FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Hunting season is in full swing on Fort Campbell, with opportunities for Soldiers, retirees, veterans and civilians to enjoy the outdoors while helping in the management of the booming deer population on Fort Campbell.
“Deer hunting season kicked off Sept. 26 and runs through Jan. 3,” said Jonathan Mills, manager of the Hunting and Fishing Program, Directorate of Public Works. “We have it open for shotgun, muzzle loader, and archery hunting in the cantonment area. Hunting in the cantonment area is archery only, and it’s only available for active-duty Soldiers. In the rear training areas, anyone can hunt – retirees, Soldiers, veterans or civilians.”
Last year, Fort Campbell opened up bow hunting in specified areas of the cantonment area on the installation in an effort to provide more recreation for active-duty Soldiers and control the deer population inside the gates. This year there are 23 slots for Soldiers each day.
“The reason we implemented cantonment area hunting is because we have a pretty good-sized deer population,” Mills said. “Deer can become very accustomed to humans. When you have a lot of deer in a small area, the concern we can have is overpopulation. We want to manage the deer herd because we don’t have a lot of natural predators.”
Hunting inside the cantonment area is only allowed on weekends and days with no scheduled activities, or DONSAs, so it does not interfere with operations and remains as clear as possible from residential areas, Mills said. Some of these designated areas are located near offices, motor pools or even residential areas, but a number of restrictions are aimed at keeping bystanders and domestic animals safe.
Bow hunting is allowed in the cantonment area a limited amount of days. The hunting areas were chosen with safety in mind to keep bow hunters away from populated areas. Bow hunters also are required to bring their own deer stands and shoot from at least 10 feet high so the trajectory of the arrow is downward and would strike the ground if it misses the intended target.
“We also have the earn-a-buck program for the cantonment area hunting,” Mills said. “Hunters must harvest a doe before they can harvest a buck, because if we didn’t have the program, they’d only want to hunt bucks, which wouldn’t help control the population. This helps us reduce the deer population and manage it at a more sustainable level.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all deer hunting check-ins and tag-outs will be done virtually, Mills said.
“Everything is going to an online format,” Mills said. “We’re open 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but we are interacting with customers only through phone or email. This is just to minimize exposure to COVID-19. If someone wants to hunt or fish on post, they should go to our iSportsman website and register for an account or login to their account to check in. Civilians will have to submit to a background check, and all firearms will have to be registered with the Fort Campbell Directorate of Emergency Services.”
To register for an account, hunters or fishers need to provide a Tennessee or Kentucky hunting or fishing license. Hunters and fishers ages 9-17 must be supervised. You must have a Kentucky or Tennessee license to hunt or fish on the installation, either license provides access to both state sides of Fort Campbell. To register, visit https://ftcampbell.isportsman.net/login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2FAccounts#Register.
Check-in and -out procedures will be in compliance with CAM Regulation 200-4. All cantonment area hunting opportunities are offered on a first come, first served basis. Available hunting areas are open for check-in at 9 p.m. the day prior to the hunt. Hunters will be given temporary tags for harvesting deer that allows the deer to be transported to the hunter’s vehicle. Once at the vehicle, hunters must check out of their area through iSportsman and record their harvest, where they will be given a confirmation number to add to the tag.
“The harvest data helps us keep track of the deer population and how many deer are harvested on the installation each year,” Mills said. “The deer population control in the more urban areas on the cantonment area or even in the back training areas is really to reduce the amount of deer and vehicle collisions. When deer start moving around quite a bit, especially during deer breeding season, the potential for a deer-vehicle collision goes up.”
Protecting the environment
Mills said there also are environmental reasons for wanting to manage the deer population on the installation.
“We really don’t have a large predator population, we may have a few coyotes out in the wooded areas, but otherwise our population controls itself through disease and starvation,” Mills said. “When we have overpopulation, the potential for disease, starvation and damage to our ecosystems increases. Deer would eat themselves out of a house and home, so by controlling the population we can protect our forests and plant community populations. We also have a lot of agricultural crops on the installation and around it, and deer population control can help protect those crops as well.”
Overpopulation also can cause Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. This neurological disease is always fatal and results in severe emaciation, loss of bodily functions and abnormal behavior. The disease is spread through fecal matter especially in the instance of overpopulation.
“Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in seven counties in Tennessee, and four more counties are high-risk,” Mills said. “High-risk means a deer has tested positive with the disease within 10 miles of the counties border. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is running a program in the southwest portion of Tennessee, we don’t have a concern for it right now, but we certainly want to keep our population here as healthy as possible for that reason.”
Mills said another disease that negatively impacts overgrown deer populations is Bluetongue Disease, or Hemorrhagic Disease, which is spread by biting flies. Other diseases that can be spread to humans and pets, such as tickborne diseases, also can be a greater threat with overpopulation.
“We actually collected samples for Chronic Wasting Disease testing at the Commanding General’s Annual Deer Hunt Nov. 6, and those samples are sent to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for testing,” Mills said.
About 1,200 deer are harvested at Fort Campbell in a typical year, Mills said.
“On post, we allow one buck to be hunted per person each season,” Mills said. “Bucks need to either have four points on one side of the antlers, or the antlers need to be at least a 15-inch spread if it has less than four points. We allow three does to be harvested per day, per hunter. The bonus buck harvested on Fort Campbell does not count toward the two-buck limit for the state of Tennessee, or the one buck limit for the state of Kentucky.”
For Soldiers not interested in bow hunting, they can head out to specified areas in the back training areas of Fort Campbell to hunt with firearms. These areas are open Thursday-Monday. The availability of those areas is dependent on when training exercises are happening.
Deer hunting with a firearm in the training areas is open to anyone who can get a hunting spot and is vetted to be on Fort Campbell. Soldiers get 55% of the available spots, while 30% are pro-vided to disabled veterans, retirees and Department of Defense civilians. The final 15% are available to nonaffiliated citizens from the community.
“Make sure you are well-versed in safe firearms handling and hunter’s safety and ethics,” Mills said. “There are a lot of folks out there in the woods, so safety always needs to be first. Whether a hunter harvests a deer or not, it’s always a successful day when hunters come back home to their Family.”
Deer hunting with stands and ground blinds on post require that they be brought in and out the same day. Hunters must have 500-square-inches of hunter orange on, usually in the form of a hat and vest. Mills recommends hunters always let someone know where they are going and when they plan to return, while also following the requirement to wear a full-body tree stand harness before climbing a deer stand.
Maps of the cantonment area deer hunting areas can be found at https://ftcampbell.isportsman.net/cantonment-hunting-maps.aspx. For more information about hunting and fishing on Fort Campbell, visit https://ftcampbell.isportsman.net/default.aspx or call 270-798-9824.