Tennessee Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

Tennessee has an estimated deer herd of between 650,000 and 700,000 animals, which means the herd is growing and getting back to near pre-2007 levels, before epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) killed off thousands of deer across much of the state.

Drought has been affecting middle and northern Tennessee since late spring said Chuck Yoest, Big Game Coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) thinks that could have an impact on the deer herd.

"Our fawns were brand new just as the drought was picking up," Yoest said. "I can't help but think we had a higher than normal death rate of fawns in these areas with high heat and less vegetation."

Drought can lower the quality of the deer forage, potentially making it harder on fawns to find enough nutrition. Very dry conditions also mean less available cover, making the fawns that much easier to find by predators like coyotes. If the 2012 crop of fawns is off, the real impacts of that loss won't be felt until next year, but Yoest says the situation bears some watching by his agency.

Otherwise, there are no issues affecting the deer herd. Even as other states were detecting EHD fairly early in the summer, Tennessee had no reports of the disease by mid-August.

The changes for this fall's hunt reflect growing numbers of deer, the big change being in Unit B, which encompasses the eastern third of the state. Here, TWRA has increased the antlerless archery season bag limit to four deer per season.

Interestingly, Yoest notes that the state's newest area for big bucks are Mississippi River bottomlands near in the Memphis area. The rut peaks in Tennessee right around Thanksgiving.

The Southern Regional Report
It looks like this will be another strong season for southeastern deer hunters, with deer herds in good to very good condition. Deer populations are stable to slightly growing, and all states expected a strong fawn crop this year. The central south (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas) saw drought expand over the region as summer went forward. However, this part of the country did receive substantial spring and early-summer rains, which generated a good deal of forage, so deer went into the summer in pretty good condition.

Top Trophy Zones
AR: Arkansas and Chicot counties.
FL: Alachua, Gadsden, and Jefferson counties.
LA: Avoyelles, Concordia, and East Feliciana parishes.
MS: Delta counties like Bolivar, Tallahatchie, and Yazoo are well represented in the record books. Outside of the Delta, Adams County has produced trophy bucks for the past 50 years, including the current state typical record, a 10-pointer killed in 2010 that netted an amazing 184 6⁄8.
OK: Osage and Coal counties. The latter is developing a reputation as a big-buck county, and that was only enhanced last year when 13-year-old Kelsey McKay shot a 200 7⁄8-inch monster non-typical. It is the largest buck ever taken in Coal, a county well represented in the state record books for both typical and non-typical whitetails.
SC: Orangeburg, Aiken, Fairfield, and Colleton counties.
TN: Cumberland and Van Buren counties, and the Tennessee sections of the U.S. Army's Fort Campbell Military Installation.
TX: Irion, Kennedy, Maverick, Tom Green, and Webb counties.