If you’re looking to do some Tennessee turkey hunting this spring, this is your one-stop shop for population numbers, harvest info, and hunting opportunities.
THE COMING SEASON
Great turkey hunting exists across the state and it is not just limited to private lands. There are some excellent public hunting areas that hold healthy turkey populations, which definitely increase the odds of bagging a bird. Let’s take a look at some of the best counties and WMAs in the state in terms of last spring’s harvest records.
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LAST YEAR’S STATISTICS
The 2013 spring turkey season was overall a good one with 32,925 total bearded birds harvested. The numbers were slightly lower than those for 2012. That season’s total harvest was 34,020. Still, last season was stellar season for Volunteer State hunters.
Leading the way was Maury County with a total of 1,153 bearded birds for the season. It had an increase in harvest of more than 100 when compared to 2012, when it also led the state for turkey harvest.
Holding the second spot again last year was Greene County with a harvest of 878. That was down a bit from its 2012 numbers, but still a great production for Region 4.
Sumner County claimed the third position with 773 birds taken last spring, an increase of more than 60 turkeys. It jumped two spots from 2012.
Ranking No. 4 in the state was Montgomery County with 718 bearded birds bagged. It held the same spot in 2012, but had an overall harvest decrease of nearly 50 birds.
Wilson, a Region 2 county, holds the fifth position with 678 turkeys bagged in the spring of 2013. It jumped onto the list having been absent in 2012.
Advancing a position from the year before is Rutherford, which recorded 664 turkeys last season.
Dickson County fell four places to No. 7 with 660 birds taken during the last year. It also had a decrease in harvest, yielding 120 fewer turkeys than the prior year.
In the eighth slot is Giles, which recorded 649 bearded birds harvested. The county jumped up two spots from last year.
County No. 9 was again claimed by Lincoln, which totaled 616 turkeys taken during in he spring season.
Finishing out the top 10 list was Hickman, which also lies in Region 2. Hunters harvested 613 turkeys there last spring.
Any of these counties can be great destinations for chasing longbeards in the coming season too. But there also are others across the state that hold hefty populations.
WORKING FOR TURKEYS
Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency has done a tremendous job managing the state’s turkey population. With help from the National Wild Turkey Federations chapters in the Volunteer State, projects have provided constantly improving habitat and conditions for the flock.
Region 2 Wildlife Biologist Russ Skoglund said good turkey hunting seems to be consistent across the state. He points to the overall population as having pretty much leveled off, with the only decline noted in the counties of Giles, Lawrence, and Wayne, south of U.S. Highway 64 near the Alabama border. At this time the cause is unknown, but the TWRA continues to study this area in to determine the reason for the problem. Those counties’ harvest numbers still have remain very good because of the number of birds taken in the middle and northern sections .
Region 1 encompasses the western quarter of the state and boasts some great spring turkey hunting. This region has substantial agricultural lands, along with multiple river bottoms, making it ideal turkey habitat.
When you combine enough habitat with good food sources and plenty of water close by, you have the ingredients for some great gobbler hunting.
Hardin County led the region with 514 birds taken and Hardeman was next with 459 in 2013. Third spot was filled by Weakley County, which recorded 449 bearded birds harvested. Fayette and Carroll counties finished out the top five with harvests of 384 and 371 birds, respectively.
The dominant area year after year continues to be Region 2, with its above average habitat and overall abundance of turkeys. Its dominance shows through nine of the top 10 counties in the state for the 2013 season having been from Region 2.
Every county in the region is a great destination for any turkey hunter. Unfortunately, the majority of lands are privately owned and you must gain permission before hunting. This region does offer some excellent public hunting opportunities.
Frontrunner in this region was the state harvest leader Maury with its 1,153 birds. Sumner County followed in the second spot, but more than 300 birds behind with 773. Montgomery’s 718 and Rutherford’s 664 claimed the third and fourth spots. Giles was not far behind in fifth with 649 taken in the 2013season.
Region 3 counties also have some great turkey hunting. Last year’s harvest records prove this region can compete with its counterparts.
Clay County took the No. 1 spot in this region with 481 birds harvested last spring. Last year’s Region 3 frontrunner, Overton County, fell to second place with 444 birds taken. Jackson was third in the region with 374 bearded turkeys bagged last year. Warren and White counties filled out the fourth and fifth spots with 374 and 346 birds, respectively.
Moving eastward is Region 4. The turkey hunting is very good in this part of the state, even though the rugged terrain is more demanding and can push hunters to their limits. That just makes each encounter with an old gobbler even more rewarding.
Leading the way for this region is state runner up Greene County. Its total harvest was 878 last year. This is one of the few counties in the east that has habitat and terrain resembling the productive counties in middle Tennessee.
Sullivan took the next spot with a recorded spring harvest of 466. Cocke County with 412 birds slide into the third spot, with Washington being next with 410. Finishing up this region is Claiborne, in which hunters took home 381 bearded birds in 2013.
Many of the Volunteer State’s hunters rely on wildlife management areas and other public hunting tracts for their spring turkey opportunities. Some of these areas hold healthy turkey populations and provide good hunting options.
Holding the first place slot again last year the north and south tracts of the Cherokee WMA. There combined total of 264 turkeys harvested last season led the way.
These two areas offer plenty of room to chase longbeards, but be advised of the rigorous terrain you may encounter. These lands are scattered down the eastern border of the state along the Southern Appalachian Mountain chain.
Before tackling either of the Cherokee WMAunits, make sure you invest plenty of time into learning these tracts. You also need to be in good enough physical shape to tackle the high country terrain.
TWRA Wildlife Biologist Russ Skoglund of the TWRA said Yanahli WMA in Maury County is one of the best places with regard to public hunting opportunities. In 2013 it claimed the No. 2 spot in the state with 118 bearded turkeys harvested.
Yanahli lands consist of a variety of hardwood bottoms and ridges that offer great habitat for turkeys. It also contains some river bottomlands, due to its close proximity to the Duck River.
The Land Between the Lakes WMA takes third with 84 birds taken last spring. Many turkey hunters know the potential that this large, mostly wooded, area holds.
To hunt there you need to have a good pair of boots. The U.S. Forest Service closes some access roads to vehicle traffic during spring turkey season. That takes some pressure off the turkeys, but leaves hunters having to walk in.
Milan Army Ammunition Plant WMA in the western part of the state claims the No.4 spot with a harvest of 82 turkeys during the 2013 season.
Cheatham WMA comes in next with 79 birds bagged. This area always has produced decent numbers each spring.
Catoosa with 72 and Arnold Engineering and Development Corps WMA with its harvest of 52 took the sixth and seventh slots.
The Chuck Swan WMA recorded 48 birds taken last year, which put in eighth among public hunting areas for the 2013 season.
Old Hickory WMA hunters took 42 birds and Oak Ridge recorded 39 turkeys harvested to finish up the list.
Many of the WMAs across the state allow quota hunt permit hunting only, while others are open during the statewide seasons. Be sure to refer to the state hunting guide before going afield.
Every year turkey hunting becomes even more popular and vast opportunities exist across the volunteer state. So for seasoned veterans or novices, excellent hunting awaits, no matter the skill level.
So take to the turkey woods this spring and carry somebody along with you, so they too can become addicted to the great sport of turkey hunting.
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