Skip to main content

Tennessee

Hunting

Wildlife Management Area General Regulations

There are over 100 WMAs and refuges across Tennessee managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Varying in size from 53 to 625,000 acres, all WMAs are available to the public for various outdoor activities, although certain regulations do apply.

On WMAs open with statewide seasons, the season dates, bag limits, weapon types, and ammunition types that pertain to the county where the WMA is located apply to that WMA except special regulations listed specifically for those WMAs still apply.

General Regulations

Prohibited Acts

Acts of disorderly, obnoxious or boisterous conduct, including acts which interfere with the orderly process of hunting, are prohibited. Violators shall be removed from the area and/or prosecuted.

Alcoholic beverages: Possession of any alcoholic beverage, narcotic drug, barbiturate or marijuana while hunting within the management area is prohibited. No individual may be under the influence of these substances at any time while within a management area. The use of any alcoholic beverage is prohibited on these areas year round: Catoosa, Cheatham, Chuck Swan, Forks of the River, Laurel Hill, Pea Ridge and Prentice Cooper, except in designated camping areas.

Bag limits: Statewide bag and possession limits apply unless special exception is indicated.

Baiting: The placement or depositing of any type of food to feed or attract wildlife on WMAs is prohibited.

Dog training: Year round unless otherwise indicated.

Firearms: Persons may possess handguns in addition to legal weapons used for hunting the entire year while on the premises of any TWRA refuge, public hunting area, state owned wildlife management area or, to the extent permitted by federal law, national forest land maintained by the state, and private land. For other federally managed properties hunters should contact that specific facility or location. Nothing in this subsection shall authorize a person to use any handgun to hunt unless such person is in full compliance with all wildlife laws, rules and regulations.

Horses permitted on roads and trails open to motorized traffic and other trails or routes established for their use, except as otherwise indicated. Riding off roads into fields, woods or on foot trails is prohibited unless otherwise provided.

Access Hours: Hunters (except raccoon, opossum, turkey, and waterfowl hunters) may not enter prior to one hour before sunrise, and they must be out of the area by one hour after sunset. Raccoon and opossum hunters must be out of the area by one hour after sunrise except on Cherokee WMA. Public access will be prohibited in the subimpoundments of Barkley Unit I, Cheatham Lake, Haynes Bottom, Old Hickory Units I and II, Camden Units I and II, Big Sandy, Gooch Unit A, Tigrett, and West Sandy from two hours after legal waterfowl shooting hours have ended until 4:00 a.m. the following day during the late duck season(s).

Hunting near private dwellings: It is unlawful to hunt, shoot at, chase or kill with or without dogs any wild animal, wild birds or waterfowl on public lands and waters within 100 yards of a visible dwelling house, without the owner’s permission, whether or not such a dwelling is on public or private lands.

Litter: No litter or sewage may be deposited in the area.

Motorized vehicles: All motorized vehicles must be muffler equipped to suppress noise and be spark-arrestor equipped to prevent fires. Operation of motorized vehicles is confined to roads not designated as closed. Off-road vehicles are restricted to roads open to other motorized traffic (except where prohibited by state or federal statute) and designated trails only. ORVs may be operated during daylight hours and at other times when participating in authorized activities. Driving off roads into woods, fields or utility right-of-ways is prohibited for all motorized vehicles. Motorized vehicles may be prohibited on any agency-owned wildlife management area if deemed necessary to protect wildlife, vegetation and/or property. Some exceptions apply. See individual WMAs for specific restrictions.

No person shall damage or remove any trees or other plants, dirt, gravel or sod from any wildlife management area or other Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency-controlled lands without specific authorization.

No species of wildlife may be harassed except those authorized to be harvested and no animal killed shall be dismembered to the extent that its species and sex cannot be identified before checking out of the area.

Access to all caves on agency controlled lands is closed except to authorized personnel only, unless designated differently through signage or agency brochures.

