With lots of mature toms across the Rio Grande turkey range, persistent Texas hunters should have a good shot at a long beard this spring. Wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department say conditions are shaping up for a productive nesting season, which could also make for challenging hunting.
The spring season for Rio Grande turkey gets under way March 9-10 with a youth-only weekend in the South Zone, followed by a general season that runs March 16-April 28 and then culminates with a youth-only weekend May 4-5. In the North Zone, the youth-only weekend seasons are March 23-24 and May 18-19. The North Zone general season opens March 30 and runs through May 12. A special one-gobbler limit season runs April 1-30 in Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee, Matagorda, Milam, and Wharton counties.
“Much of Texas is looking really green due to winter rains and a mild winter,” said Jason Hardin, TPWD turkey program leader. “Toms are already strutting and calling, and although hens are nowhere near ready yet, you can expect to see some early nesting behavior in the next few weeks.”
Early in the season, Hardin predicts toms will be “henned up” first thing in the morning, and hunters will have better luck later in the day. “Don’t be surprised when the gobblers hang up,” he said. “They are going to be spoiled to hens coming to them like nature intended. The best hunting will be during the middle to latter part of the season.”
Hardin recommends hunters rely on their decoys to do most of the work and minimize calling as late season gobblers will be wary of calls, especially in areas that receive moderate to high hunting pressure. He stressed that those hunters willing to put in the time and patience this spring should have an opportunity to harvest a boss tom.
“Texas has a much lower harvest rate compared to many southeastern states and our toms live to a ripe old age,” said Hardin. “There are not many jakes out there this year due to low recruitment associated with dry conditions these past two years so the odds are in your favor that what comes in should be a mature bird.”
New this season, hunters have the option of using pre-charged pneumatics (air guns) as legal means for harvesting Rio Grande turkeys in Texas. Details on required specifications can be found online.
Eastern spring turkey hunting in the counties having an open season starts a week later this year on April 22 and runs through 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 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.