Through the second — and final — weekend of Tennessee’s muzzleloader deer hunt, Scott County sportsmen continued to kill deer at a pace that is the highest of any year since the devastating outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in 2017.
As of the end of the day Sunday, Scott County hunters had tagged a total of 236 deer since muzzleloader season opened on Nov. 6, according to data made available by the TN Wildlife Resources Agency. That’s up from 182 during the same time period a year ago, and slightly better than the 221 deer that had been harvested during the same time period in 2019.
The muzzleloader harvest’s increase from last year leveled out some after the opening weekend of the hunt. On the first weekend of the hunt, there were a total of 120 deer harvested in Scott County. That was up 76% from 2020’s opening weekend harvest. As of Sunday, the harvest was up 30% over last year.
There is a reason for the declining increase. Opening weekend greeted hunters with picture-perfect weather. The weather was less than ideal there after, with warm temperatures reducing daytime deer activity early in the week, followed by breezy conditions on Saturday and Sunday. The deer harvest is largely dependent upon the weather.
Additionally, the pre-rut was at its peak in Scott County during the opening weekend of the hunt, which helped to drive daytime deer activity during the first few days of the muzzleloader season.
Nevertheless, the muzzleloader hunt had been a successful one as it entered its final week. The season closes Friday, and gun season begins on Saturday.
Scott County’s deer harvest has been reduced since 2017, when an EHD outbreak swept through the local herd. That year, only 133 deer had been killed through the first two weekends of the muzzleloader hunt. The next year, only 130 deer were harvested during the same time frame.
Though it has increased, the early muzzleloader harvest is still nowhere near where it was before the EHD outbreak. In 2016, the last year before the outbreak, there had been 391 deer harvested through the second weekend of the muzzleloader hunt.
To put the numbers in perspective, this year’s muzzleloader harvest — as of Sunday — was 40% lower than the harvest during the same time in 2016, the last year before the EHD outbreak. The statewide deer harvest during the same two time frames was only 9% lower this year than in 2016.
A disproportionate number of the deer being harvested by hunters in Scott County this year are bucks. As of Sunday, a whopping 74% of the deer harvested locally since muzzleloader season began were antlered bucks. That’s up from 70% during the same time frame a year ago.
In 2016, the pre-EHD year, the percentage of bucks in the harvest was a more respectable 61%.
Statewide, the buck harvest is also high. Of the 26,445 deer that had been harvested during Tennessee’s muzzleloader season, as of Sunday, 65% of them were bucks.
Traditionally, the percentage of the antlered deer harvest in Scott County is higher than the statewide harvest, which is reflective of the overall poorer health of the deer herd in Scott County. In Middle and West Tennessee, does typically make up a higher percentage of the harvest.
In Unit B, which includes Scott County, hunters can harvest two does during the muzzleloader season, and one doe during gun season.
The gun season for whitetails opens on Saturday in Unit B and continues through Jan. 2. There will be a youth-only deer hunt on Jan. 8-9.