Overnight camping may be permitted on designated areas by permission from area manager, park ranger, lake manager, park superintendent or national forest supervisor. Such camping is subject to the limitation prescribed in the permit, if required. Camping shall not exceed three (3) weeks in length from the beginning to the end of the camping stay. Owners contact information (name, phone number, address) or TWRA ID number and date of arrival must be displayed on camper, tent, vehicle, etc. at all times. On areas where overnight camping is allowed, firearms and archery equipment must remain in camp except during legal hunting hours.

Pen-raised game birds: The release of pen-raised game birds on WMAs is prohibited unless otherwise specified.

Safety zones: Hunting is prohibited in safety zones except where provided.

Target practice is prohibited except on designated ranges. See TWRA Firing Ranges Regional Information for a list of TWRA firing ranges.

Unauthorized persons are prohibited from being in the area during big game hunts except when indicated. Unauthorized persons are prohibited from being in the wildlife management area during managed turkey hunts, except on the Cherokee, North Cumberland, Tellico Lake and Land Between the Lakes wildlife management areas. Only persons having valid turkey hunt permits for the hunt date are authorized to be on the management area. Exception: A licensed turkey hunter, who has filled his/her bag limit or does not possess a valid permit for a quota hunt, may accompany another turkey hunter (except on Oak Ridge WMA) and assist him/her in calling, but may not have a gun or bow in his/her possession.

Calling or attempting to call wild turkeys using any sound that mimics those made by a wild turkey is prohibited from March 1 to the opening day of the spring turkey hunts on all WMAs.

Wanton waste: Hunters are required to retrieve all crippled or dead game if possible and are prohibited from disposing of dead wildlife on WMAs.

Wheelchair-bound hunts, zones, or blinds are open to hunters who are totally and permanently confined to a wheelchair as certified by a physician. On wheelchair-bound big game hunts, each wheelchair-bound hunter must be accompanied by a non-hunting assistant (age 16 years or older), except on Cordell Hull WMA where the assistant may also participate in hunting. On wheelchair-bound waterfowl hunts, each wheelchair-bound hunter must be accompanied by at least one, but not more than three assistants (at least one of whom must be age 16 years or older), who may also participate in hunting.

Big Game Hunting on WMAs

Permits: WMAs with a “BG” after the name require a Big Game WMA Permit in order to hunt big game, in addition to the regular hunting and big game licenses. There are two types of big game WMA permits for all WMAs depending upon the hunt: Quota and Annual Nonquota Special Season/WMA Big Game. Quota Permits must be obtained by application to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and are allocated based upon a computer random drawing. Annual Nonquota Special Season/WMA Big Game Permits (Type 094), or Type 167 permits are available at all license agents and offices of the TWRA and are valid for all nonquota big game hunts, including the Cherokee WMA, for the entire license year. Lifetime Sportsman and Sportsman License holders do not need to purchase the nonquota permit, and may apply for quota permits at no charge.

On the Cherokee WMA, a Type 094, Type 095 or Type 167 is required to hunt big game and is valid for all nonquota Cherokee WMA big game hunts. Type 095 permits are not valid for any other WMA.

Cherokee party dog hunts: Applications are available from the TWRA Region III Office (931) 484-9571 beginning the first of June.

WMA permits are not transferable.

Youths hunting big game on a WMA: Proof of hunter education certificate is required for youths 10 years of age and older. An appropriate hunting license is also required for youths 13 years of age and older. All youths, age 6–16, are required to have a WMA permit (Type 094) or a quota permit where applicable, unless they are hunting with a Lifetime License. Youths age 6–16 may also apply for WMA quota hunts. Youths age 6–16 must be accompanied by an adult, 21 years of age or older, who must remain in a position to take immediate control of the hunting device, who is not required to have a license (if not hunting) but must wear 500 square inches of fluorescent orange.

