(NASHVILLE) – State Senator John Stevens released the following statement today, February 5, 2021, about the proposal by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency concerning changes to duck hunting on public Wildlife Management Areas:
“The Agency’s website states that this change stems in part from the need for increased access to public land. There are a number of other ways to increase access, such as developing underutilized parts of other Wildlife Management Areas. There are tens of thousands of acres that are available across our Wildlife Management Areas that could be improved to increase opportunities, and the money that is going to be spent on the construction and maintenance of duck blinds could be spent to increase access to these areas. I encourage the Commission to look at constructing blinds at Bogota, Thorny Cypress, and Gooch Unit E, as well as allowing eight-person hunts on these sites to increase opportunity in lieu of reducing 60-day blind opportunity. There is a current system in place that allows for waterfowl hunters to be able to hunt on a first-come-first-serve basis from their boats. I find that there are plenty of resources available for TWRA to create 3- or 4-day hunting opportunities without penalizing the large number of hunters who seek a 60-day opportunity.
Hunter safety is taken into consideration at some locations in regard to the number of Tier 1, 60-day blind locations, such as Reelfoot. Tigrett WMA has a number of blinds that are difficult to access, and this poses a safety and access concern. Any blind that requires more than one boat to access, should remain a 60-day hunt at Tigrett WMA. With thousands of acres of first-come-first-serve opportunity already available at Tigrett, why limit the 60-day hunting opportunities when there were only 18 on the entire WMA to begin with?
I have concerns about the Agency constructed blinds. Our duck hunters take great pride in their blinds, and they maintain them throughout the year to ensure a safe and enjoyable hunt. Failure to adequately maintain these Tier 2 blinds, along with not allowing hunters to access these sites if the drawn parties are not using them, will lead to unsatisfied hunters and will decrease opportunities that seem to directly counter the Commission’s goal. With Tier 3 locations to be maintained by the hunters, only allowing them access to these sites for 7 days at a time will lead to a deterioration of these hunting locations. With the Tier 4 locations being first-come-first-serve sites, I find that it is very unlikely that anyone will take the time to build a blind. These locations will only be accessible to boat hunt, and I again find myself asking how this increases opportunity. Hunters can already boat hunt 200 yards from a blind in the current system.
Over the course of several weeks, I have been contacted by hundreds of hunters in my district. Not only are they not supportive of this proposal, none of them were invited to participate in the “survey” that this is based on. To gain access to the survey results, our hunters had to file Freedom of Information Requests. I find that this proposal misses the entire purpose purported by the TWRA. Increasing access to public lands is not a difficult task, and in fact, it may be easier than changing the system. As I stated above, there are thousands of acres available that are untouched, just waiting to be used. I encourage the Commission to postpone the consideration of this proposal.”