NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Sports haven’t been the same this year, but Saturday is “opening day” for one that not even COVID-19 can stop, gun season.  

“Right now is probably the best time to be out in Tennessee, in the woods, hunting deer because the rut, the deer rut is just now ramping up in a lot of areas. So we’re seeing bigger deer on their feet in daylight hours and that’s a great opportunity for somebody to get out there and hunt,” said Barry Cross, the Region 2 Outreach and Communications Coordinator with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. 

Cross told News4 Friday that after seeing a decline in license sales around hunting over the years, not just in the state but across the country, he’s happy to say, “just about every state is reporting increased interest in hunting. And that, I think, mainly has to do with the fact that there’s not a lot of other things out there for people to do.” 

He believes it’s impact of the pandemic and a desire to rediscover the great outdoors. With increases in different types of licenses across the board, Cross said they expect a lot of people to be out in the woods Saturday and stressed safety. “It’s a fun time to be out there but you don’t want to end up on the news,” he said. 

There are thousand and thousand of acres of public land to be hunted on and more than 100 wildlife management areas in the state. Cross said you can find the right hunting areas on their website: https://www.tn.gov/twra.html

“If you’re going to an WMA, odds are you’re going to run into somebody else that’s also hunting or there may be somebody out there that you just don’t see,” said Cross.  

Also new this year, Cross is reminding to tag before you drag with the tags given to you with your license. “Those little tags of paper need to either be fixed to the animal before you drag it or you can tag it electronically using our mobile app.” He said that ensures they get the data they need to manage the deer population. 

If you’re in Middle Tennessee, Cross believes you shouldn’t have to be too worried about the “chronic wasting disease” that was found in deer in the southwest portion of Tennessee about two years ago. It’s lethal to deer, but Cross says they haven’t found it outside of that part of the state. “We are actively sampling every year, in every county in the state to make sure if we see that disease we’ll inform the public,” Cross continued, “In Region 2, Middle Tennessee area, where we are, we’re not concerned about it right now and don’t expect to be. There are places you can take a deer and drop it off to have it tested but it’s not a mandatory thing.” 

Not only has the pandemic caused a renewed interest in hunting, Cross says that apps are getting the younger generation into it since they can use their phone to identify spots where animals will be as well as topographic maps, wind direction, and markers of the public land. He mentioned ONX and Huntstand being popular ones.  

He also said people interested in organic food are hunting too. “Apparently that’s pretty good deal that they can get food that hasn’t been tainted with chemicals,” said Cross.  

Cross said hunting during the week is your best bet since weekends including opening weekend and holiday weekends will be busy. 

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