It was trouble in the form of something much larger than a whitetail deer. Oak Ridge's reputation of being home to big bucks may have gotten the best of one hunter.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has charged a man in connection with the state's first known illegal killing of one of 136 reintroduced wild elk released at the Royal Blue WMA since December 2000. As the crow flies, or perhaps as the elk migrates, Royal Blue is only 25 to 30 miles north of Oak Ridge.
Wildlife officers charged Billy F. Campbell, 68, of Jonesborough, with the killing of a wild elk Saturday, Oct. 19, during the area's first managed deer hunt this season. TWRA Region III Big Game Biologist, Ben Layton, said Campbell was a permitted hunter at the WMA hunt and sent a friend to the checking station to report he had shot the elk while deer hunting.
"He saw a large rack and brown fur moving in some thick brush and shot the elk," said Layton.
The large bull elk was from the first release in December of 2000 and weighed over 550 pounds at that time.
There is not a hunting season for elk in Tennessee, and it is not legal to kill any wild elk in the state. The charge of killing a wild elk is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days in jail, fine of $2,500, and restitution of no less than $1,000 to the state for the loss of the animal.
Campbell is scheduled to appear in Roane County General Sessions Court on Nov. 18. Reporting the kill rather than fleeing the scene may work in his favor as TWRA officers at the sight reported that the first hunter to take a wild elk in over a century expressed much remorse.
A public information campaign about the elk reintroduction program was started before the first elk release designed to educate deer hunters that wild elk are in Tennessee and how they differ in appearance from whitetail deer through public displays at area events, store window posters, and press releases.
This case of mistaken identity reinforces the need for hunters to be sure of their targets before pulling the trigger.
"The elk was given the routine check for radiation by testing tissue and bone samples by Oak Ridge National Laboratories and then transported to the University of Tennessee Veterinarian School for a series of tests that will give biologists a vast array of information about this elk and the health of the herd not possible to obtain from a living elk," Layton said.
What biologists will want to know among other things is what the elk had been feeding on, and they also plan to test the animal for Chronic Wasting Disease.
Oak Ridge WMA personnel and biologists had very high hopes for this muzzleloader/shotgun hunt that was the first since the Sept. 11 tragedies of 2001. Managers of the area had talked about the possibility of an elk being killed but really didn't think it would happen. At least three elk had been seen on the WMA recently.
The WMA hunts were canceled in 2001 due to national security concerns. Larry Bible, the Coordinator and Analytical Support for the Department of Energy/TWRA Hunts, said that the WMA did have a good hunt, the best in the last 8 years.
"We thought the numbers would be up because of the hunts being canceled last year," said Bible. The ratio in the past has been about 60/40 (buck to doe). The first hunt of 2002 saw a total of 161 deer harvested on Oct. 19-20. The buck to doe ratio was 112 bucks to 49 does. One (0.62%) of the 161 deer was retained by personnel at the checking station due to internal radiological contamination.
The largest buck for the weekend field dressed at 184 pounds and had 6 points. The most points for the weekend featured two 11-pointers. The largest doe weighed in at 118 pounds. Dragging Weems' 150-pound buck to the truck failed in comparison to the 200 yard path that had to be cut into the brush to get a truck to the big 5x5 bull elk.
West Greene Senior Arrows Big Buck
This is the first year that 17-year-old West Greene senior Andrew Evans is too old to hunt the Young Sportsman Deer hunts in Tennessee. That fact won't and didn't prevent him from scoring with a bow.
Evans had already taken a doe with archery equipment in the past, something that many adult hunters have yet to do. The young archer added to that total at this year's first Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HAAP) draw hunt on Oct. 5.
Before we get into the details, let's backtrack just a little. Like the Oak Ridge WMA hunts of last year, the HAAP hunts were canceled due to the tragedies of Sept. 11. Hunters that were drawn last year were allowed to honor their draws this year. Evans, along with his father, Phillip, was drawn for the first archery hunt that allowed the harvest of either two does or a buck and doe combination.
Because his father was drawn on the same hunt, the younger Evans had to be accompanied on stand by another adult. The elected observer would be his mother, Laurie.
Prior to the big hunt, she had asked me if I thought there would be other women on the area for the hunt. I have always seen at least three or more women hunters at other HAAP hunts and told her. Fortunately for my prediction, Laurie wasn't the only woman in a treestand on the hunt - one other sportswoman made it.
