Last updated on February 23rd, 2023
In this article, we look at Tennessee’s turkey population, the state’s turkey hunting statistics, and opportunities, as well as the upcoming 2023 turkey season.
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.
Like several southern states, however, Tennessee has made some significant changes to its turkey season regulations in recent years in response to declining turkey numbers across the southeast. We wanted to keep you abreast of these changes, so you can plan your turkey season accordingly.
2023 Tennessee Turkey Season Changes
- Reduced the turkey bag limit to 2 birds
- Only one jake may be harvested during the spring season
- Two-week delay in opening turkey season statewide
- Fanning or reaping turkeys on WMAs is now prohibited.
To address why these changes were necessary, we reached out to Roger Shields, the Wild Turkey Program Coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
“Regarding the recent regulation changes, the agency and our commissioners have heard for several years from hunters and landowners across the state concerned that turkey populations in the areas they live and hunt are declining,” said Shields. “And the regulation changes the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission enacted were an effort to address those concerns.”
Stats from the 2022 Tennessee Turkey Season
During Tennessee’s 2022 spring turkey season, an estimated 95,905 Tennessee hunters (72,307 adults and 23,598 youth) harvested an estimated 48,359 turkeys. That’s down about 10% from the 2021 harvest of 53,669. Of the 48,359 birds killed in 2022, 41,492 were gobblers, 6,676 were jakes, and 191 were bearded hens.
Overall, an estimated 53% of adult hunters and 35% of youth hunters harvested at least one turkey during the 2022 spring turkey season. Among all successful adult hunters, 64% reported harvesting only one bird, 24% reported two birds, and the remaining 13% reported three birds.
Keep in mind, these are not numbers from actual reported harvests, but instead, these figures were estimated from the TWRA’s annual post-season hunter survey and reported in their Spring Turkey Harvest Survey Report 2022.
So, what can Tennessee hunters expect for the 2023 spring turkey season?
“Honestly it will be interesting to see what happens this year with the turkey season and harvest,” said Shields. “I suspect harvest will not change much as two competing forces are at play. Due to the reduced bag limit that goes into effect this spring, I would expect harvest to decline a bit.”
“However, we are two years out from one of the better hatches we’ve had in many years, so I suspect there will be some good hunting with an abundance of 2-year old birds on the landscape. We are also a few years out now from the very high harvest we saw during the Covid spring of 2022, so populations should have rebuilt some since then.”
“All in all, I suspect hunters will have a good season, but total harvest may not be much different from the past couple of years.”
2023 Tennessee Turkey Season Dates
Young Sportsman: April 8-9, 2023
Shotgun/Archery: April 15 – May 28, 2023
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).
Spring Turkey Shooting Hours
Legal shooting hours for Tennessee’s spring turkey season is 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.
Best Tennessee 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:
|County||2022 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 Tennessee 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.
|Arnold Hollow WMA||6||5||1||0|
|Bark Camp Barrens||17||12||5||0|
|Battle Creek PHA||3||2||1||0|
|Bean Switch Refuge||6||5||1||0|
|Bear Hollow Mountain WMA||18||16||2||0|
|Beaver Dam Creek WMA||6||4||2||0|
|Big Sandy WMA||6||3||3||0|
|Big South Fork||51||46||5||0|
|Big Spring Access PHA||1||1||0||0|
|Bridgestone Firestone WMA – Big Bottom Unit||9||8||0||1|
|Buffalo Springs WMA||2||2||0||0|
|C. M. Gooch WMA||5||4||1||0|
|Cedar Hill Swamp||1||1||0||0|
|Charlotte Anne Finnell Neal WMA||2||1||1||0|
|Cheatham Lake WMA||20||15||5||0|
|Chickasaw SF & WMA||22||16||6||0|
|Chuck Swan WMA & SF||32||24||8||0|
|Colonel Forrest V. Durand||1||1||0||0|
|Cordell Hull Wildlife Refuge||19||15||3||1|
|Cordell Hull WMA||24||21||3||0|
|Cove Creek WMA||11||9||2||0|
|Cross Creeks NWR||22||15||7||0|
|Dry Creek WMA||9||8||1||0|
|Eagle Creek WMA||27||19||8||0|
|Eagle Lake Waterfowl Refuge||1||1||0||0|
|Edgar Evins SP & WMA||24||17||7||0|
|Ernest Rice WMA||2||2||0||0|
|Fall Creek Falls SP||1||1||0||0|
|Forks of the River WMA||2||1||1||0|
|Hampton Crossroads PHA||1||1||0||0|
|Harmon Creek WMA||7||6||1||0|
|Haynes Bottom WMA||7||5||1||1|
|Henderson Island Refuge||5||5||0||0|
|Henderson Swamp PHA||3||3||0||0|
|Hick Hill WMA||15||9||6||0|
|Hickory Flats WMA||2||2||0||0|
|Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge||22||15||7||0|
|Horns Bluff Waterfowl Refuge||3||1||2||0|
|Jarrell Switch Waterfowl||1||1||0||0|
|John Tully WMA||11||9||2||0|
|Kingston Wildlife Refuge||1||1||0||0|
|Kyker Bottoms WMA||1||1||0||0|
|Kyles Ford WMA||1||1||0||0|
|Land Between The Lakes WMA||30||29||1||0|
|Laurel Hill WMA||9||4||5||0|
|Lick Creek Bottoms WMA||15||5||10||0|
|Lower Hatchie NWR||9||8||1||0|
|Maness Swamp Refuge||4||2||2||0|
|Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park and Natural Area||5||4||1||0|
|Moss Island WMA||4||4||0||0|
|Mt. Roosevelt WMA||7||6||1||0|
|Natchez Trace SF & WMA||64||42||21||1|
|North Cherokee NF & WMA||119||93||23||3|
|North Chickamauga Creek WMA||8||5||3||0|
|North Chickamauga Creek WMA - Patton Unit||1||1||0||0|
|North Cumberland WMA||189||167||21||1|
|Oak Ridge WMA||4||4||0||0|
|Obed Wild and Scenic River||3||1||2||0|
|Obion River WMA||21||20||1||0|
|Old Hickory Lock 5 Refuge||3||1||1||1|
|Old Hickory WMA||60||40||20||0|
|Owl Hollow WMA||16||12||4||0|
|Paint Rock Refuge||1||1||0||0|
|Pea Ridge WMA||11||10||0||1|
|Percy Priest WMA||103||83||17||3|
|Prentice Cooper SF & WMA||36||23||13||0|
|Rankin Bottom WMA||5||4||1||0|
|Shady Park PHA||2||1||1||0|
|Shelton Ferry WMA||6||3||3||0|
|Skinner Mountain WMA||7||7||0||0|
|South Cherokee WMA||127||92||32||3|
|Standing Stone SF & WMA||19||19||0||0|
|The Boils WMA||2||2||0||0|
|Three Rivers WMA||3||2||1||0|
|Tie Camp WMA||6||4||1||1|
|Watts Bar WMA||4||3||1||0|
|West Sandy WMA||2||1||1||0|
|White Lake Wildlife Refuge||5||4||1||0|
|White Oak WMA||10||10||0||0|
|Wolf River and Ghost River SNA Unit 1||8||6||2||0|
|Wolf River and Ghost River SNA Unit 2||3||3||0||0|
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.
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!
1 thought on “Complete Guide to Tennessee’s 2023 Spring Turkey Season”
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.