TN Wildlife Commission Approves More Elk Hunting Permits

Elk Killed Harvest
Chuck Flynn of Blount County (right) poses with TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter with the first elk ever taken in Tennessee, in 2009, following the restoration of the magnificent animals beginning in 2003. (Photo: Richard Simms)

DAYTON, TN – Against the recommendation of TWRA staff biologists, the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission (TFWC) increased the number of bull elk hunting permits that will be provided during the upcoming season. There will be a total of 15 tags provided, up from 11 tags. They also increased the length of hunts from five days to seven days.

TFWC is the 13-member, politically-appointed body that governs the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and sets all hunting and fishing regulations in the state.

The very first elk hunt in Tennessee was held in 2009. The Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission increased the number of bull elk hunting permits allowed in 2017 to 15, up from 11 permits last year. Biologists estimate the total Tennessee elk herd at about 400 animals. (Photo: Contributed)

TWRA staff biologists recommended continuing elk hunts as it has been in recent years, issuing five archery tags, five gun tags (one sold at auction) and one youth tag. Each hunt was for five days (Monday thru Friday).

However Dist. 1 Wildlife Commissioner Chad Baker made a motion to increase the number of tags provided to seven archery tags, seven gun tags (one sold at auction) and one youth tag. Baker also proposed seven-day hunts versus five-day hunts. Hunters will still be assigned specific areas on the state wildlife management area, however they will also be allowed to hunt private land within the entire elk hunting zone (with permission).

Baker said, “Lets give the men and women in this state who fund this program more opportunity to take advantage of it.”

Brad Miller, TWRA Elk Program Manager said, “My preference is to work through the strategic planning process. I’m not opposed to adding weekends or increasing archery tags. I’m not comfortable increasing gun tags.”

Mike Butler, Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, a private conservation organization, went on record with concern about increasing the number of tags.

“We can see the need to increase tags, especially on private lands,” said Butler. “But how we go about it and the process is important. The public does not know about this.”

Two members of the public in attendance at the TFWC meeting spoke in opposition of the increased number of permits.

Robert Brewer, an avid hunter and professor of wildlife at Cleveland State Community College, said, “I think it’s moving into this too quickly. I would ask the Commission to table this and possibly revisit it next year.”

Leonard Ezell, Vice President of the Highland Sportsman Club in Hixson, said, “Archery tags are no big deal. They don’t kill nothing. I don’t agree with increasing the number of [gun] permits. I think we need to study it more.”

In spite of objections, the measure passed the TFWC Wildlife Committee Wednesday by a vote of 4-2. On Thursday the measure was passed by the full commission unanimously by a voice vote. There was no request for a roll call vote.

Most hunting permits are provided by lottery although one permit is sold at auction by a non-governmental organization. Continue watching Outdoors for information on furthers actions by the TFWC meeting in Dayton.

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Richard Simms is a professional journalist and fishing guide in Chattanooga. (See He is also a former wildlife officer for TWRA, a book author and a self-proclaimed "River Rat" with a sincere desire for spreading the message about our bountiful natural resources and the people charged with using, or protecting them.


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