Hunting Regulations

All firearms, hunting devices, and ammunition listed in the below table are legal for hunting purposes according to the individual species listed. If a firearm, hunting device, or ammunition is not listed in the below table. it is illegal to hunt within the State of Tennessee. Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) may have additional restrictions on some legal hunting devices.

Legal Trapping Devices and Definitions

  1. Steel foothold traps used for water sets must have an exterior jaw measurement of nine (9) inches or less measured at the hinge of the trap. Steel foothold traps used for ground sets must have an exterior jaw measurement of seven (7) inches or less measured at the hinge of the trap. Steel square instant-kill traps must have an exterior jaw measurement of sixteen (16) inches or less measured at the widest point, and steel circular instant-kill traps must have an exterior measurement of twelve (12) inches or less measured at the widest point.
  2. Live traps are legal for taking any species of wildlife listed as having a trapping season. Live traps are defined as those traps that act as a cage after capture.
  3. Steel cable snares having a minimum cable diameter of five sixty-fourths (5/64) of an inch and maximum cable diameter of three thirty seconds (3/32) of an inch are legal for all legal furbearers species during the legal trapping season. Spring activated snares other than Collarum snares are prohibited.
  4. Commercially available dog-proof traps, also known as species-specific traps, are legal for trapping.
  5. For ground sets, a trapper may use cushion-hold traps, laminated jaw traps, offset wide jaw traps, offset laminated jaw traps, and wide jaw traps with an exterior jaw measurement of seven (7) inches or less measured at the hinge point and with a minimum jaw thickness of one-fourth (1/4) of an inch. For ground sets, a trapper may also use double-jaw traps with an exterior jaw measurement of seven (7) inches or less of the upper and lower jaws combined and a minimum jaw thickness of one-fourth (1/4) of an inch.
    For water sets, a trapper may use cushion-hold traps, laminated jaw traps, offset wide jaw traps, offset laminated jaw traps, and wide jaw traps with an exterior jaw measurement of nine (9) inches or less measured at the hinge point. For water sets, a trapper may also use double-jaw traps with an exterior jaw measurement of nine (9) inches or less of the upper and lower jaws combined.
  6. For trapping purposes, "water set" is defined to mean traps set in water adjacent to and part of streams, ponds, lakes, wetlands, or other water courses and includes floating sets.
  7. Trappers shall mark all traps and snares with their name or TWRA ID number.
  8. Steel traps placed inside a hole, cave, den, hollow log, hollow stump, or any like place shall be placed at least twelve (12) inches inside the entrance of such place, and it is unlawful to place steel traps in the open, except for water sets and trap types listed in paragraph five (5) above.
  9. Lethal sets such as instant kill traps and water set (“drowning”) traps must be inspected every seventy-two (72) hours. All other traps must be inspected every thirty-six (36) hours and any wildlife caught in the traps shall be removed.
  10. For ground sets adjacent to waterways and no more than fifty (50) feet from the shoreline, a trapper may use a 110 body grip trap, or its equivalent, with a maximum exterior jaw measurement of six (6) inches wide by six (6) inches tall. Such a trap shall be a single-spring trap with a factory spring designated for that trap. The lowest point of the trap closest to the ground shall be no more than one-half (1/2) inch above the surface of the ground. The trap shall be used as a non-baited or lured set unless it is set at a minimum of twelve (12) inches inside a hole, den, or cubby. For trapping seasons, see below.
  11. All traps shall be attached to a stake, drag, or anchor, with chain, wire at 16 gauge or larger, or cable of 1/16 inch size or larger.

 

 

Big Game

Small Game

 

FIREARM, HUNTING DEVICE, AND AMMUNITION

  DEER 

BEAR 

ELK     

TURKEY  

MIGRATORY BIRDS

FURBEARERS AND CROW

All Other Small Game

Shotguns (including muzzleloading shotguns) using ammunition loaded with Number Four (4) or smaller shot

No

No

No

Yes

Yes 3

Yes

Yes

Shotguns (including muzzleloading shotguns) using ammunition loaded with T shot (0.20-inch diameter) or smaller

No

No

No

No

Yes 3,6

Yes

No

Shotguns (including muzzleloading shotguns) using ammunition loaded with a single solid ball or slugs

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes 1

No

Rifles and handguns using rimfire ammunition and
air guns (.25 caliber or smaller)

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Rifles and handguns using centerfire ammunition
(full metal jacketed ammunition prohibited)

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes 1,5

No

Muzzleloading firearms (rifles and handguns)
.36 cal. or larger

Yes 7

Yes 7

Yes 7

No

No

Yes 1,7

Yes 1,7

Muzzleloading firearms (rifles and handguns)

less than .36 cal.