Young Sportsman’s Hunts: Young Sportsman’s deer hunts are for youths age 6–16 unless otherwise noted. Proper licenses and permits required. Each youth must be accompanied by a nonhunting adult 21 years of age or older. Both adult and youth must wear 500 square inches of fluorescent orange.

WMA Big Game Quota Hunts: Deadline for applications is July 21, 2021.

Muzzleloading firearms are legal on all gun hunts except where indicated under the individual WMA listings.

Antlered and Antlerless Defined: Deer taken on antlered deer only hunts must be male or female with antler protruding three (3) inches above the hairline unless otherwise specified. Antlerless deer are defined as those deer with less than three (3) inches of antler protruding above the hairline.

Big Game Check-In Procedures: See Big Game Check-In Procedures.

Treestands: The use of wire, nails or other metal material is prohibited in the building or attaching of climbing devices or hunting stands. Portable devices or stands that do not injure trees can be used. Hunting from permanent, attached stands is prohibited. Leaving any personal property, including treestands, unattended for more than 24 hours is prohibited without prior approval of the area manager. WMAs require that treestands must be marked with the hunter’s TWRA ID number.

August Deer (Archery) Season: This season is closed on WMAs that are open to statewide big game seasons, except for certain WMAs in Unit CWD.

Small Game Hunting on WMAs

On WMAs open with statewide seasons, the season dates, bag limits, weapon types, and ammunition types that pertain to the county where the WMA is located apply to that WMA except special regulations listed specifically for those WMAs still apply. Small game hunters hunting on public lands must comply with blaze orange requirements during big game gun and Young Sportsman hunts.

Permits: In order to hunt or trap small game on WMAs with a “SG” after the name, individuals are required to have one of the following permits in addition to the regular hunting or trapping license: Annual Senior Citizen Permit (Type 167); Annual Small Game only (Type 093); 1-Day Small Game and Waterfowl (Type 092); or Annual Small Game and Waterfowl (Type 091). (Lifetime Sportsman, Sportsman License holders or youths age 6–15 who are accompanied by an adult with a valid permit are exempt from purchasing a permit.)

Closures during big game hunts: Closures may apply, see specific WMA listing for those closures.

Quail: On WMAs open with the statewide seasons, quail season runs from the 1st Saturday in November until January 15, unless otherwise noted.

Crow may be taken on small game hunt days that coincide with the statewide crow season (see Migratory Birds Seasons & Bag Limits).

Falconry open with statewide falconry seasons.

Raccoon and opossum hunting is open on sunset of opening dates shown from sunset of the date shown to sunrise of the next day. Raccoon dog field trials permitted Sept. 1–April 30 unless prohibited.

Field Trials: Small game (except raccoon) and retriever field trials permitted year-round with approval of the area manager unless otherwise specified.

Dogs are allowed for small game hunting unless special exception is indicated. A permit is required for dog training on areas which require a small game permit. On Cherokee and LBL management areas, dogs are allowed on improved roads and in permitted camping areas. All dogs must be detained by chain or leash if not being legally used for hunting.

Dogs are allowed during spring squirrel season except where noted.

Youth hunting small game on a WMA: Youths, ages 6–16, must be accompanied by a adult, 21 years of age or older, who must remain in a position to take immediate control of the hunting device except as otherwise noted.

Waterfowl Hunting on WMAs

Permits: WMAs with a “WF” after the name require either an Annual Small Game and Water- fowl permit (Type 091); or a 1-Day Small Game and Waterfowl permit (Type 092) in addition to a regular hunting license (Type 001) and Waterfowl license (Type 005). There are three exceptions: Lifetime Sportsman, Sportsman License holders and youths age 6–15 who are accompanied by an adult with a valid permit, do not need a permit. Nonresidents, however, must have either a Type 091 or Type 092 in addition to their license.

