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Spring Turkey Hunting Prospects Excellent
AUSTIN, Texas – If predictions by state wildlife biologists hold true, there will be plenty of gobbling going on as conditions around the state bode well for the upcoming spring turkey hunting season.
“It should be a good season because we’ve gotten a lot of rain for two, three or four years in some places,” said T. Wayne Schwertner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s turkey program leader. “Rain equals production.”
This spring marks the first month-long hunting season for eastern birds, a testament to the success of TPWD’s East Texas turkey restoration efforts. Eastern turkey hunting in Texas opened 10 years ago in Red River County and has expanded into more than 40 East Texas counties as turkey populations grew and expanded. Schwertner said the time had come to expand hunting opportunity. During these years of restoration, beginning in the mid-1980’s, TPWD had a very productive partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation, headquartered in Edgefield, SC, and with the Texas Chapter of NWTF. According to a cooperative agreement with NWTF, that organization’s staff worked with TPWD biologists to coordinate with other states to have eastern wild turkeys trapped and shipped to East Texas. A combination of hunting license and turkey stamp dollars paid for the more than 7,000 birds released across East Texas.
“As far as lengthening the season, we don’t have a lot of concerns because it’s still a one-bird, gobbler-only bag limit,” he noted. “Once you kill your one bird you’re done for the season, except for those who love to take others turkey hunting and enjoy the calling experience and introducing others to this great sport. I expect the harvest to increase a little bit, but I don’t expect it to be much. The additional days should allow hunters to go out more and scout around and pick and choose when they want to go. It also gives hunters a few more bad weather days to stay in bed and still know the season isn’t about to end.”
The spring eastern turkey season is open in 42 East Texas counties from April 1-30 and is limited to shotgun, lawful archery equipment or crossbow, with a one-gobbler bag limit.
All harvested eastern turkeys must be taken to a check station within 24 hours. To find the check station nearest you, contact a TPWD field office or call (800) 792-1112.
Those hunters hoping to try their skills in some of the national forest lands in East Texas should note some prescribed burns have been taking place that could create new challenges and opportunities for hunters.
“As turkey habitat is improved by these burns, birds may spread out over a greater area, making them more challenging to find,” Schwertner observed. “But it should make prospects better in the long term.”
Hunters are urged to contact the U.S. Forest Service’s district ranger office for each National Forest or Grassland before heading afield. Here is the contact information:
- Sabine Ranger District (409) 787-3870
- Angelina Ranger District (936) 897-1068
- Davy Crockett Ranger District (936) 655-2299
- Sam Houston Ranger District (936) 344-6205
If you intend to hunt in the national forestlands, an Annual Public Hunting Permit (available for $48 wherever hunting licenses are sold) is needed and provides access to several hundred thousand acres of public hunting lands in East Texas.
In the Post Oak Savannah, where some eastern turkey hunting has begun to spread, district biologist David Sierra noted, “I think we’re going to have a good season, we had a good year for the hatch, and there are a lot of jakes out there if someone wants to take one. We never got that cold this winter so the birds shouldn’t be stressed out. I’ve heard good reports out of Lamar, Red River and Hopkins counties.”
Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season opens March 26 in South Texas and runs through May 1. In the remaining 119 counties having spring hunting for Rio Grande turkey, the season begins April 2 and runs through May 8. Statewide regulations allow the use of shotgun, rifle, handgun, legal archery equipment, or crossbow to take Rio Grande turkey; however, individual landowners and public hunting areas may further restrict the devices to be used. The bag limit for Rio Grande turkey is four turkeys per license year. However, regulations and bag limits vary by county, so check the regulations for the county where you are hunting. Only gobblers are allowed to be harvested during the spring hunting season. Consult the 2004-05 outdoor annual for season dates and bag limits in your area.
Hunters are reminded that a Texas turkey hunting stamp is required in addition to a valid Texas hunting license. The stamp endorsement is included in the Super Combo and Lifetime Hunting license packages. Non-residents who purchase the Non-resident Spring Turkey License are exempt from this stamp endorsement requirement.
Hunters in the southern part of the state will get first crack at strutting toms this spring, and TPWD biologist Joe Herrera in Pleasanton predicts the birds will be out in force.
“We’re in our fourth year with conditions being excellent and the second consecutive spring of good rain conditions,” he noted. “Consequently, our turkey population is on the rise so hunters should see quite a few birds. The conditions in South Texas remain lush; all the folks I’ve talked to cannot recall conditions as lush as we have today. I think hunters can look for an excellent season.”
“We’ve had tons of moisture so it ought to be plenty good,” echoed Max Traweek, TPWD biologist for the Hill Country. “We’re already seeing some activity two weeks before the season. The hatch wasn’t as good as we would’ve expected last year; we still have a lot of birds, but there will probably not be as many jakes running around this spring because of that.”
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