Lingering Aftereffects of Drought Could Impact Turkey Hunting

Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701,

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AUSTIN — Turkey hunters can focus their attention on coaxing old boss toms during the upcoming spring season, with relatively few gullible two-year-old birds available, but will also have to contend with curious jakes, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists.

Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season in the 54-county South Zone runs March 16-April 28. In the 101 counties comprising the North Zone, the season opens March 30 and runs through May 12. A special one-gobbler limit season opens April 1 and continues through April 30 in Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee and Milam counties.

“We had phenomenal production in 2010, which means there should be good hunting opportunities this spring for big old gobblers,” said Jason Hardin, turkey program coordinator for TPWD,

“Going into last year many of these hens put forth tremendous nesting effort following a mild winter and late winter-early spring rains,” he added.  “This led to average to above average production so there will also be a large number of jakes on the landscape this spring.”

“The drought of 2011 wreaked havoc on wild turkey production,” Hardin continued.  “There was almost zero nesting effort and the handful of hens attempting a nest were almost all unsuccessful.  This will be obvious this spring with almost no two-year-old gobblers across Texas’ Rio Grande turkey range.”

Eastern spring turkey hunting in the 28 counties having an open season runs April 15-May 14.

According to Hardin, the Eastern turkey population remains stable, but is not expanding to the degree that biologists have hoped.

“Easterns across most of Texas have not shown much growth outside of a few areas stocked in 2007-2008,” he said.  “Those stocked sites were part of a research project examining a new stocking strategy known as super stocking.”

This method calls for flooding the best available habitat with 80 turkeys (60 females and 20 males).  The old stocking method only placed 15-20 birds per site.  Following the positive results of this "super stocking" research, TPWD is now looking for large, high quality sites to be evaluated as potential future releases sites. These sites can be single ownership or a cooperative on private or public lands.

Hunters are reminded 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.