Tier System: A designated waterfowl hunt location is a marked location (via physical stake or Global Positioning System [GPS] coordinates) established by the TWRA upon which a permanent blind may be constructed, depending on Tier designation as determined by TWRA, at Barkley Unit I, Big Sandy (including Gin Creek Unit), Camden Units I and II, Cheatham Lake, Gooch Unit A, Harmon Creek, Haynes Bottom, Old Hickory Units I and II, Tigrett, AEDC (Woods Reservoir), West Sandy, and Reelfoot.

  • Tier 1 designated hunt location is a marked location with a permanent blind assigned by a random drawing to a permittee for an entire waterfowl hunting season.
  • Tier 2 designated hunt location is a marked location with a TWRA constructed and maintained permanent blind assigned by a random drawing to a permittee for a period of time during the waterfowl hunting season.
  • Tier 3 designated hunt location is a marked location that may or may not have a permanent blind at the location assigned by a random drawing to a permittee for a period of time during the regular waterfowl season.
  • Tier 4 designated hunt location is a marked location that may be hunted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tier 1 Blind Sites: Tier 1 permits will be valid for the entire regular waterfowl season. Hunters can apply through any TWRA license agent or at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com from June 30 – July 21, 2021. Tier 1 Locations shall have a permanent blind at the location built and maintained, if a permanent blind already exists at the location, by the permittee(s). The maximum hunt party size for Tier 1 Locations is eight (8) adults, but there is no maximum party size for youth hunters. However, youth hunters (ages 6-15) must be accompanied by an adult at least eighteen (18) years of age while hunting a Tier 1 Location. All Tier 1 Location permanent blind construction and/or placement must be complete by the fourth Monday in October. To be considered complete, a permanent blind structure must be at least four (4) feet wide, four (4) feet high, and eight (8) feet long, but may not exceed thirty (30) feet in length and may not exceed three hundred (300) total square feet. The walls of the permanent blind structure must be solid material to which camouflage may be attached. A permanent blind structure at a Tier 1 Location must be in place and remain in place throughout the regular waterfowl season. All camouflage must be completed by opening day of regular waterfowl season. Any Tier 1 Location with a permanent blind structure not in compliance with the above requirements will result in the Tier 1 Location Permit being cancelled and the Tier 1 Location being designated as a Tier 4 Location for the remainder of the waterfowl season. Tier 1 Locations redesignated as Tier 4 Locations may be drawn as Tier 1 Locations the following year. If adverse environmental conditions prevent the construction and/or placement of a permanent blind at the site by the deadline, as determined by the TWRA, the area manager may grant an extension. The area manager must receive a written request for an extension, from a permittee, prior to the fourth Monday in October. Should these adverse environmental conditions persist and completely prevent the construction and/or placement of a blind on the site, as verified by the area manager, a permittee shall not be denied the opportunity to participate in the drawing the following year. Blinds rendered unusable or destroyed may be repaired or replaced at the discretion of the area manager. Permanent blinds built on Tier 1 Locations must be within five (5) feet of designated stakes or GPS coordinates. Permittee(s) are responsible for removal of all associated blind materials, including all litter and trash, stakes, weights, and lines within fifteen (15) days after the last day of the regular waterfowl season or the last day of a special youth or military hunt, whichever occurs later. All blinds must be removed from Tier 1 locations within ninety (90) days of the end of the regular duck season. Any blind not removed will become the property of the TWRA for future use and/or destruction. If a Tier 1 Location permittee does not meet the deadline for having the blind on site, or violates any other provision of this rule, the permittee forfeits the permittee’s opportunity to participate in any waterfowl quota hunt drawing the following year. Successful applicants drawn for a Tier 1 Location are prohibited from applying, as an individual or in a party, for a Tier 2 or Tier 3 Location quota permit.

