A hunter inspects the red deer he killed while hunting in Claiborne County Saturday
Saturday marked the first day of a special red deer hunting season in Claiborne County. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is working to eradicate the non-native species from the region.
TWRA officials say the agency has been re-introducing an elk population to East Tennessee, and the red deer species could pose a threat to their work.
"They will cross breed," said John Mike of TWRA. "And the offspring will be a mixed elk-red deer, and that's something we do not want...It makes another subspecies, and you run into a number of headaches when you do that."
Mike says a population of red deer escaped from a local hunting preserve several years ago. TWRA now estimates about 25 live in the Claiborne County area.
"Right now they are somewhat concentrated, and that's the reason we were trying to have this hunt now, before they do expand any further," he said.
Local hunter Tyler McAnally said he started his day early in order to beat the crowd.
"There's a lot of people on this hunt, and I just wanted to be the first one to get the red deer," he said.
The 11-year-old was, in fact, the first to return with a deer in tow. He shot a small, female red deer.
"I was excited! I just raised up and shot it, hit it right there in the shoulder," McAnally said.
The hunting season is open in the eastern portion of Claiborne County from the Kentucky state line east of Highway 25 East to the Highway 33/25 East intersection in Tazewell, and down Highway 33 to the Union County line.
The special season runs from January 14 to 22.