History of Deer in Tennessee from 2019 - 2023 Deer Plan

History of Deer in Tennessee, see page V of the 2019 - 2023 Deer Management Plan
Today, Tennessee has huntable white-tailed deer populations throughout the state; however this has not always been the case. Past troubles for the deer population in Tennessee have been traced back as far as 1896 when Rhoads, an early scientific writer, reported deer had been extirpated over the greater part of Tennessee (Schultz 1955).  As late as the 1940’s, the deer population was fewer than 1,000 animals (Nichols 1978). Fortunately, successful restocking efforts in the 1930’s through the 1980’s and protective game laws have resulted in a deer population with an annual harvest now exceeding 160,000 animals.
     Beginning in the 1930’s, several agencies began deer restoration efforts on a few public lands in Tennessee. The Game and Fish Division of the Tennessee Department of Conservation, United States Forest Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, and the United States Navy restocked deer at this
time. The TWRA, known then as the Tennessee Game and Fish Commission, began restocking public lands in 1949 and private lands in the mid-1950’s. Roughly 9,000 deer were released in Tennessee by these agencies from 1940-1985. Deer were brought in from Michigan, Maryland, Wisconsin, North 
Carolina, Virginia, and Texas. Once adequate populations of deer were built from these initial stockings, in-state deer became the primary source for later restocking efforts (TWRA 1991). After the deer population had rebounded sufficiently, the first limited deer hunting seasons were established in the 1940s on select public lands. Limited private lands hunting began in the 1950s (Nichols 1978). By 1990, all counties in the state were open to deer hunting (TWRA 1991). 
    Currently, Tennessee has some of the most liberal deer harvest regulations and longest hunting seasons in the United States. TWRA’s restocking and management efforts have been highly successful. Of course, healthy and growing deer populations, which are a boon to hunters, wildlife viewers, and many sectors of the recreation industry, can also be a detriment to others through crop damage, auto collisions, tree/ shrub damage, etc.