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Air guns .35 cal. or larger

Yes 8

Yes 8

Yes 8

No

No

Yes 1,8

No

Pre-charged pneumatic gun which shoots an arrow
(special conditions apply)

Yes 9

Yes 9

Yes 9

Yes 9

No

Yes 1,9

No

Archery equipment (longbows, recurves, compounds,
and crossbows)

Yes 2

Yes 2

Yes 2

Yes 2

Yes

Yes

Yes

Raptors that are legally possessed under a valid falconry permit

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

*Only muzzleloading firearms may be used during the muzzleloader season. There are no changes to the muzzleloader season.

1. If using this equipment while hunting during deer, elk, or bear season you must be a legal big game hunter (See No. 9 in Miscellaneous section above).

2. Hunting arrows and bolts must be equipped with sharpened broadheads.

3. Waterfowl and sandhill cranes may only be hunted with a non-toxic shot of T size or smaller.

4. Furbearers are defined as beaver, bobcat, coyote, fox, groundhog, mink, muskrat, opossum, river otter, raccoon, skunk, and weasel.

5. It is illegal to use rifles and handguns using centerfire ammunition from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise.

6. Migratory birds, except waterfowl and sandhill cranes, may only be hunted with ammunition loaded with Number 4 or smaller shot size.

7. Muzzleloading firearms are defined as those firearms in which a projectile (rifle) or projectiles (shotgun) must be loaded from the muzzle (front) end of the barrel and the firearm being of design and manufacture that prevents the projectile(s) from being loaded from the breech (rear) end.

8. Must use a pre-charged pneumatic firing mechanism; in addition, the air gun must be equipped with a built-in manometer (air pressure gauge).

9. (a) Persons possessing a permanent disabled license (Type 168,169,189 or 198) may use a pre-charged pneumatic gun that shoots an arrow during the archery, deer, bear, and elk season as an accommodation for their disability. (b) A pre-charged pneumatic gun that shoots an arrow is legal for all hunters to use during modern gun season for deer, bear, elk, and turkey.

