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Drought impacting waterfowl hunting on wildlife management areas

MORRISTOWN, Tenn.—As Tennessee’s waterfowl season approaches, wildlife managers in Region IV are battling the drought in an effort to create waterfowl units on wildlife management areas.

Wildlife Managers Bill Smith and David Sams have been working overtime in an effort to fill their waterfowl units, but the drought conditions have been a major setback.  “We can only pump half the water we normally can and it’s taking twice as long,” says Bill.  “If we’re lucky, we might have decent water levels by mid-December.  We are about a month behind.”   For Sams, the lack of rainfall and dry soil has been an unusual challenge: “The ground is so dry that there are cracks over one-foot deep.  Usually, the ground is already wet, but it’s taking a long time to prime the soil to get it saturated enough to hold water.”

Sams and Smith have both been pumping water around the clock but don’t have much available water to utilize.  “I have one five horsepower electric pump going at Kyker right now and it’s trickling,” says Smith.  Sams is also fighting a unique battle where he has to move what little water he can find into a pool and then into the waterfowl units.  “The pumps are running around the clock and we are having to fuel up every eight-to-ten hours to keep the water moving,” added Sams.

This Saturday, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m. will be the first drawing for waterfowl hunting permits on the South Mohawk, Skinner, and Foxgate Units of Lick Creek Refuge.  Successful permit holders then get the choice to hunt on Tuesday or Saturday the following week.  Normally, Sams draws permits for hunters on ten hunting units, however only four of the ten units have water at this time.  This year, TWRA may have to reduce the number of permits in the drawing, as there will likely be less available units.  Sams says, “We will draw every Saturday at 1 p.m. and will give updates according to water conditions.”

Smith also foresees less available waterfowl hunting opportunities on White’s Mill Refuge: “Right now, we only have two units with some mud puddles.”