October 30, 2023

Tennessee Seeking Comments on Draft Deer and Turkey Management Plans

bird, wildlife, turkey-6202055.jpg
Article Contact: Conner Barker,

Why It Matters: Regarded as the most successful model of wildlife conservation in the world, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation can be credited for countless conservation success stories ranging from the current white-tailed deer abundance to the resurgence of the wild turkey. A large part of its success is attributed to the core components that wildlife policy is formulated using the best available science and that wildlife resources are held in the public trust. Wildlife management professionals in Tennessee are busy putting the North American Model to use to develop deer and turkey management regulations that further conservation efforts and provide hunting opportunities for the public.


  • Last week, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) held a series of public meetings to gather public input on several different aspects of deer and turkey hunting regulations.
  • The deer and turkey regulation revision process began in 2019 and involves adopting an adaptive harvest management framework for managing deer and turkey populations in Tennessee.
  • After reviewing the draft management plan, the TWRA encourages the public to provide input to guide the process of providing the best proposed management plan to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission.

To best represent the opinions of Tennesseans, the TWRA created focus groups that consisted of both government and non-government organizations to outline draft deer and turkey management plans. These focus groups met multiple times and were tasked with proposing distinct packages to give the TWRA options to choose from depending on the state of game populations in the years to come. The proposed packages are on a scale ranging from a more restrictive options if game populations were low, to more liberal packages if game numbers are in abundance.

Following the collection of public input, wildlife management professionals will overlay annual data on population health and use the combined data to model which regulation package(s) best meet management objectives. This annual data may consist of harvest data from hunters, brood surveys, and age demographics, among other sources. Additionally, since both deer and turkey populations vary drastically across the Volunteer State, data will be managed at a unit level and management plans would be set at the unit scale.

For turkey, the following focus group input is being considered:

  • Draft spring bag limits ranging from one to three birds;
  • Draft season length ranging from three to six weeks; and
  • Draft season start date being the Saturday closest to April 7 and draft end date before Memorial Day Weekend.

Due to varied input from the focus groups, the TWRA is seeking specific input on fall turkey season regulations and jake (young male turkeys) harvest regulations.

For deer, the following focus group input is being considered:

  • Draft season start date for archery to remain the 4th Saturday in September, modern gun to remain the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and muzzleloader be either the 1st or 2nd Saturday in November with the potential for a one week season in some zones;
  • Draft gun season lengths ranging from three to four weeks in a more restrictive model to five to seven weeks in a more liberal model; and
  • Draft bag limits for antlered deer ranging from one to two deer and antlerless deer ranging from a closed season (zero during gun season) in a restrictive model to up to three per day in a more liberal model.

The TWRA is seeking further public input on other ideas suggested by the focus groups that introduce the idea of a gun season split, a statewide muzzleloader season, a primitive weapons season during a portion of muzzleloader season, shorter guns seasons that do not extend into January, and the reinstatement of a statewide two buck bag limit.

With hunters at the center of wildlife management, equally important as the hunt itself is the ability to stay engaged and informed on wildlife management decisions as it relates to hunter success in the woods and sportsmen and women’s ability to enjoy the long-standing traditions of deer and turkey hunting.

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