As always, money rules the day, and Tennesseans are the latest victims of the nation-wide push to implement R3.
It wouldn’t surprise me, reader, if you’ve never heard of Cameron Weddington. He’s a Tennessee resident with a passion for turkey hunting and a small YouTube channel. In fact, I’d never heard of Weddington until I was forwarded an article from Field and Stream that highlights the Tennessean’s position on turkey numbers and some important research he’s conducted regarding Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s (TWRA) mismanagement of the species.
To be clear, I’ve never met Weddington and I certainly don’t want folks to think I’m speaking for him. He may not appreciate this article and it’s possible he’ll never see it. But, the issues he’s brought to light may impact hunters across the country (if they haven’t already) and I thought it important to spread the word to my audience. If you want to listen to Weddington’s take in its entirety, you can watch his video here.
During a past public comment session hosted by the TWRA, resident turkey hunters voiced their concern over the declining turkey population and offered support for a reduction in the number of birds residents can harvest. Prior to 2021, resident turkey hunters could take up to four birds per year and, despite pleas for a two-bird limit from the hunters who know these flocks best, TWRF officials decided to reduce that number only to three. The new regulation would spare fewer than 1,300 toms, but residents believed that’d be better than nothing.
Before resident turkey hunters had a moment to celebrate their small victory in the battle to save their flock, the TWRF – behind closed doors – paid The Hunting Public (THP), a popular group of influencers on YouTube and Instagram, over $10,000 to aid in a marketing campaign designed to target non-resident hunters and convince them to come to Tennessee for the turkey hunt of a lifetime. Naturally, this left residents wondering why their hunting licenses didn’t come with a T-bone steak and a glass of Merlot, because THEY’D LIKE TO AT LEAST BE WINED AND DINED BEFORE BEING FUCKED.
Last year, TWRF posted a video on their Instagram page that featured THP co-owner Aaron Warbritton telling the world, “a question we get asked all the time at THP is which state is our favorite to hunt… For turkeys, hunting Easterns, Tennessee is really hard to beat. If you’re looking to travel to hunt anywhere, you ought to look into Tennessee.”
What was the result, you ask? In 2021, over 500 more birds were killed than the running average from 2014-2019, despite residents being able to take one less bird than before.
“You’ve taken a bird from residents and given it to non-residents,” Weddington said.
In 2020, more than 40,000 birds were killed, but that’s considered an outlier due to an increased number of hunters looking to be outdoors during a pandemic. Tennessee was inundated with non-resident hunters in 2021, and it’s hard to argue THP’s series of Tennessee turkey YouTube videos – which garnered more than 600,000 views – didn’t play a role in the onslaught. The 2021 season saw a 45 percent increase in non-resident tag sales and a 42 percent increase in birds killed by non-residents. I’m no scientist, BUT YOU TELL ME HOW THAT BENEFITS A DECLINING TURKEY POPULATION.
Listen, as long as America is the Land of the Free, we’re going to have folks like THP that try to scratch out a living doing what they love. I don’t knock them for trying to make a buck, but I will knock them for being tone-deaf to the needs and desires of Tennessee residents. Influencers with the audience and reach of THP have a responsibility to do what’s right by hunters, and far too often we let them off the hook without any sense of accountability.
This issue in Tennessee also speaks to the fatal flaw in R3 – by recruiting new hunters at any cost, the movement also serves to disenfranchise existing hunters by disregarding the one thing that impacts hunting numbers most: the quality of the hunt. I’ve written about this before, and I’ve had more than one self-righteous person reach out to explain why R3 is important and how it’ll be our saving grace. Well, go ahead and ask a Tennessee turkey hunter how they feel about it. How do I know this has everything to do with R3? LISTEN TO TWRA TELL IT:
“The work with The Hunting Public has resulted in more resident and nonresident recruitment and reactivation of hunters…I understand that you are offended by inviting nonresidents to Tennessee to hunt, but it is a good thing,” said Jenifer Wisniewski, the chief of outreach and communication for the TWRA, in a response to Weddington’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
SEE? IT AIN’T GOT A GODAMNED THING TO DO WITH HUNTER RETENTION! To a broader point, this is the problem with the current state of our society. Once a narrative like R3 is widely accepted, it becomes taboo to mention the oftentimes harmful consequences of that narrative. Just think about the “lab leak theory” – two years ago you were a racist and a xenophobe for mentioning it, and now it’s a plausible (if not probable) theory. One day you’ll think to yourself, “man, that TAB idiot was really onto something.”
So, without putting my tin foil hat on, I ask you once again to look at the policies and procedures that federal and state wildlife agencies (and non-government organizations) implement with a healthy degree of skepticism. Hold elected officials and influencers accountable for the actions they take. And, don’t be the fucking idiot who wears a turkey fan on his head.
T&P’s for Tennesseans. This is probably all Lane Kiffin’s fault.