The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Wildlife and Forestry Division is launching a 4-year, large-scale turkey banding project across the state to look at factors affecting gobbler harvest rates.

Eastern wild turkey populations throughout much of the southeastern United States have declined over the past decade or more, including in parts of Tennessee. Of the possible causes of these declines, only impacts associated with harvest are directly influenced by state wildlife agencies responsible for management of the wild turkey resource.

To make wise management decisions, the TWRA requires good science to understand the relationships between hunting regulations, harvest, and resultant population impacts. Given the diversity of landscapes, turkey densities, hunter attitudes and behaviors, etc. throughout Tennessee, responsible management will benefit from additional information on the factors that influence harvest mortality rates across the state.

In conjunction with researchers at Tennessee Tech University, the TWRA is initiating the 4-year statewide banding project to obtain data on spring wild turkey harvest rates and the factors (e.g., spatial and temporal variation associated with weather, turkey density and demographics, landscape characteristics) that contribute to these observed rates.

The goal is to capture and band a large number of adult and juvenile male turkeys (around 300 annually), broadly distributed across the state on both public and private lands. This past winter, TWRA staff began banding gobblers across the state. Hunters who harvest a banded bird are asked to report the band number to TWRA.

The Tennessee Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation support the project and are providing project assistance.

The 2021 spring turkey hunting season for the majority of the state is April 3-May 16, with the Young Sportsman Hunt on March 27-29. Seasons start later in two areas of the state to benefit struggling turkey populations in these areas. In the newly formed Mississippi Alluvial Valley unit (consisting of Dyer, Lake, Lauderdale, Shelby, and Tipton counties) and in Giles, Lawrence, Lincoln, and Wayne counties the season runs April 17-May 16, with the Young Sportsman Hunt the weekend before (April 10-11).