Tier 2 Blind Sites: Typically, Tier 2 permits will be valid for a two-three or four-day hunt period. Hunters can apply through any TWRA license agent or at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com during three separate application periods (Early Segment Oct. 6 – 26; Mid Segment Nov. 3-23; Late Segment Nov. 24-Dec. 14). Tier 2 Locations shall have a permanent blind at the location built and maintained by the TWRA. The maximum hunt party size for Tier 2 Locations is eight (8) adults, but there is no maximum party size for youth hunters. However, youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult at least eighteen (18) years of age while hunting a Tier 2 Location. A Tier 2 Location permittee must be present any time a Tier 2 Location is hunted. No other individual may hunt a Tier 2 Location even if a permittee is not in the blind by the legal daily opening shooting time. Permittee(s) are responsible for removal of all decoys, litter, and trash on the last day of the hunt period.

Tier 3 Locations: Typically, Tier 3 permits will be valid for a seven-day hunt period. Hunters can apply through any TWRA license agent or at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com during three separate application periods (Early Segment Oct. 6 – 26; Mid Segment Nov. 3-23; Late Segment Nov. 24-Dec. 14). Tier 3 Locations may or may not have a permanent blind at the location. Tier 3 Locations with a permanent blind structure are leftovers that the TWRA has deemed safe and huntable. No new permanent blind structures may be constructed at Tier 3 Locations. Temporary blinds may be used at Tier 3 Locations, but the blinds must be removed at the end of the hunt period. All decoys must be removed from the area at the end of the hunting period. All temporary blinds must be within twenty-five (25) feet of designated stakes or GPS coordinates. The maximum hunt party size for Tier 3 Locations is eight (8) adults, but there is no maximum party size for youth hunters. However, youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult at least eighteen (18) years of age while hunting a Tier 3 Location. Permittee(s) are responsible for removal of all decoys, litter, and trash on the last day of the hunt period.

Tier 4 Locations: Tier 4 Locations do not have permanent blinds, and no person may construct permanent blind structures at Tier 4 Locations. Temporary blinds may be used at Tier 4 Locations, but the blinds must be removed at the end of each day. Any temporary blinds and decoys must be removed from the area at the end of shooting each day. All temporary blinds must be within twenty-five (25) feet of designated stakes or GPS coordinates. No permit is required to hunt Tier 4 Locations, but the first person or party to the location before the legal daily opening shooting time has priority use (exclusive and uninterrupted use) of the location until the end of the shooting hours that day. Exclusive and uninterrupted use entitles the person or party to the right to exclude all others from the blind, at the person’s or party’s option, except for law enforcement personnel engaged in the performance of their duties. The maximum hunt party size for Tier 4 Locations is eight (8) adults, but there is no maximum party size for youth hunters. However, youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult at least eighteen (18) years of age while hunting a Tier 4 Location. Any person or party hunting a Tier 4 Location is responsible for removal of all decoys, litter, and trash at the end of each day.

“Blind hopping”: A waterfowl hunt permittee, an individual to whom the TWRA issued a permit for Tier 1 blinds or Tier 3 hunt locations, must occupy his/her blind or hunt location by the legal daily opening shooting time on days he/she wishes to hunt, and if the blind or hunt location is unoccupied at that time by the permittee, the first person or party occupying the blind ("blind hopper") shall be entitled to the privilege of its exclusive and uninterrupted use until the end of shooting hours that day. Exclusive and uninterrupted use entitles the person or party the right to exclude all others from the blind or hunt location at the person’s or party’s option, except for law enforcement personnel engaged in the performance of their duties. The permittee has priority use (exclusive and uninterrupted) only if he/she is at the blind or hunt location on or before the legal daily opening shooting time, regardless of whether or not the blind or hunt location is occupied by another person or party, provided the permittee produces identification and his/her permit. The “blind hopping” allowance does not apply to Tier 2 blinds.

Temporary hunt locations: Hunting will be permitted from permanent draw blinds and temporary blinds on Camden-Unit II, Big Sandy (including Gin Creek Unit), Barkley Unit II, Cordell Hull, Harmon’s Creek, Reelfoot, Tigrett, and West Sandy in accordance with statewide rules and regulations. Any temporary blinds and decoys must be at least two hundred (200) yards from any Tier 1, 2, 3 or 4 waterfowl hunt locations blind and must be removed from the area at the end of shooting each day.

