Tennessee’s turkey tally down slightly

Larry Woody • Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Although Tennessee hunters bagged a lot of birds this spring, the harvest was down almost 2,000 from last year.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reported 32,489 turkeys had been checked in at the end of the season on May 12. Last year’s spring turkey harvest totaled 34,017, the fourth-highest on record.

The state record of more than 37,000 turkeys bagged came in 2010.

Still, the just-completed season marked the 11th straight one in which over 30,000 turkeys were killed.

“The 2013 season again reflects that our wild turkey population is stable,” said Chris Hunter, the TWRA Turkey Program Coordinator. “We expect small fluctuations from year to year in a long-term stable turkey population.”

Maury County led the state in turkeys tagged, with 1,288. Green County was second with 883. Routing out the top 10 counties were Sumner (788), Wilson (700), Rutherford (666), Dickson (660), Giles (649), Hickman (616) and Lincoln (615).

More turkeys will be harvested during the fall season, which is expected to be held in October again this year. The fall season originally was held in December but was hampered by inclement weather.

The October season proved more popular with hunters, as reflected by the increased number of birds taken.

Turkeys hatched this spring will be big enough to be harvested this fall. In the fall, turkeys of either sex can be taken, while in the spring only bearded birds – normally gobblers – can be taken.

This 11th consecutive season of 30,000-plus turkeys killed is a result of the TWRA’s turkey-restoration program launched in the late 1970’s. Prior to that, wild turkeys were found in only a few areas of the state, such as the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area near Crossville.

The TWRA began trapping some of the turkeys and releasing them in new areas in which they were protected. The flocks quickly prospered and grew, and today turkeys are found throughout the state.

They have become so abundant in many Middle Tennessee counties that there is a spring limit of four gobblers and a fall limit of six birds. In counties in which turkeys are less abundant there is a smaller fall bag limit, or none at all.

“Because turkey populations can fluctuate so much, even year by year, we use different management policies in different locations,” Hunter says. “They can be plentiful one year and scarce the next, so we adjust the regulations to fit each particular area.”

One example: Giles County in the past had a six-bird fall limit, but this fall the limit there will be reduced to two birds.

The fall turkey season dates and regulations will be announced this summer in conjunction with the complete 2013-14 hunting seasons.

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