Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. Hamilton County Commission Committee to consider whether to continue hunts
Oct. 24-25: Second TWRA quota hunt
A mountain biker made a U-turn at a "Park Closed" sign Monday morning at the gate to Enterprise South Nature Park.
Nearby, a high school junior chosen for a two-day hunt on the property field-dressed a deer he killed with a compound bow.
A group that sought to cancel the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency quota hunt at the nature park Monday and today would describe events near the gate Monday as a clash of stakeholders.
But the city, county and TWRA say the hunts are necessary to reduce deer overpopulation and improve the overall health of the park's wildlife.
Robert Greene, 34, a mountain biker from Harrison, showed up around 9 a.m. to ride the nature park's trails, but a park ranger turned him away after telling him about the hunt.
"I have no problem with them doing something like this," Greene said. "I just wish I knew about it before I drove all the way over here."
Before 10 a.m., 16-year-old Brayton Bird, of Cleveland, one of 80 hunters drawn for this week's hunt, dragged the first deer out of the woods, a doe that he took to a station where it was weighed and tagged.
At the station, TWRA game biologist Ben Layton asked if he could cut the deer's cheek to determine her age. Bird's deer was estimated to be 2 1/2 years old.
Layton took note of where hunters killed deer and kept up with the animals' weights and health, factors that enter into his annual determination of whether to hold hunts and when, he said.
Determining the deer herd's health is one of the most-important jobs. Low weight, for instance, can be a signal of an unhealthy population, he said.
The average weight of a field-dressed yearling doe from last year's hunt was 72 pounds. Minus her entrails, Bird's doe weighed 57 pounds. She'll make a good roast, he said.
"I may get back in the woods to get a buck," said the Walker Valley High School junior, who joined his father and younger brother in the woods. "Mom said only one day off school."
Hunters are allowed to kill two deer, but the first must be a doe to aid in the population-control objective, Layton said.
Attorney Diane Dixon's group sought to cancel the event. Dixon sent a letter to Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, County Commissioner Greg Beck and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor, asking that the hunt be stopped.
"The new park is enjoying so much success and citizens feel such a sense of ownership and connection with its ecosystem and amenities that it is appalling to think of allowing the hunts to continue as they have in the past, unless proven necessary to serve the interest of preservation of the ecosystem," her letter states.
But a City of Chattanooga official said the decision by the city, TWRA and Hamilton County to close the park for two population-control hunts is necessary for proper park management. Steve Leach, Public Works administrator, said the forests, wildlife and competing recreational uses must all be managed carefully.
"It's just a beautiful place to be, but you have to manage it," he said. "It's just got all of these components, and it's right beside a factory."
What's now the new Volkswagen auto assembly plant used to be the deers' prime grazing field, Park Ranger Fred Fuson said.
So now "you've got more deer trying to compete for less," he said.
The city and county opted to limit the two October hunts to archery and to hold them on Mondays and Tuesdays to reduce the impact on park users, Leach said. About 2,000 residents use the park each week, and county records show the fewest numbers come early in the week, Fuson said.
The land that makes up the nature park was formerly the Volunteer Army Ammunition site, where TNT was manufactured between 1942 and 1977. The U.S. Army requested that TWRA begin population-control hunts there as early as 1978, Layton said.
The park opened at 5 a.m. and Layton estimated about 50 hunters showed up Monday by first light.
Hunter Glenn Feezell, 67, arrived at 5:17 a.m. from Loudon, Tenn., who said he first hunted on Enterprise South when it was still the "TNT Hunt."