Despite lingering dry conditions in some parts of Texas, prospects for this year’s spring turkey season remain promising, thanks to a carryover of mature gobblers, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists.
Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season in the 54-county South Zone runs March 17-April 29 with special youth-only weekends set for March 10–11 and May 5–6. In the 101 counties comprising the North Zone, the season opens March 31 and runs through May 13 with special youth-only weekends set for March 24–25 and May 19–20.
“We had phenomenal production in 2010, which means there should be plenty of two-year-old birds out there,” said Jason Hardin, TPWD turkey program leader. “Last year Texas hunters harvested the fewest birds on record, which can be attributed mainly to the drought. That also means greater carryover of mature birds.”
Hardin expects hunters this spring will get plenty of gobbling activity from the 2010 year class and barring any late wet cold fronts, productivity and survival prospects are favorable this spring.
“Our biggest concern is having wet cold fronts once the hens are on the nest,” he explained. “If we can get poults on the ground and then in the trees a couple of weeks later, survival increases dramatically.”
Hardin said he’s not concerned about the overall health of turkey populations going into the spring hunting season thanks to some timely winter rainfall.
“Parts of the state are greening up with a lot of forbs so the birds should be in good condition going into the breeding season,” he noted. “If we can stay green for a couple more weeks we’ll be in good shape.”
Hunters are reminded several regulation changes take effect for the 2012 season. TPWD closed spring turkey hunting in the following 15 East Texas counties in response to low populations and harvest numbers: Cherokee, Delta, Gregg, Hardin, Houston, Hunt, Liberty, Montgomery, Rains, Rusk, San Jacinto, Shelby, Smith, Tyler and Walker.
Closing spring turkey seasons in these counties will enable biologists to reassess Eastern turkey restoration efforts in areas having suitable habitat, restock sites and provide brood stock protection. The agency’s goal is to reopen hunting once the Eastern turkey populations in the affected counties are capable of sustaining harvest.
Also effective for the 2012 season, TPWD is delaying spring Eastern turkey hunting in the remaining 28 counties having an open season by two weeks, to run from April 15-May 14. Biologists say the delay gives hens time to begin nesting prior to the season opening.
“Time will tell how dramatic of an impact the regulations will have on Eastern turkey populations, but we will almost guarantee that the majority of hens will be bred prior to the opening of the season, which should help to boost the population” said Hardin. “Harvest is not as critical the latter part of the season, and hens should be on the nest by the time the season starts.”
Also new this season, hunters may harvest gobblers and bearded hens during the spring season in counties having a bag limit of four turkeys. Hunting is for gobblers only during the spring season in all other counties.
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.