Tennessee golf course attracts wildlife, poachers


Mar 11, 2001
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Golfers suspect poachers bagging game

By ANNE PAINE, Tennessean Staff Writer


The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and a bevy of other law enforcement agents and citizens are trying to catch whoever might be poaching game on Metro's Harpeth Hills Golf Course.

No dead animals have turned up, but several arrows, one with blood, and a few rifle shells have been found on and near the course over the past two years, management says. There's little doubt what the quarry is.

Twelve-point bucks and other deer hang out there, as does a flock of almost two dozen turkeys. The course lies in the southeastern corner of Metro's 2,600-acre Percy and Edwin Warner Parks.

Park rangers, golf-course staff and several golfers are among those watching for anyone who might come in to bag a deer or turkey. They suspect the hunting is from vehicles at night, and they intend to stop it.

Golf courses that draw wildlife can also draw illegal hunting, according to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. It's more likely to happen in rural areas but can occur anywhere.

Ray Eaton, Harpeth Hills manager, says it will not be tolerated.

''There's no sport to it, to kill a big deer here,'' he said, shaking his head in disgust.

These deer have grown accustomed to vehicles and people, and that makes them easier targets, said Eaton, a hunter himself.

Deer have been present for many years, but turkeys only recently showed up. Two arrived on the course last year, and they've had broods since then.

The wildlife is drawn to homemade corn feeders, small wheat stands and mineral blocks placed there for their benefit.

The offerings dovetail with efforts to make the course environmentally friendly, using, for example, fewer chemicals, providing cover for wildlife and conserving water, so Harpeth Hills can be certified as part of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program.

One small arrow, the kind launched by a slingshot, was found beside a feeder, while arrows from large hunting bows have been discovered around the course. Golfers are on the verge of forming an armed vigilante force.

''I was kind of appalled that they would shoot at the turkeys while they're gathered around the corn feeder,'' said John Callighan, a regular at the course and a former turkey hunter.

The wildlife has become part of the ''family'' at Harpeth Hills and several golfers are donating feed, he said.

''Anybody that hangs out there gets to see the deer grow up, see the white spots in the spring. The turkeys strut around like they own the place.''

Deer in non-hunting areas can often grow to a trophy size, and several in this area have.

The wildlife resource agency has caught poachers in urban sections of Davidson County, including this neighborhood, over the past few years, and plans to continue to make arrests. Arrests have been made as recently as January.

''TWRA is making an effort to catch anybody over there that's hunting deer and turkey out of season,'' said Danny Scott, assistant regional manager.

He would not give details of the investigation.

Harpeth Hills staff have quit mowing parts of the property, which has helped provide cover for wildlife that today includes bobcats, fox, raccoons and coyote. Birdhouses hang there, for purple martins and bluebirds, and hummingbirds flock to feeders in the summer.

On the edge of the course Wednesday at midday, four deer froze and raised their heads high to stare at a car passing on the roadway. Two red-tailed hawks circled near the clubhouse.

Illegal hunting in this setting is no surprise, one national golf course official says.

''When a course participates in a sanctuary program, they are setting up the ideal hunting grounds,'' said David Bishop, director of environmental stewardship for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, in Lawrence, Kan.

''That's one of the sad things. It's tough to solve, and it's disturbing. When wildlife of any type get used to people being around, they're going to be much easier to bag.''

Anne Paine covers Metro government. She can be reached via email at apaine@Tennessean.com or 259-8071.


Well-known member
Jan 15, 2002
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I volunteer at Fall Creek Falls State Park at the Golf Course and we have found many arrows along the side of the roads. We haven't found any with blood on them yet. Hopefully the poachers are bad shots (If they poach they probably don't practice either). I hope they catch them.


Well-known member
Mar 24, 2001
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You are probably a Redneck if.....
       .....You have ever filled a deer tag on a golf course!!!  
                     -Jeff Foxworthy

(Edited by THBailey at 7:45 pm on Feb. 25, 2002)

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