Tennessee Elk Camp 2009
By Dwight Flynn, Tennessee State Chair
“Congratulations! You have won a chance to be the first Tennessean to harvest an elk in our state in over 150 years.”
How is that for a notice? I wish I could’ve been there to see the looks on the faces of the lucky elk hunters who received it in their mailboxes last summer.
More than a decade ago, a bunch of Tennessee RMEF volunteers jumped on board with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) in a historic effort to restore wild elk to the Volunteer State. Elk disappeared from Tennessee around 1865 following years of unregulated hunting and habitat loss. Thanks to a big push from the RMEF, we began releasing elk onto the Cumberland Plateau in December 2000, and by 2009 the population had expanded enough for hunters to take five bulls. Four hunters drew tags through TWRA’s random drawing and another permit was awarded to the highest bidder through an auction on eBay. Each hunter then drew for a designated 8,000-acre hunting zone within the TWRA’s North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
The hunt was held October 16-23. The Elk Foundation co-sponsored a “Tennessee Elk Camp” adjacent to the WMA on the farm of RMEF volunteer Terry Lewis. The Lewis’ provided space for motor homes, campers and large meeting and dinner tents—which were nice to have since it rained the first few days. RMEF volunteers from the East Tennessee, Jacksboro, Bristol, Chattanooga and Cookeville chapters were on hand to operate the camp. Lee Kribbs of the Knoxville Chapter did all the volunteer scheduling and coordinating, and led the effort in securing and erecting five outfitter tents. RMEF volunteers provided all tents, cots, cooking shelter and camping equipment.
More than 200 people attended the Saturday opening event and outdoor cookout, including Joe Treadway, RMEF Board Chairman; Don Blakley, Director of Eastern Operations; Bill Carman, Tennessee/Kentucky/West Virginia Regional Director; Lee Gamble, Eastern Regional Chair; Cory Felts, East Tennessee Chapter Chair; Jerry Stout, Jacksboro Chapter Chair; and many other dedicated RMEF volunteers.
TWRA personnel briefed the hunters on Friday night before scouting on Saturday and Sunday. Anticipation and excitement ran high throughout the weekend. Most of the hunters had been scouting their assigned hunting zone for months and used the weekend to determine if elk movements had changed after two weeks of rainy, cool weather.
It did not take long for history to be made on that foggy and frosty Monday morning. Charles “Chuck” Flynn of Rockford was the first person to legally kill an elk in Tennessee in modern times. Craig Gardner of Parrottsville and Ronald Woodard of Oak Ridge also killed their bulls Monday morning. Jeff Moses of Cleveland killed a bull Monday afternoon, and Tami Miller of Franklin killed a bull late Tuesday afternoon. (By the way, Tami was the first woman on record to kill an elk in Tennessee.)
I have been involved in the Tennessee Elk Restoration Program from the very beginning. I assisted with the initial planning, helped work through the politics and regulatory issues, and raised funds alongside my fellow Tennessee volunteers. I even made two long hauls to Alberta, to help transport elk from Elk Island National Park to the WMA. So I can honestly say that being a part of the Tennessee Elk Camp was a high point in my life. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the successful hunters with their bulls was icing on the cake