Application periods: Hunters can apply through any TWRA license agent or at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com during three separate application periods (Early Segment Oct. 6 – 26; Mid Segment Nov. 3-23; Late Segment Nov. 24-Dec. 14). See Tier Designations for WMAs.

Notice of Intention: Hunters that are successful in drawing a Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, or Quota Permit must return a “notice of intent” to the TWRA by the deadline established by the TWRA (Tier 1 Aug. 9; Early Segment Nov. 8; Mid Segment Dec. 6; Late Segment Dec. 27). The notice of intent must indicate whether the successful applicant does or does not intend to hunt during the applicable quota hunt period. A confirmation number will be issued to the applicant. Successful applicants that fail to return the notice of intention to the TWRA prior to the established deadline will forfeit their permit and Tier 1 permit locations will become Tier 4 locations and all other permits will be allocated as a leftover permit. Any notice of intention returned to the TWRA indicating the successful applicant does not intend to hunt during the applicable quota hunt period will result in Tier 1 permit locations converting to Tier 4 locations and all other permits being allocated as a leftover permit. Any leftover permits will be allocated by a drawing at a time and location specified and as per instructions supplied by the TWRA (see Leftover Waterfowl Permit Drawings). Any license holder may enter for a leftover drawing, but any applicant drawn must be present at the prescribed time and location to claim the permit.

Reelfoot and West Sandy (Springville Bottoms) permanent registered blinds: Reelfoot blinds must be registered with the TWRA from February 18 through July 31 and require the purchase of a Reelfoot Duck Blind Permit (Type 025). To register a permanent blind at West Sandy an individual must purchase a combination waterfowl and small game annual permit or a sportsman’s license on or before July 31. By the first Saturday in August, the TWRA will verify whether a permanent registered blind site was renewed. Individuals claiming blind sites on these areas may not compete for blind site drawings on other areas.

All blind sites will be given a registration number, which must be displayed, using lettering 2 inches or larger inside the blind, or on a stake at floating blind sites. When floating blinds are moved to designated blind stakes, the number must be immediately transferred from the stake to the blind. No blind may be constructed, repaired or any floating blinds moved onto the area that have not met the deadlines for registering the blind and displaying the registration number. Unregistered and/or unnumbered blinds are subject to removal.

No blind may be locked or barricaded to deny entrance to other hunters when the blind is not in use.

Mandatory Post-hunt Survey: Successful Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, and Quota Permit applicants must complete and submit a Post-season Waterfowl Quota Hunt Report to the TWRA. The TWRA must receive the Post-season Waterfowl Quota Hunt Report by the required deadline, even if the permit holder did not participate in the hunt. Failure to submit a completed report by the deadline will disqualify the permit holder from entering into the following season’s drawing. Post-season Waterfowl Quota Hunt Report can be submitted at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com.

Wheelchair-bound blind sites: Certain WMAs have special blind sites established for wheel- chair-bound hunters. See specific WMAs for regulations, if applicable.

Youths hunting waterfowl on a WMA: Youths, ages 6 - 16, must be accompanied by an adult, 21 years of age or older, who must remain in position to take immediate control of the hunting device, except as otherwise noted.

Veterans and active military waterfowl on a WMA. Veterans and members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training), participate in the special Veterans and Active Military Personnel Waterfowl Season on WMAs, see Duck & Sandhill Crane Seasons & Bag Limits.

Trapping on WMAs

Other TWRA lands not proclaimed as a WMA or refuge are open with statewide seasons unless otherwise indicated.

Permits: A WMA small game permit is required to trap on all areas that require a small game hunt permit.

On some WMAs, antlered bucks legal for harvest must have an outside antler spread of 15 inches or larger. When judging the size of antlers in the field, remember the general guideline that if the outside antler spread is wider than the buck’s ears, then the outside antler spread is at least 15 inches.