  1. All big game and small game species (except bullfrogs, raccoons, opossums, migratory birds, and the chasing of foxes and rabbits) daylight hours only (30 minutes before official sunrise and until 30 minutes after official sunset) except turkey season is open only until official sunset. 
  2. Hunting of bullfrogs, raccoons, opossums, the chasing of foxes and rabbits, and the trapping of furbearers is permitted day or night unless restricted by Proclamation. No foxes or rabbits may be shot while chasing/training at night.
  3. Hunting of migratory birds is to comply with federal regulations for migratory birds unless restricted by proclamation.
  4. For all other game species except those listed below, legal hunting hours are one half-hour before legal sunrise to one half-hour after legal sunset.
    Crows, doves, ducks, geese, gallinules, rails, turkey, woodcock, and snipe: Shooting hours are one-half hour before legal sunrise to legal sunset, except for dove hunting on opening day when shooting hours will begin at noon. 
  1. Possession of ammunition except that as specifically authorized is prohibited while hunting.
  2. The use or possession and/or the accompanying of anyone using or possessing raccoon calls, squallers, weapons, ammunition, or climbers while training dogs is prohibited during training season, except raccoon calls may be used during authorized field trials.
  3. The use of dogs in hunting (TCA 70-1-101) or attempting to take deer or elk is prohibited. Taking or attempting to take deer being pursued by dog, or dogs, is prohibited.
  4. Juveniles under the age of eighteen (18) are prohibited from using handguns for the purpose of hunting.
  5. No person shall make use of bait to hunt (TCA 70-1-101) wildlife unless the bait has been removed and any electronic feeder disabled at least 10 days prior to hunting. Salt and mineral are allowed if the salt/mineral contains at least 51% salt by weight of salt minerals or it does not contain whole grain or other non-refined food stuffs.
  6. Possession of firearms prohibited while chasing coyote, fox, and bobcat with dogs from the first Saturday in November through the end of the deer season.
  7. Use or possession of the following equipment is prohibited:
    1. Predator calls while night hunting.
    2. Pod arrows (any pod-type device for holding drugs or chemicals on an arrow) or any drugs or chemicals used in pod arrows while archery hunting.
    3. Explosive arrowheads while archery hunting.
    4. Firearms capable of fully automatic fire.
    5. Firearms or archery equipment with any device utilizing an artificial light capable of locating wildlife.
    6. Any electronic light amplifying night vision scope, thermal imaging device, or device while in possession of a firearm or archery tackle between sunset and sunrise.
    7. Electronic calls or live decoys while hunting wild turkey, foxes, and waterfowl (except electronic calls are legal during the Light Goose Conservation Season).
    8. Rifles or handguns with full metal jacketed ammunition.
    9. Rifles or handguns with centerfire ammunition between 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise.
    10. Any loose shot other than non-toxic (as approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) or any shotgun shell loaded with shot other than non-toxic while hunting waterfowl, sandhill cranes, coots, gallinules, Virgina rails, and sora rails.
    11. UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) cannot be used to hunt any wildlife.
  8. The use or possession of natural cervid urine while hunting is prohibited unless the product is clearly labeled bearing certification from the manufacturer that the urine was produced in a facility that:
  9. Complies with a federal or a federally approved chronic wasting disease herd certification program and any federal CWD protocols and record requirements;
    1. Does not allow importation of live cervids;
    2. Requires that all cervids exported from the facility be tested for CWD upon death and the results are reported to the facility;
    3. Is inspected annually by an accredited veterinarian, including inspection of the herd and applicable records; and
    4. Maintains a fence at least 8 feet high around the facility and, if the facility is located within 30 miles of a confirmed positive occurrence of CWD, is double fenced to prevent direct contact between captive and wild cervids.

No person shall, at any time or by any means, possess or transport live animals taken under the authority of the hunting and trapping season proclamations. No native species may be taken out of the wild and kept as pets.

The taking, killing and/or illegal possession of hawks, owls, songbirds, endangered species or any other species (i.e. snakes) for which a season is not set is prohibited. There is evidence cougars and alligators are expanding their territories into Tennessee. Species expanding their ranges into Tennessee are protected and may not be taken until a hunting season is proclaimed. Alligators and cougars are protected by state laws in Tennessee.

TCA 70-4-115 allows wild game animals, except for non-game and federally protected wildlife species, accidentally killed by a motor vehicle to be possessed for personal use and consumption. However, possession of a deer killed by a motor vehicle is permitted only if the person notifies the TWRA or any law enforcement officer and supplies his/her name within 48 hours. Personal possession of bear accidentally killed by a motor vehicle is only lawful once a TWRA enforcement officer issues a possession tag for it.

In Tennessee, state wildlife laws require hunters and trappers to obtain permission from landowners to hunt or trap on private property. In fact, it is advisable to get written permission to hunt and is required to trap. With the passage of TCA 70-4-106 in 1990, a “Hunting By Written Permission” law went into effect. Simply, the law states that if private land has been properly posted by the owner with signs that include his or her name and address plus the wording “HUNTING BY WRITTEN PERMISSION ONLY,” a hunter or trapper must carry the owner’s written permission. (Form available on page 39 of this guide or at www.tnwildlife.org). If a hunter or trapper is found without that written permission, that hunter or trapper is subject to prosecution.

On private property, hunting while in or on a vehicle that cannot be legally licensed to operate on public highways in Tennessee (ORV, OHV, ATV) is permitted providing that the vehicle is stationary (engine may be running). Hunting from any vehicle, stationary or otherwise, is prohibited from a public road, right-of-way or on public property, including WMAs.

Hunters who have filled their seasonal or daily bag limit for any species may continue to accompany other hunters provided they are not in possession of any ammunition or any firearm or archery equipment. This person must also comply with all other legal requirements.

A person may possess a handgun at any time while lawfully 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. 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.

