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Outlook Good for Spring Turkey Season
AUSTIN, Texas — Prolonged dry conditions across the state last year may have impacted wild turkey production in some areas, but overall, the outlook for the 2007 spring turkey hunting season is bright, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists.
Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season opens March 31 and runs through May 13 in 153 counties. The spring eastern turkey season is open in 42 East Texas counties from April 1-30. Special youth-only weekends are set for March 24-25 and May 19-20.
“We haven’t had range-wide production the last couple of years so, generally, there might not be as many mature gobblers out there,” said T. Wayne Schwertner, TPWD turkey program coordinator. “With Rio Grande turkeys, however, that means instead of a heckuva lot of birds, hunters might see just a lot of birds.”
TPWD census surveys estimate upwards of 60,000 hunters take part in Texas’ spring turkey season and harvest more than 25,000 gobblers. About half of the state’s spring turkey hunting activity occurs in the Hill Country, where Schwertner noted timely rainfall could give the bird population a boost.
“There have been some bright spots, localized areas that have gotten rains,” he said. “We got some late winter rainfall and spring rainfall and that’s a good thing, but to really have a major impact on reproduction we need mid-winter rainfall.”
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. Regulations and bag limits vary by county, so check the county specific rules where you are hunting. Only gobblers are allowed to be harvested during the spring hunting season. Consult the 2006–07 Outdoor Annual for season dates and bag limits in your area.
In the eastern portion of the state, last season saw hunters having to blaze paths through felled trees and debris left over from Hurricane Rita, with below-average harvest results. Things should be better this spring, said Schwertner.
“The thing with Easterns is a slightly dry spring is a good thing,” he explained. “Now that the national forest lands are recovering, thanks to prescribed burns opening up habitat, it should be easier to hunt and concentrate the birds more.”
Eastern turkey hunting 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 or go online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/season/stations .
“My only hesitation, because of the storm in 2005, I can’t say what reproduction was a year ago,” added Gary Calkins, TPWD district wildlife biologist in Jasper. “It’s tough to say how many young birds are out there. It should be pretty good, though. Most of the mess in the national forests from the storm has been cleaned off so hunters should be able to move around. We lost a lot of hardwoods in the southern part of the district, but what was out there produced really well and this winter was fairly easy, so the birds came through okay.”
If you intend to hunt in the national forest lands, most areas require a TPWD Annual Public Hunting Permit (available for $48 wherever hunting licenses are sold) and the permit is needed to access several hundred thousand acres of public hunting lands in East Texas.
Calkins said Eastern turkey populations on private lands remain strong in certain areas of the Pineywoods. He said harvest data indicates that the longer 30-day spring season in East Texas has not had an adverse impact on bird numbers.
“Harvest has remained about the same. Most of the harvest still occurs during the first part of the season, probably because there are more hunters out there early on and the birds became educated,” Calkins said. “Although it gave hunters more opportunity to chase them around for a longer period, most of the birds were taken during the first part of the season.”
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