 4,725 deer last year. Of those, 2,300 were bucks and 2,127 were antlerless. It is also a county with limited public hunting access, but this county consistently produces good whitetail harvest numbers each year.
The third ranked county overall can be found a little bit farther west in Region 1. Fayette County hunters harvested a total of 4,671 whitetails during the 2013-2014 season of which 2,116 had antlers and 2,245 were does.
Region 1 also holds the fourth best county. Henry County hunters bagged 4,497 deer last season, broken down as 1,966 bucks and 2,191 does.
The fifth spot went to Hardeman County, which also lies in western Tennessee. Year in and year out, this county has put up solid harvest numbers. Last year, hunters took 4,266 whitetails of which 1,855 sported antlers. The recorded doe harvest for Hardeman totaled 2,046.
Montgomery County in northwest middle Tennessee ranked sixth with 3,822 deer taken. The antlered harvest was 1,639, while 1,905 does were taken there last year.
Franklin County laid claim to the seventh spot with 3,824 whitetails bagged, of which 1,591 were antlered bucks and 1,969 were does.
Region 2 also held the eighth best county for deer hunters. Maury County continued its top 10 streak with a total harvest of 3,633, 1,767 bucks and 1,570 does.
Rounding out the top 10 were Madison and Carroll with harvests of 3,230 and 3,190, respectively. Madison County hunters bagged 1,394 antlered bucks and 1,549 does last season. During the same period, hunters in Carroll County took home 1,364 deer that sported antlers and 1,515 does.
Best Public Hunting
Public hunting areas in the Volunteer State, whether a WMA or another type of public hunting ground, produce good opportunities for hunters who do not have private land or the means of joining a hunting club or lease. Certain WMAs put up higher harvest numbers, but that doesn't mean the others have poor whitetail hunting. Some WMAs contain huge amounts of acreage and plenty of room for hunters to roam. However, smaller areas offer opportunities that are just as good as their larger counterparts, only in condensed versions.
Leading the state in whitetail harvest was Land Between the Lakes with a total of 226 bucks and 134 does bagged last season.
The North & South Cherokee WMAs ranked second for the 2013-2014 deer season with a combined total of 374 whitetails harvested. The number amounted to 241 bucks and 133 does killed in both both areas.
Yanahli WMA in Maury County continued its tradition of being a consistent whitetail producer with 362 deer taken last season. The harvest was 110 bucks and 182 does. Its mixture of habitat provides both deer and hunters with plenty of different scenery options, as the landscape varies from hardwood ridges to river bottom thickets within its ample acreage.
Arnold Engineering Development Center WMA in Coffee County moved up to the third spot with hunters taking a total of 273 whitetails last year, of which 132 were antlered bucks and 106 were does.
Catoosa WMA, whihc is situated in Cumberland and Morgan counties, came in fifth with a total of 268 deer. Last season, hunters bagged 137 bucks and 106 does on the popular WMA.
The Natchez Trace WMA in Region 1 claimed the sixth spot with 249 whitetails bagged, of which 103 sported antlers. This public hunting spot has become increasingly popular because of its good whitetail population, being open for statewide seasons and being conveniently located just off of Interstate 40.
A newcomer to the list this year is the North Cumberland WMA with a total harvest of 234 deer. Hunters bagged 75 bucks and 119 does during the 2013-2014 season. Some hunters might scratch their heads at North Cumberland being a prime destination, considering that it's situated in Scott County in the northeastern part of the state. However, Scott County is routinely a leading Region 4 deer harvest producer.
Percy Priest WMA jumped into the list this year and laid claim to the ninth position with a harvest of 76 bucks and 106 does.
Hunters helped Oak Ridge WMA, which came in as 10th, stay on the list by harvesting 77 bucks and 80 does last year.
Each Region contains counties and WMAs that offer excellent deer hunting, whether hunters are trying to fill the freezer, harvest a decent buck or both. Region 1, which primarily contains counties and WMAs west of the Tennessee River is consistently a leading contributor to the state's overall harvest numbers.
Fayette County led Region 1 with 4,671 deer harvested last year. Henry wasn't far behind with a total of 4,497 whitetails bagged. Hardeman with 4,266, Madison with 3,230 and Carroll with 3,190, rounded out the top five.
Almost every deer hunter from across the state knows that Region 2 has the reputation of having good deer populations. Giles County continued to dominate the region with 5,418 whitetails harvested. It was followed by Lincoln County with 4,725 and Montgomery County with 3,852 deer being taken. Franklin was fourth with 3,824 and Maury rounded out the top five counties with a total harvest of 3,633 deer during the 2013-2014 season.
Region 3 actually has the ability to put up good numbers each year, but the habitat and terrain of Regions 1 and 2 put it at a disadvantage.
Roane County, however, is a consistent whitetail producer. It led the region last year, with hunters tagging 2,762 whitetails, of which 1,502 were bucks.
Hamilton came in as a distant second with 1,998 and Jackson was third with 1,930 deer killed. Cumberland and Rhea counties rounded out the region with 1,751 and 1,696 deer tagged, respectively.
The eastern portion of the state has long been considered a poor destination for whitetail hunters. Every year, though, that sentiment diminishes as good harvest numbers continue to come out of this region.
Leading the area was Hawkins County with a total of 2,366 deer taken last year. The buck harvest was pushing the 1,000 mark but fell just short with 941 antlered deer reported harvested. Next came Sullivan with 1,931 and Claiborne with 1,627 deer harvested. Scott County took the fourth spot with 1,361, while Carter came in fifth with 1,354 whitetails being taken during the 2013-2014 season.
Tennessee deer hunting has changed in many ways over the years, but it continues to be a popular activity. Excellent harvest numbers continue to be the norm and reflect the efforts of the TWRA, landowners and, most importantly, hunters who consistently strive to make the volunteer state a great destination for deer hunting. However, hunters must face the fact that our numbers are dwindling, as there are numerous activities vying for the attention of the next generation. Let's keep our time-honored tradition alive by supporting conservation efforts and taking a newcomer out to enjoy, and hopefully becoming addicted to, the thrill of hunting white-tailed deer in Tennessee.