  1. Where hunting is allowed from vessels, it is legal to hunt from any vessel, so long as the vessel is not under forward motion from any influence of mechanical means or sail. On private property, it is legal to hunt from any motorized vehicle (to include ATVs, golf carts, etc.), provided the vehicle is stationary. Nothing in this subsection (1) shall be construed as authorizing hunting from a vessel, automobile, or other motor vehicle while under power. Nothing in this subsection permits hunting from or across a public road or right-of-way.
  2. Hunters who have filled their seasonal or daily bag limit for any species may continue to accompany other hunters provided they are not in possession of any ammunition or any weapon. This person must also comply with all other legal requirements. Access for hunters accompanying may be limited on some WMAs. A bear hunter who has filled the daily or seasonal limit may continue to carry a firearm and take hogs where incidental taking is allowed.
  3. Every game animal, wounded or unwounded by hunting and/or trapping and taken into possession by the hunter or trapper shall be immediately slain and become part of the daily bag limit. No person shall, at any time, or by any means, possess or transport live animals taken under the authority of hunting season proclamations.
  4. Gigs, angling equipment, archery, rimfire, and air firearms are legal for taking bullfrogs.
  5. Archery equipment is permitted during the archery, muzzleloader, and gun seasons. Muzzleloader equipment is permitted during the muzzleloader and gun seasons.
  6. In accordance with state and federal law, 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.
  7. During deer archery-only season, a fall turkey hunter may not be in possession of both archery equipment and shotguns and/ or rifles.
  8. During archery deer/bear seasons a properly licensed big game hunter may use air guns .25 caliber or smaller to hunt small game while archery hunting for deer/bear. During the muzzleloader and gun deer/bear season, a legal deer or bear hunter may use rimfire or airguns .25 caliber or smaller to hunt small game.
  9. During an archery-only or muzzleloader/ archery-only deer, bear, or elk season, furbearers may not be taken with rifles and handguns using centerfire ammunition. During the gun/muzzleloader/archery seasons, furbearers may be taken by legal big game hunters licensed for the weapon they are using.
  10. The use of suppressors/silencers is legal for persons possessing the required federal license from the United States Department of Treasury. Hunters using these devices must have proof of such license on their person.
  11. A falconry permittee whose hunting raptor accidentally kills wildlife out of season, or the wrong species or sex, shall leave the dead wildlife where it lies; except that the raptor may feed upon the wildlife prior to leaving the site of the kill.

General Opening Dates

 

SPECIES

DATE

Free Hunting Day

Fourth Sat. in Aug.

Squirrel

Fourth Sat. in Aug.

Grouse

Second Sat. in Oct.

Quail

First Sat. in Nov.

Rabbit

First Sat. in Nov.

Deer (Aug. Hunt)

Fourth Fri. in Aug.

Deer/Archery

Fourth Sat. in Sept.

Deer/Muzzleloader (excluding Unit CWD)

Third Sat. before Thanksgiving

Deer/Gun (excluding Unit CWD)

Sat. before Thanksgiving

Deer/Young Sportsman

Last Sat. in Oct.

First Sat. after the close of gun season

Spring Turkey

Sat. closest to April 15

Turkey/Young Sportman

Sat. before Spring Turkey opens

Migratory Bird Regulations
  • Federal regulations relative to baiting, firearms, bag and possession limits, wanton waste, tagging, and methods of hunting are hereby adopted and will be applicable to hunting and/or taking of species listed.
  • No person shall hunt migratory game birds, except crows, with a shotgun of any description capable of holding more than three (3) shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler, incapable of removal without disassembling the gun, so its total capacity does not exceed three (3) shells.
  • All persons who hunt migratory game birds are required to have in their possession a valid Tennessee Migratory Bird Permit in addition to other required Tennessee licenses and permits, with the following exceptions:
    • Disabled veterans
    • Landowners hunting on their own land
    • Lifetime license holders
    • Residents of Tennessee under 13 years of age
    • Residents of Tennessee who are 65 or older
    • Military personnel on leave or furlough
  • Refer to federal regulations 50 CFR Ch. 1 (21.41 and 21.43) for conditions and restrictions applicable to the taking of crows in certain depredation or health hazard situations outside of the crow sport hunting season.