Normally, as Artic temperatures settle into the Tennessee Valley, we relax in our cozy homes. But for Tennessee Valley Authority’s Natural Resources team, the cold weather signals a great opportunity for waterfowl sportsmen along the Tennessee River and on the utility’s 290,000 acres of public lands.
“The Tennessee Valley is an important stop for birds migrating down the western side of the Appalachians,” says TVA Natural Resources manager David Brewster, based in Guntersville, Ala. “We work year-round improving habitat on our public lands and the cold doesn’t stop us from promoting recreation.”
Each fall, waterfowl leave their northern breeding grounds as they navigate south toward warmer climates down the 2,300-mile Mississippi Flyway to the Gulf of Mexico. The Tennessee River is positioned inside the eastern half of the flyway and provides waterfowl 11,000 miles of shoreline and 650,000-acres of water upon which to rest and feed during their seasonal migration.
“Waterfowl follow river systems,” says Brewster. “TVA reservoirs offer birds plenty of shallow water coves, shorelines, and islands and great hunting for sportsmen.”
TVA Recreation Economy
Decoys, duck calls, and steel-shot ammunition are commonly purchased products, making duck hunting just one of the sports that support 130,000 recreation jobs throughout the Valley, according to a 2017 TVA and University of Tennessee recreation study. In total, TVA’s reservoirs attract almost $12 billion to the region each year.
“I’ve got friends that drive 60 miles from Nashville to hunt with me,” says Tim Goss of New Johnsonville, Tennessee. “They’ll get a hotel and stay three nights just to hunt. This river is big money and helps our local economy year-round.”
But for Goss, the sport is more about family and friends than economics. He believes duck hunting is an opportunity to reunite with old friends and a needed alternative to video games for kids.
“It’s just a good all-around family-friendly sport,” he said.
Get in on the Action
Brewster agrees. There’s still plenty of time for Valley hunters to get in on the action, he says, before the season closes at the end of January. Early in the season the birds are scattered due to low-water conditions. Once the water rises into food plots that flank the river, the added food sources will cause more birds to congregate in those areas.
“Right now, birds are coming in for a few days to rest and then moving on to find better food sources,” Brewster says. “It’s kind of like going to a fast food restaurant. If there’s too long of a line, we’ll go down the street to find another.”
For those who want to duck hunt the Tennessee River, TVA doesn’t require any special license. However, there are federal, state and local laws and regulations that must be followed. Brewster recommends that hunters download the TVA Undeveloped Recreation Lands app. This will help all hunting enthusiasts, identify the TVA’s undeveloped land that is open to the public for recreational use.
“TVA cares about the environment and I hope everyone gets out and has a safe, enjoyable season,” Brewster concludes.