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State's first youth-focused wildlife management area may come to White County
Public hearing on plans for Buck Shoalds set for Tuesday night
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Public hearing

Subject: Proposal for youth-focused hunting regulations on the new Buck Shoals Wildlife Management Area near Cleveland

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: White County Senior Center, 1239 Helen Highway, Cleveland

Young people who love hunting with a parent or those who want to give the sport a try may have more opportunities to do so in White County this year.

A proposal has been made for youth-focused hunting regulations on the new Buck Shoals Wildlife Management Area near Cleveland, and a public hearing to discuss the plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the White County Senior Center.

“Our vision is to operate the area as the state’s first youth-focused wildlife management area,” said John Bowers, chief of the Game Management Section, in a release. “And we are seeking comments on our proposed hunting regulations for the area.”

The purpose of hunting regulations is to manage game bird and animal populations while meeting public objectives. The Buck Shoals area is relatively small at just 582 acres and will have to be properly maintained, according to Ken Riddleberger with the Department of Natural Resources.

“The property was bought by the state for the initial purpose of putting a state park there,” he said. “There were two landowners, two adjoining tracts that were bought and then put together. They were really looking at it being a system of parks down through the river there, but funding really never came about to develop the park. So it’s been kind of sitting there in mothballs for a few years.”

White County already has a “good amount” of state park property between Unicoi State Park and Smithgall Woods State Park, Riddleberger said. So using the property for a different purpose made sense.

“It’s a really neat piece of property,” he said. “It’s fairly small for a WMA, so it’s going to be fairly limited to be able to hunt the area and keep the quality there and the game populations managed. It’d be something easy to over-hunt quickly, so it’s going to be small, quota hunts. But we’re looking for a high-quality experience.”

Riddleberger said hunting on the property will be pretty limited, because of the size, and primarily designed for young people. It will include deer, turkey, dove and squirrel youth hunts. Some of the opportunities will be “Hunt and Learn” events designed for the novice hunter, while others will be adult-child quota hunts.

“It’s going to be for young people who are already hunting and just looking for a great place to hunt,” he said. “Or it could be for young people who are maybe novices and haven’t had the opportunity.”

The property was passed to the game management section of the natural resources department in January, and plans were developed for youth hunting, fishing and a few other outdoor opportunities.

Typically, hunting regulations are done every two years. This year is an “off year,” Riddleberger said, so the regulations would be for one year only, beginning this hunting season.

Any participant at the Tuesday meeting may comment, present data or offer an argument verbally or in writing regarding the regulations. Participants must notify the registering official if they intend to give a statement.

“It just gives you an opportunity to be a part of the process and give your viewpoint for the model of the property,” Riddleberger said. “It’s the opportunity to ask us questions face to face and to let us hear ideas. You might have an idea we haven’t thought of yet.”

Comments can also be made online by 4:30 p.m. April 29. See more information or view the proposed regulation changes here.

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