TN Holds Off On Bear Hunting Vote

Rep. David Hawk - JC Press, Bear Hunting Magazine
05/03/2009

A bill that would prohibit an archery-only bear hunting season in Unicoi County has been placed on hold at the request of county commissioners, state Rep. David Hawk said Wednesday.

County commissioners have found themselves in the middle of a debate between bow hunters who seek to stop the legislation in its tracks and rifle and shotgun hunters who want to have a shot at the bears at the same time or before their counterparts. Representatives of both sides are scheduled to speak at the May 19 commission meeting.

Hawk, R-Greeneville, introduced a private act this year in the state House to eliminate the archery-only season in the county at the request of county commissioners. The season for archery hunters in 2008 was September 26-October 24, and the gun hunters were allowed some days with and without dogs in December and about two weeks with dogs in November.

The bill has been assigned to the Wildlife Subcommittee of the House Conservation Committee, but Hawk said county commissioners have asked him in the last six weeks to postpone action on it. He said he will not pursue the legislation further until commissioners ask him.

Im taking direction from the Unicoi County Commission on this issue, Hawk said. The bill is just sitting.

Mike Hensley, a major with the sheriffs department and a gun hunter, has said his group is not opposed to bow hunters but thinks they should be able to harvest bears at the same time or later than his. He said his groups concern is that pregnant bears not be killed before they can hibernate.

The position that we took on the bear hunting and archery is not to ban archery all together, he said. Its just the wrong time. I would like to go out and hunt when its warm weather with dogs, but the reason (for a later time) is the TWRA sets the season because the female bears in December, most of them that have bred have (gone into hibernation).

Earlier this week, Thomas Hensley distributed copies of a position paper he drafted in opposition to the proposed legislation. He spoke against it at the March 23 commission meeting.

I feel it is in the best interest of our wildlife resources to let (the) Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency preserve, protect and enhance wildlife resources of the state and provide for effective management of these resources, Thomas Hensley said.

He contended the private act would harm efforts to manage bears, increase the health and safety risk of the public and decrease the economic impact of bow hunting. He also dealt with some potential issues people might have.

First of all, it is illegal for any hunter to harvest a cub or female with cubs, Thomas Hensley said in in his paper. In addition, archery hunters wait stationary for the bear to approach unaware of the hunters presence. This enables the huner to observe the bear in its natural setting and offers a good chance to determine if the bear is a cub or mother with cub.

Thomas Hensley also said TWRA population studies show bear numbers are as high as they have been in the last 150 years and said bears are returning to spots they have not been for more than a century, leading to more encounters with people.

We just dont understand the TWRAs position on that  why they would want to open the season that early unless it is to thin the bear (population) out, Mike Hensley said. But if that is their position on it and there is too many bears, then they need to open up the season for the dog hunters, a longer season for them. I just believe in being fair.



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