On the Hunt for Wild Turkey
The 9 Lakes region is known as an outdoor sportsman’s playground for locals and visitors. Daniel Boone hunted these forests, while Native Americans cherished the bounty of wild game found here. The fall season classically draws hunters to the woods for large game hunts including deer, bear, elk, and wild turkey. While hunt lotteries can be competitive, one of the most fun and relaxed seasons is fall turkey hunting. Unlike the busier spring hunt, the fall hunt is marked by fewer hunters and more time to appreciate the autumn beauty of the woodland. The less crowded woods make for a great day for both novice and experienced hunters, listening for the distinctive sound of the male gobbler. Wild turkeys found in the 9 Lakes region are Eastern Wild Turkey, the same species that graced the tables from the Puritan days. These large bird can grow up to four feet and require both forested areas to roost combined with open fields to feed. Despite their size, the birds are agile and quick to flight.
To enjoy your adventure, come prepared:
Know your seasons: October 13, 2018 marks the opening day of shotgun season for turkey hunting and closes on October 26. Archery season continues through November 2. Hunting hours begin 30 minutes before legal sunrise and end 30 minutes after legal sunset.
Know your location: Hunting land in the 9 Lakes region includes Wild Life Management areas, state lands, TVA public Lands, and national forests. Turkeys will flock, moving from location to location. Be aware of private land and respect boundaries In the 9 Lakes region, most of the public hunting lands border several counties, so a hunt will take you across county lines. The region is made up of mountains and valleys, so be prepared for uneven terrain, large open fields, water hazards, and a lack of good cell phone service.
Know the rules: Two of the 9 Lakes counties, Monroe and Loudon, prohibit fall turkey hunting. Also forbidden is baiting, possessing or using electronic calls, using live decoys, use of handguns, rifles, or shotgun ammunition larger than No. 4 shot. Hunters can bag 1 bearded turkey per county during the season. Please practice Leave No Trace principles when hunting or camping on public lands.
Savor the day: Whether you bag a gobbler or learn a new turkey calling technique, a day in the woods will be a day of adventure requiring patience, skill, and some luck. It is said that bagging a gobbler in the fall season is the badge of a great hunter. At the end of the day, retire to your campsite, cabin, or lodge to swap stories and share a meal. The lore and lure of these woods is strong and will draw you back for another hunting adventure.