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The complex game of turkey hunting

Turkey hunting is a complex and popular sport in the Volunteer state.

“Equipment-wise, you can use shotguns or archery equipment,” Phil Snow, information specialist at The University of Tennessee, and turkey hunter himself, said.

“And most people hunt during the spring, during the traditional season. But T-W-R-A recently has opened up a fall season,” he added.

According to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s “2009 Hunting and Trapping Guide,” Knox County is open for fall turkey hunting.

For non-quota hunts, TWRA allows archery only, and one turkey for the season.

For quota gun hunts, the season is Dec. 7-18, and one turkey is allowed per permit. Only 50 permits are issued.

Anderson and Blount counties have similar regulations. Loudon County does not have a fall turkey-hunting season.

But in the spring, all Tennessee counties are open to wild turkey hunting, including refuges and wildlife management areas, unless specifically listed otherwise.

Spring season is April 3 to May 16, and hunters are allowed one bearded turkey per day, and four total per season.

Turkeys taken on quota hunts and specially designated WMAs are “bonus turkeys.”

The application process to join a WMA quota hunt begins Dec. 30 and ends Feb. 10, 2010.

“Mostly, I hunt public lands, but there are wildlife management areas and state-owned properties like that, that a lot of people turkey hunt on and are very successful,” Snow said.

WMAs are listed on TWRA’s Web site.

To hunt turkeys, a hunter must be licensed through TWRA, Snow said.

“Turkeys are considered big game in this state,” Snow said.

For hunting turkeys in Tennessee, you need a general hunting and fishing license, as well as a big game license. The type of equipment a hunter uses determines what type of big game license he or she needs.

“It gets extremely expensive to hunt in this state,” Snow said, adding hunting was a multi-billion dollar industry.

“Take Bass Pro Shops, for instance, Gander Mountain … people literally go out and buy four-wheelers or pick-up trucks just to go hunting in,” he said.

“People who want to ban hunting, they don’t realize the economic situation they would put our country in,” he added.

No representative from TWRA could be reached by press time, but information about turkey hunting is available on TWRA’s Web site.

TWRA lists three legal types of weapons:

• Shotguns (28 gauge or larger), using ammunition loaded with No. 4 shot or smaller. No restriction on number of rounds in magazine.

• Longbows, compound bows, crossbows and other bows drawn or held by a mechanical device.

• Firearms and archery equipment may be equipped with sighting devices except those devices utilizing an artificial light capable of locating wildlife.

“Night vision scopes are illegal,” the guide states.

“It is illegal to bait for turkeys. Possession of agricultural grain while turkey hunting is prohibited. … The use of any type of food to feed or attract wild turkeys on WMAs is prohibited,” the guide states.

Those illegal actions join a long list of other prohibited turkey hunting procedures, including using rifles or handguns, electronic calls, live decoys, and using ammunition loaded with shot larger than No. 4.

The National Wild Turkey Federation’s Web site,, has audio recordings of wild turkeys, and tips for perfecting your own call. One of these is the traditionally-known “gobble.”

NWTF’s Web site also contains information ranging from hunting tips, to outfitters to recipes.

For more information, visit, or


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