For a jam-packed day or weekend of hunting, don’t overlook eastern Tennessee. With an abundance of native wildlife and acres of forests and mountains, no wonder hunting is one of the most popular activities in the Smoky Mountains. To get you started on the right path, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provides various licenses catered to your hunting pleasures, whether you hunt solo, with children, or take a weekend trip with the boys. To get your trigger finger twitching and taste buds salivating, take note of the four most popular game animals in the Smokies.
1. Eastern Wild Turkey: Now one of the most popular game animals, the skittish and difficult to catch wild turkey once graced the endangered species list. Their small size—hardly ever more than 20 pounds—adds to the hunting challenge. If you master their call, consider yourself a talented hunter. Very few capture the wild turkey this way, and even experienced hunters rely on a guide. Turkey season goes from the last day of March to the middle of May. Bag limits: One bearded turkey per day; 4 per season.
2. Wild Hogs: These large beasts resulted from a crossbreeding of wild boars and domestic pigs, and today, hundreds roam the park freely. Their features include black hair, long legs, tusks, canine teeth, and a distinctive white blaze on their face. Wild Hogs are huge—they can weigh up to 125 pounds and grow to 3 ½ feet long. They make up for poor eyesight with an acute sense of smell and hearing. Wild hogs typically live in the western area of the park, but during the warm spring and hot summers, move to higher elevation. Don’t feel guilty about bagging one of these boars—as an exotic species, they cause harm to the park.
3. Black Bears: Although a popular target, not many black bears live within the park limits, so it is illegal to kill more than one a year, and you must always leave alone cubs or female bears with cubs. Bear hunting carries some restrictions depending on the county, so check out the rules and regulations carefully. Some counties only permit archery, while other counties prohibit dogs.
4. Deer: Does the deer have antlers at least three inches long? Is it a Buck? Hunt freely. However, you may not hunt antlerless or albino deer anywhere in Tennessee. Tennessee regulations allow for three deer per season, except in Unit B, which allows only two. Deer season dates and length depend on your weapon of choice and the presence of children, so ask when you apply for a license and before you enter the park and check on the bag limits.
Remember that all hunters in Tennessee must have a license. The best way to purchase the correct license is to decide how long and what you want to hunt. The more specific the license, the less money you spend; however, the more limitations on where you can hunt and fish. With such beautiful surroundings and wild game to chase, why limit yourself? Go with the more expensive, general licenses and follow your whims into the mountains!