It's almost time for turkey hunters to head to the fields and forests and start whispering sweet nothing into the ears of love-sick gobblers.
Tennessee's state-wide turkey season opens March 29 and runs through May 11.
Last year hunters bagged 32,926 turkeys during the spring season, the 10th consecutive year in which the harvest has surpassed 30,000 birds.
Gray Anderson, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's wild turkey specialist, predicts an equally-bountiful harvest this season.
"I don't see any reason why we should not have another good year," he says. "We expect some increases in some areas, but most of the counties are stabilized in their harvests."
In recent years Wilson County has become one of the state's top turkey counties.
Hunters are allowed four bearded birds during the season, but only one per day.
Turkeys taken on quota hunts and special WMA hunts are bonus birds.
Legal hunting hours are thirty minutes before legal sunrise to legal sunset.
Hunting over bait is illegal, as is the use of live decoys and electronic calling devices.
Bagged birds must be checked in before the end of the calendar day on the TWRA mobile application, on-line (tnwildlife.org) or at any TWRA checking station.
For complete details regarding turkey rules and regulations visit the TWRA website or consult the Tennessee Trapping & Hunting Guide, available at most outdoors outlets.
Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1969 must complete a TWRA Hunter Education Class in order to get a hunting license. The exception is a one-time issuance of an Apprentice License.
Its allows someone to go on a last-minute hunt without a Hunter Education certificate. There are restrictions regarding the Apprentice License; again, details are available on the TWRA website or in the Hunting Guide.
WHITE TURKEYS: White and partially-white turkeys are legal, and the TWRA encourages their harvest to remove them from the wild population. White turkeys are not albinos, but products of inbred domestic strains.
A white turkey must be bearded to be legal, and counts as part of the daily/season limit.
As turkey hunting has grown in popularity, hunting areas have become more congested, making safety a growing concern.
Unlike deer hunters, turkey hunters wear no blaze orange; just the opposite -- they camouflage themselves as completely as possible. Being virtually invisible while mimicking the sounds of a turkey can result in an accidental shooting.
A hunter under no circumstance should shoot unless a turkey is clearly identified. (Remember, to be legal the bird must have a visible beard.) Hunters should never wear red, white or blue colors -- the hues of a springtime gobbler.
If another hunter is spotted nearby, an alert should immediately be called out. Spoiling a hunt is better than risking getting shot by an excited hunter stalking what he believes to be a yelping turkey.
Every year turkey shotguns and shell loads become more powerful, increasing their range -- and the risk of an accidental shooting over a longer distance.
Calling in a strutting, gobbling long-beard is one of the most exciting and challenging experiences in the outdoors. But it has to be done safely.