The author with an eastern wild turkey taken in the spring of 2021.

There’s little more exciting than the sound of a big tom turkey gobbling within shotgun range on a cool spring morning. Fortunately for Tennessee turkey hunters, there are plenty of opportunities to have such an encounter on both private and public lands across the state.

The 2024 Tennessee turkey season will open Saturday, April 13 and run through Sunday, May 26.

Youth hunters ages 6 to 16 get a one-week jump start on the season with a April 6-7 Young Sportsmans Season.

Turkey SeasonSeason Dates
Young Sportsmans (ages 6-16)April 6-7, 2024
General SeasonApril 13 – May 26, 2024

Bag Limits

One (1) bearded turkey per day, not to exceed two (2) per season, only one can be a jake. An adult gobbler is defined by having one of the following: wing feathers have white barring all the way to the tip, tail feathers are the same length, beard is longer than 6 inches, or a spur is at least 1/2 inch long.

Any turkey harvested during the Young Sportsman Hunt counts toward the statewide spring season limit of two (2).

2023 Turkey Season Results

Cool infographic of Tennessee's 2023 turkey season harvest.

During Tennessee’s 2023 spring turkey season, hunters reported harvesting 31,802 turkeys. This marks a notable six percent increase from the previous year, but a modest two percent decrease from the five-year average of 32,495.

The season brought about changes, including a two-week delay in the opening date and a reduction in the bag limit from three birds to two, with only one allowed to be a juvenile or jake.

The initial days of the season saw a significant spike in the harvest, particularly during the two-day Young Sportsman Hunt and the opening weekend, where reported harvests exceeded the five-year averages by 71 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

However, as the season progressed, there was a sharp decline in the harvest. By the 20-day mark, the reported harvest was only 11 percent above the five-year average.

Roger Shields, TWRA Wild Turkey Program Coordinator, suggests that this decline may be attributed to the lower bag limit, as hunters reached their two-bird limit and had to cease hunting.

This differs from previous seasons when hunters could continue and harvest additional birds. Despite the drop-off, a total of 25,500 hunters reported successfully harvesting at least one turkey, a significant 20 percent increase compared to the five-year average.

In terms of regional breakdown, Middle Tennessee (TWRA Region II) emerged as the leader with 11,662 turkeys harvested, featuring four of the top five counties. West Tennessee (Region I) reported 7,832 turkeys, followed by the Upper Cumberland (Region III) with 6,157, and East Tennessee (Region IV) with 6,150.

Best Counties to Kill a Turkey

Twelve Tennessee counties reported over 500 turkeys harvested during the 2022 spring turkey season. Ten of the twelve are in the central portion of the state, including:

County2022 Spring Turkey Harvest

One county in the far northwest corner of the state had a harvest of over 500 birds, and that was Weakley County with 557.

In the eastern part of Tennessee, Green County easily topped the 500 bird mark with a harvest of 840.

It’s worth noting that a higher harvest doesn’t always mean a county offers better turkey hunting than one with a lower harvest. You also have to consider the hunting pressure of each to truly understand the quality of hunting.

Best Public Lands to Kill a Turkey

Tennessee hunters are blessed with over 2 million acres of public hunting lands in the form of wildlife management areas (WMAs), national forests, national wildlife refuges, national recreational areas, and public hunting areas (PHAs). Some of these areas operate on a quota hunt system and require an application and draw process to hunt, but many are open to anyone who purchases the proper permits.

Below is a table breaking down the 2022 spring turkey harvest on each tract of public land. As I mentioned with the county harvests above, just because a tract of public land has a higher number of turkeys harvested, doesn’t mean the turkey hunting is better than one with a lower harvest. You have to consider the size of the property and the number of hunters utilizing the property. But this table will at least give you an idea of which Tennessee public lands have huntable numbers of turkeys.

