With a significant carryover of mature gobblers and an influx of young birds to match wits against, hunter patience as much as skill may be put to the test during this year’s spring turkey season.
According to biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas Rio Grande wild turkey numbers have boomed over the past few years thanks to timely rainfall and relatively cool summer conditions that have set the stage for optimum reproduction and recruitment. As a result, turkeys are making a comeback in many areas where they had been lost due to extended periods of drought and that’s good news for turkey hunters hoping to bag a bird this spring.
More turkeys may not guarantee immediate success. Biologists predict the early spring green-up and abundance of juvenile hens could have a profound impact on breeding behavior or at least on a gobbler’s willingness to come to the call this season.
“Field observations indicate flocks have already begun to break up and toms have been strutting for weeks,” said Jason Hardin, TPWD Upland Game Bird Program specialist. “That means many hens could become interested in breeding near opening day of the season, effectively hampering a hunter’s chances of luring love-struck gobblers. If you do go early in the season some of the best hunting could be mid-day after hens split off from males.
“However, by mid-season most of the hens should be bred and incubating eggs leaving a large number of mature gobblers looking for love,” he noted. “Also, if conditions remain mild and if we get a few more timely rain events, Texas can expect another good year of nesting and populations growth.”
The spring season for Rio Grande turkey gets under way March 11-12 with a youth-only weekend in the South Zone, followed by a general season that runs March 18-April 30 and then culminates with a youth-only weekend May 6-7. In the North Zone, the youth-only weekend seasons are March 25-26 and May 20-21. The North Zone general season opens April 1 and runs through May 14. A special one-gobbler limit season runs April 1-30 in Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee, Matagorda, Milam, and Wharton counties.
Hunters who were on birds last year can expect more of the same in East Texas this spring. “They should be there again this spring,” said Hardin. “We do not expect to see a significant population shift from the 2016 season.”
Eastern spring turkey hunting in the counties having an open season is April 15-May 14. Hunters are required to report harvest of eastern turkeys electronically to TPWD within 24 hours of harvest. Reports can be made through the TPWD My Texas Hunt Harvest App or online from the TPWD turkey page at www.tpwd.texas.gov/turkey . The app is available for free download from Google Play or the App Store. Hunters will be issued a confirmation number upon completion of the reporting process. Hunters still have to tag harvested birds.
The new harvest reporting app can also be used as a tool for voluntarily reporting and tracking harvests of other resident game species, including Rio Grande turkey. With My Texas Hunt Harvest, hunters can log harvested game animals and view harvest history, including dates and locations of every hunt.