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.
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, and turkey hunters) may not enter prior to two (2) hours before sunrise and must be out of the area by one (1) hour after sunset or legal closing time. Raccoon and opossum hunters must be out of the area one (1) hour after sunrise, except on the Cherokee Wildlife Management Area. Public access is prohibited on Barkley-Unit 1, Beech River WMA, Big Sandy, Bogota (Pool 1), Camden Units 1 and 2, Chickamauga (Shelton Bottoms, Mud Creek, New Bethal, Moss Island, Cottonport, Washington Ferry, Goodfield Creek, Gillespie Bend, Agency Creek, Ledford Island, Sugar Creek, South Mouse Creek Units), Gooch WMA (Unit E), Hiwassee Refuge, Horns Bluff Refuge, Lick Creek Bottoms (Region IV), South Fork Refuge, Thorny Cypress WMA (Pools 10, 11, 12), Three Rivers WMA (East and West Units), Tigrett WMA, West Sandy, and White Oak WMA from two hours after legal waterfowl shooting has ended until 4:00 a.m. the following day during 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.
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, and Tellico Lake 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 their 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.
Fanning or reaping wild turkeys: On WMA lands, the practice of fanning or reaping is prohibited. Fanning/reaping is defined as hunting or stalking wild turkeys while holding or using for hunter concealment any of the following items: a tail fan, a partial or full decoy with a tail fan, or a tail fan mounted to a firearm. Tail fans include those made of real or synthetic feathers or an image or likeness of a tail fan applied to any material.
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 Non-quota 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 Non-quota WMA Big Game Permits, or Annual Senior Citizen Sportsman Permits are available at all license agents and offices of the TWRA and are valid for all non-quota big game hunts, including the Cherokee WMA, for the entire license year. Lifetime Sportsman and Sportsman License holders do not need to purchase the non-quota permit, and may apply for quota permits at no charge.
On the Cherokee WMA, a WMA Non-quota Big Game Permit, Cherokee WMA Big Game Non-quota, or an Annual Senior Citizen Sportsman Permit is required to hunt big game and is valid for all non-quota Cherokee WMA big game hunts. Cherokee WMA Big Game Non-quota permits are not valid for any other WMA.
Cherokee party dog hunts: Applications are online at
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 Non-quota Big Game Permit 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 non-hunting 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 midnight July 26, 2023.
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. Check listings by region.
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 on specific WMA's where noted.
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; Annual Small Game only; 1-Day Small Game and Waterfowl; or Annual Small Game and Waterfowl. (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 Bird Seasons & Bag Limits).
Falconry open with statewide falconry seasons.
Raccoon and opossum hunting is open on sunset of opening dates 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.
Trapping on WMAs
Other TWRA lands not proclaimed as a WMA or refuge are open with statewide seasons unless otherwise indicated.
Waterfowl Hunting on WMAs
Permits: WMAs with a “WF” after the name require either an Annual Small Game and Waterfowl permit; or a 1-Day Small Game and Waterfowl permit in addition to a regular hunting license and Waterfowl license. 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 WMA Small Game and Waterfowl Permit or 1-Day Small Game and Waterfowl Permit 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, 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 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
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
Tier 4 Locations: Tier 4 Locations may or may not have permanent blinds. Any permanent blinds at Tier 4 Locations are structures leftover from Tier 1 Sites that have become Tier 4 Locations because the successful applicant failed to construct a blind by the deadline. No person may construct new 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 location, 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, 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, even if 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, 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, 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 for Tier 2 Sites through any TWRA license agent or at
Claiming Your Permit: Successful applicants that are drawn for a Tier 1, Tier 2, or Quota Permit must log into their
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. To register a permanent blind at West Sandy an individual must purchase a combination waterfowl and small game annual WMA 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. Registration of permanent blinds at West Sandy will be in-person at Henry County Fairgrounds on the first Saturday in August. 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.
Wheelchair-bound blind sites: Certain WMAs have special blind sites established for wheel- chair-bound hunters. See specific WMAs for regulations, if applicable. Properties with accessible blinds:
- Cheatham Lake
- Cordell Hull
- North Chickamauga Creek Varner Unit
- Old Hickory Unit 1
- West Sandy
Youths hunting waterfowl on a WMA: Youths, ages 6–16, must be accompanied by an adult, 18 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.
Summer feeding of deer could be hurting turkeys. Consider abstaining from summer wildlife feeding.
We all are aware that wild turkey numbers have been in decline across the Southeast US. Research has confirmed that declining populations are primarily due to poor reproduction and recruitment, not overharvest. Supplemental feeding of wildlife, which has grown as a common practice in Tennessee and elsewhere, may be contributing to these declines. Wildlife managers are concerned that corn put out for deer, especially during the summer, is hurting turkey numbers. A fungus called Aspergillus flavus grows in feed exposed to hot, humid conditions. This fungus produces toxins, known as aflatoxins, that are highly toxic to game birds, especially turkey poults and quail. New research has shown that in the summer, aflatoxin levels in feed can reach deadly levels to wild turkeys after only a few days (read the full report at:
Besides the risk of aflatoxin poisoning, other consequences to wild turkeys from feeding wildlife may include:
- Boosting population numbers of small mammal nest predators;
- Concentrating nest predators near nesting sites and brooding cover which may lead to higher predation rates;
- Unnaturally concentrating game animals (e.g., deer and turkeys) which increases the chances of disease outbreaks and spread.
Please consider these potential unintended consequences as you make decisions about wildlife feeding, especially during the hot, humid summer months. Contact Regional offices with questions.