Deer Hunting in Tennessee

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  • B
  • 700,000

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 165,000

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $68 and Up

    This hunting and fishing combo is $34. The big game license is $34. Some residents choose the annual sportsman’s license for $166 instead of individual licenses.

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $305

    The annual all-game license is $305. Some public lands require additional licensing.

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • 186 1/8"

    Taken by W.A. Foster in Roane County in 1959.

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • 48

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 315 1/8"

    Taken by Stephen L. Tucker in Sumner County in 2016. It ranks 4th of all time.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 31

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

Mike Barker with his wide Tennessee buck. (Photo courtesy of Mike Barker)

Season Dates (2021):

Season dates vary throughout the state, but things kick off in late August. Archery hunters in Units A, B, C, D, L, and CWD can hunt August 27-29, but it's archery only except for in Unit CWD. Then, archery season runs September 25 to October 29 and November 1-5, statewide. Gun, muzzleloader and archery hunters head afield October 30-31 and January 8-9, statewide. Additional gun seasons are open in November, December and January, too, depending on unit. Check the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) website to confirm season dates.

The Grade: B

While the Volunteer State has decent deer densities, it isn’t known for giants. Sure, the Tucker buck was killed here. At one time, it was the largest ever hunter-harvested deer. Still, according to record books, Tennessee is an inferior state. It doesn’t have the genetics, habitat or soil to consistently produce high volumes of top-end whitetails. It's a multiple-buck state, too. 

It also has Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the southwestern region. It was discovered in 2018, and it’s led to numerous regulation changes. Unit CWD now comprises 11 counties, and Crockett, Gibson, and Lauderdale were added to the zone this year. Now, expanded harvest opportunities are being used to reduce deer densities. Even additional antlered tags are possible in these areas.

"Hunters should learn about CWD and the differences between Unit CWD versus CWD positive and CWD high risk counties,” said James Kelly with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “At present, these are the same group of counties, but once testing begins for the season, the latter could change depending on the location of positive test results. If this occurred, the associated carcass transport and feeding restrictions apply immediately and automatically. However, the counties included in Unit CWD would not change midseason. Hopefully this makes sense.”

The discovery of CWD also produced the August velvet hunt, which received mixed reviews from hunters. This is a gun hunt in Unit CWD, but it’s archery-only throughout the rest of the state. Despite some opposition, it’s drawn a significant number of hunters, especially given the opportunity to tag a velvet deer in a state where it was previously impossible. All in all, Tennessee gets a B.

Antler Nation Knowledge:

The best age structures seem to be along the Mississippi River in the western part of the state. The Cumberland Plateau as well as eastern Tennessee aren’t as advanced in trophy production, but good opportunities still abound. For those who like a challenge, eastern Tennessee is very rugged, but these same terrain and accessibility problems also allow bucks to reach older age classes.

When observing the Pope & Young and Boone and Crockett record books, a few counties stand out. Some of these include Davidson, Dyer, Haywood, Lake, Lauderdale, Montgomery, Robertson, Shelby, Stewart, Tipton, Williamson, and other southwestern border counties.

There are more than 1.5 million acres of public land statewide, and many of these areas produce mature deer. While most of these are located in the eastern counties, some opportunities exist in the western region. Don’t forget about specialty hunts, such as those conducted on Fort Campbell, Holston Army Ammunition Plant, Milan Army Ammunition Plant and more. In Unit CWD, consider the August velvet hunt. Just remember to check regulations, as several areas have their own unique guidelines.

For those who plan to hunt public, check the regs before doing so. Many properties have unique regulations. Others are open to statewide seasons and rules.

Finally, new for this season is a tagging change. Before moving harvested deer, hunters must report deer on the agency mobile app, or temporarily tag the animal with a physical transportation tag, before moving it.

Tennessee Harvests

  • Scott Woodall

    Summer, Tennessee

  • Clay Murrelle

    Shelby County, Tennessee

From the Realtree Trophy Den