"I saw a bunch of 8-points and a 10-point before killing my deer," said Evans.
Evans and his mother had to endure watching several good bucks work around their stand before his quality buck came into bow range. He put the arrow where it needed to go and after tracking the deer nearly 200 yards he had his trophy. The high racked 8-pointer field dressed at 110-pounds and will have a new home on Evans' wall. It was his first big buck and is already at the taxidermist.
Although, she may not have been as excited as Andrew was, to hear Laurie talk about the experience - she was darn close. And even though his father never got the opportunity to draw on a deer, he was just as happy about the harvest that his son made.
Ducks Unlimited Banquet Upcoming
What has long been a Greene County sportsman tradition, the Annual Ducks Unlimited Membership Banquet is slated for next Saturday night, Nov. 2. The event will be held at Link Hills Country Club and will begin with the social at 6 p.m. The social as always will be followed by dinner and then silent and live auctions of wildlife related art and accessories.
The Greene County Ducks Unlimited Committee has as always been hard at work preparing for the event and is chaired this year by George Scott. Several tickets have been pre-sold for the banquet, which will feature opportunities to bid on and purchase quality wildlife prints, decoys, and guns.
According to Bobby Holt, past chairman of the DU Committee, the Early Bird Prize for purchasing your tickets prior to the event will be a pair of Ducks Unlimited 10x50 binoculars with a case. The Greenwing Prize Drawing always goes to a youth member and will feature a youth pair of Ducks Unlimited 4x30 binoculars with case. Again this year, the Grand Prize Drawing will be a $400 gift Certificate redeemable at Hearthstone Guns.
Among the decoys available at the event are a greenwing teal, ringneck and Canada goose. The greenwing may be the big attention getter this year with its fabulous colors and excellent craftsmanship. The normal selection of quality prints will be on hand and include a couple from R.J. McDonald, which are always popular locally and two Art LeMay prints that have become a Ducks Unlimited Banquet tradition over the years.
The silent auction features several products from Avery Outdoors. Among them are a shell belt, gun sleeve, gear bag and others. Doyle Sweeney at Hearthstone Guns has also donated a Primos Coca bola Duck Call and a Browning lock back knife with presentation case for the live auction. This year's gun of the year is also a prize for any gun collector. The Ducks Unlimited Special Edition Browning BPS 28-gauge is a beautiful piece of gunwork.
Plenty of tickets remain for the banquet and can be purchased at the door or prior to the event by calling George Scott at 787-1231 or Bobby Holt at 639-4723.
Young Sportsman's Deer Hunt Nov. 2-3
One of the greatest thrills in my deer hunting career has been taking young hunters on the annul Young Sportsman Deer Hunt. It's just as good as taking a deer yourself.
Tennessee's annual Young Sportsman's Deer Hunt will be Nov. 2-3 this year.
The hunt is open to youths 10 through 16 years of age. Each youth must be accompanied by a nonhunting adult who does not need a license, but both hunter and adult must wear 500 square inches of fluorescent orange.
Participating young hunters are required to carry proof of successful completion of a Hunter Education course. Adults who accompany must be close enough to take immediate control of the hunting device (gun or bow). The bag limit is one deer either-sex.
Antlered deer taken on this hunt count toward the statewide limit on antlered deer. Antlered deer are defined as deer with antlers 3 inches long or longer.
Several of TWRA's Wildlife Management Areas will also be open for this hunt. A list of all Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and their scheduled hunts can be found on pages 17- 42 in the 2002-2003 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide.
Hunters 12 and under do not have to have a license for the youth hunt, but must purchase a permit if hunting on most Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). Juveniles between 13-15 years of age must have the Junior Hunt/Trap/Fish license and would also be required to purchase a permit on WMAs. Residents who are already 16 must purchase adult licenses and permits.
Muzzleloader Season Opens Nov. 4
Everybody has a favorite - hunting with a muzzleloader is mine. The first segment of Tennessee's Muzzleloader/Archery Deer Season opens on Monday, Nov. 4 and goes to Nov. 10 in both of Tennessee's deer hunting units, reminds the TWRA. Bag limit is one antlered deer, except either-sex Nov. 8-10.
Muzzleloading firearms of .40 caliber minimum and long bows and compound bows are legal hunting equipment for this season. Shotguns are not legal unless they are muzzleloading shotguns using slugs.