Some Texas turkey hunters may be seeing slim pickings, and it is no surprise why. According to the Scientific American, the state’s turkey population is still feeling the effects of an extensive 2011 drought.
Prior to recent years Texas had one of the most enviable turkey seasons in the nation, drawing avid hunters from across the country. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey taken in 2006 found that $214 million was dropped into the state economy every year by hunters–the highest in the United States. That necessary financial boost–along with the state’s hunting reputation–is now at stake.
Two years ago Texas experienced a long drought that nearly crippled the state’s agricultural industry. Reuters reported last year that the drought caused upwards of $7.6 billion in damages to the state’s economy.
“No one alive has seen single-year drought damage to this extent,” said agricultural economist Travis Miller.
Texans were not unused to dry periods, but the drought baked the state for months on end. As a result, both farmland and wilderness were affected with 43 percent of the state’s land still considered to be under severe drought. During water shortages, turkeys are often too stressed to mate and instead focus on surviving. This also has the effect of rendering calls useless, as the birds are in no mood. Worst yet, the fruitless mating season of turkeys, along with other ground-nesting birds, might not be felt for years.
“We could have an excessive decline on any of those species on, say, fledgling young and you wouldn’t necessarily see it for a few years,” said Iliana Peña of Audubon Texas. “Those impacts can occur and they will occur over the long term.”
Since 2010 hunters have reported taking less turkeys and it is estimated that there will be 60 percent less mature males harvested this year. Even before the drought, wildlife officials have reported that turkeys are finding the land inhospitable. Now those same areas are bone dry.
However, residents may find the turkey shortage to be subjective. Hunters in different regions of the state are still bagging good sized gobblers, and sometimes even in great numbers. Frustrated turkey hunters may also consider trading in their gear for pig hunting equipment, as Texas is expected to be drowning in over seven million wild hogs in the next five years.