Complete Guide to Tennessee’s 2023 Spring Turkey Season

Last updated on August 10th, 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, the Volunteer State 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.

Changes to the 2023 Season

  • 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 2022

During Tennessee’s 2022 spring turkey season, an estimated 95,905 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 2023?

“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 Turkey Season Dates


Young Sportsman: April 8-9, 2023

Shotgun/Archery: April 15 – May 28, 2023

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).

Shooting Hours

Legal shooting hours for spring turkey season is 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.

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!

About the Author

My name is Brian Grossman, and I'm a wildlife biologist, outdoor writer, and lifelong hunter and fisherman. Aside from my Christian faith and my family, my passions are bowhunting whitetails, turkey hunting, and fishing for anything that will bite! Thanks for visiting, and don't hesitate to reach out to me on social media if you need anything.

1 thought on “Complete Guide to Tennessee’s 2023 Spring Turkey Season”

  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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