In 2016, the year before an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) swept through Scott County’s deer herd, there were 299 whitetails harvested between the opening day of rifle season and the end of Thanksgiving weekend — the first eight days of the hunt. The year before that, 330 deer had been harvested in the same time period.
While Scott County’s deer harvest continues to bounce back, this year’s numbers continues to underscore just how severe that 2017 EHD outbreak was for the local deer population.
According to data from the TN Wildlife Resources Agency, Scott County hunters checked in 214 deer this year between the opening day of rifle season, Nov. 20, and the end of Thanksgiving weekend. That’s the most in three years, but it’s still nearly one-third lower than before the EHD outbreak.
In 2017, the year of the EHD outbreak, there were only 126 deer harvested in Scott County through the first eight days of the gun season.
While Scott County’s deer harvest is increasing, it’s doing so at a slower pace than the statewide harvest. Through the first eight days of the gun hunt, Tennessee’s harvest was up nearly 20% over last year, jumping from 33,910 to 40,446. Scott County’s increase was less than 8%, from 199 to 214.
What’s more, while the harvest was also increased during the youth hunt in late October and through the opening weekend of the muzzleloader hunt, it’s now on par with last year’s total harvest. Last year, Scott County hunters had harvested 648 deer by this point in the fall deer hunts. This year, they’ve harvested 645.
In 2016, the year, before the EHD outbreak, local hunters had harvested 1,023 by this point in the season.
While declining harvests can be blamed on many factors, including decreasing hunter participation, two EHD outbreaks in recent years have caused the local deer herd to decline, and that decrease is especially noticeable on public land. The first of the two outbreaks occurred in 2007 and impacted large swaths of Tennessee. The second outbreak occurred in 2017 and was more localized in nature.
In 2006, the year prior to the first EHD outbreak, Scott County hunters had harvested a record 1,228 deer by this point in the season. They harvested 510 deer during the first eight days of the gun hunt, more than double the 214 harvested during the first eight days of the hunt this year.
Of the 214 deer harvested so far during this year’s gun hunt, 164 were bucks while 46 were does. That is the most does harvested to this point during the gun hunt since 2016 — the first year TWRA began issuing a gun hunt doe tag to deer hunters in Unit B. That year, there had been 69 does killed by this point in the season.