WMATotal HarvestAdultJuvenileUnknown
A.E.D.C. WMA9167231
Arnold Hollow WMA6510
Bark Camp Barrens171250
Barkley WMA10820
Battle Creek PHA3210
Bean Switch Refuge6510
Bear Hollow Mountain WMA181620
Beason Creek1010
Beaver Dam Creek WMA6420
Beech River3210
Big Sandy WMA6330
Big South Fork514650
Big Spring Access PHA1100
Blackburn Fork3300
Bogota WMA9540
Bridgestone Firestone WMA – Big Bottom Unit9801
Bridgestone/Firestone WMA11920
Browntown WMA3300
Buffalo Springs WMA2200
C. M. Gooch WMA5410
Camden WMA101000
Catoosa WMA6046131
Cedar Hill Swamp1100
Charlotte Anne Finnell Neal WMA2110
Cheatham Lake WMA201550
Cheatham WMA6850171
Chickamauga WMA363150
Chickasaw NWR242220
Chickasaw SF & WMA221660
Chuck Swan WMA & SF322480
Colonel Forrest V. Durand1100
Cordell Hull Wildlife Refuge191531
Cordell Hull WMA242130
Cove Creek WMA11920
Cross Creeks NWR221570
Dry Creek WMA9810
Eagle Creek WMA271980
Eagle Lake Waterfowl Refuge1100
Edgar Evins SP & WMA241770
Ernest Rice WMA2200
Fall Creek Falls SP 1100
Flintville WMA3300
Foothills WMA4220
Forks of the River WMA2110
FT Campbell2110
Haley-Jaqueth WMA5500
Hampton Crossroads PHA1100
Happy Hollow2110
Harmon Creek WMA7610
Harp 3210
Hart’s Mill6510
Hatchie NWR5410
Haynes Bottom WMA7511
Henderson Island Refuge5500
Henderson Swamp PHA3300
Hick Hill WMA15960
Hickory Flats WMA2200
Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge221570
Holston AAP6510
Horns Bluff Waterfowl Refuge3120
Jarrell Switch Waterfowl1100
John Tully WMA11920
Keyes-Harrison WMA3210
Kingston Wildlife Refuge1100
Kyker Bottoms WMA1100
Kyles Ford WMA1100
Land Between The Lakes WMA302910
Laurel Hill WMA9450
Lick Creek Bottoms WMA155100
Lower Hatchie NWR9810
Luper Mountain2200
Maness Swamp Refuge4220
Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park and Natural Area5410
Mingo Swamp1100
Moss Island WMA4400
Mt. Roosevelt WMA7610
Natchez Trace SF & WMA6442211
Nolichucky WMA9450
Normandy WMA10820
North Cherokee NF & WMA11993233
North Chickamauga Creek WMA8530
North Chickamauga Creek WMA - Patton Unit1100
North Cumberland WMA189167211
Oak Ridge WMA4400
Obed Wild and Scenic River3120
Obion River WMA212010
Old Hickory Lock 5 Refuge3111
Old Hickory WMA6040200
Owl Hollow WMA161240
Paint Rock Refuge1100
Parker Branch2200
Pea Ridge WMA111001
Percy Priest WMA10383173
Pickett SF151140
Prentice Cooper SF & WMA3623130
Rankin Bottom WMA5410
Reelfoot NWR4310
Reelfoot WMA3300
Shady Park PHA2110
Shelton Ferry WMA6330
Skinner Mountain WMA7700
South Cherokee WMA12792323
Standing Stone SF & WMA191900
Tellico Lake6243190
Tennessee NWR261781
The Boils WMA2200
Thorny Cypress3210
Three Rivers WMA3210
Tie Camp WMA6411
Tigrett WMA3210
Tumbleweed WMA191630
Watts Bar WMA4310
West Sandy WMA2110
White Lake Wildlife Refuge5410
White Oak WMA101000
Williamsport WMA2919100
Wolf River and Ghost River SNA Unit 18620
Wolf River and Ghost River SNA Unit 23300
Yanahli WMA12182363
Yuchi Refuge6330
Grand total 2199169847625

Keep in mind that calling or attempting to call wild turkeys using any means to mimic the sounds made by turkeys is prohibited on all WMAs from March 1 until the opening day of the spring turkey hunts on the WMA. Fanning or reaping turkeys on WMAs is also prohibited.

Final Thoughts

Despite the regional decline in turkey populations, Tennessee hunters continue to post some excellent harvest numbers. Hopefully, the conservative measures that the TWRA is taking will ensure those opportunities continue well into the future. Here’s to hoping each of you have a fantastic and safe 2023 spring turkey season!

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One Comment

  1. Thank you, interesting facts. Seeing lots of hen activity in the western part of Hickman county. Not seeing a lot of gobblers roaming around in the pastures.

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