The wait will soon be over for Tennessee's hunters: Deer gun hunting season opens this Saturday.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is setting the ground rules for hunters ahead of the big season. During gun season, sportsmen and women can use also muzzleloader and archery equipment to bag bucks.
For a third year, the statewide bag limit for antlered deer is two and no more than one antlered deer may be taken per day. This includes any taken during any of the weapon-specific seasons.
According to the TWRA's website, the only way to exceed that limit is if the deer were taken on TWRA or NWR-managed hunts were antlered deer were noted as bonus deer.
Legal game this season include any antlered deer that have antlers which protrude above the hairline. Male fawns with antlers protruding above the hairline count toward antlered bag limits, as well, but if no antlers are visible they count toward the antlerless bag limit.
Antlerless deer can be taken during "doe days" in respective counties holding them. Regular license holders need to purchase a Special Season permit to take part in antlerless hunts. You can find a list of the counties and days participating in such hunts by clicking on this link.
Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 will need to carry proof of having taken a hunter education class or be in possession of the Apprentice Hunting License along with other required licenses while hunting any species in the state of Tennessee.
You can find more information about the 2017-2018 hunting season on TWRA's website at this link.
The hunting season opens as deer deaths from Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease begins to drop off. According to the TWRA, the seasonal disease has killed hundreds of deer this year, but drops off in late fall because it is spread by an insect that dies off in the cold.
"The midge that carries disease, in its larval form, is in waters and the midge actually will die with the onset of cold weather," TWRA's Mime Barnes said. "We do tend to see it in the late summer and early fall and as soon as cold weather hits, it literally will drop off the landscape again."
The disease took its tool on deer across East Tennessee this year, with more than 700 white-tailed deer reported dead from it across our region alone
TWRA wildlife biologist Sterling Daniels says there is no evidence that EDH can be transmitted to humans, but says in an email to 10News that it is "probably not a good idea to consume any animal, deer or otherwise, that could have been sick."
Daniels says deer that contract the disease usually die within a few days and that deer that survive and appear healthy are probably EHD-free and are safe to harvest and eat.