Most springs, the pre-season story in this space that details upcoming spring turkey hunting prospects in Texas is a positive one filled with a good forecast for successful hunts, filled tags, big smiles, plenty of laughter, and a good time.
This isn’t most springs, mind you. With the current coronavirus pandemic sweeping the Lone Star State, the U.S., and the world, this might be the most uncertain spring turkey season ever held in the Lone Star State.
The birds will certainly be there as cagey longbeards do their annual spring thing, gobbling, strutting, and courting hens as the annual breeding cycle rolls on without skipping a beat.
After a great 2019 nesting season in much of Texas, biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department say that there will be plenty of jakes, or younger toms, seen by hunters this spring.
While numbers of older, mature longbeards will certainly be less than the energetic jakes roaming the Texas wilds, there should be decent numbers of those gobblers too.
Already, some great toms have been downed in Texas’ South Zone where the Rio Grande turkey season got underway last weekend as it runs from March 21-May 3. And with the North Zone season preparing to start it’s April 4-May 17 run, turkey hunters will soon be successfully calling in lovesick longbeards in the state’s northern counties too.
If they are able to get out and go, that is, as the fluid pandemic news cycle changes almost by the hour.
For hunters who are indeed able to get out and chase longbeards this season, spring turkey hunting prospects should be good for Rio Grandes just about anywhere between the Red River and the Rio Grande.
“If the current green conditions hold and weather does not turn hot too early, Texas can expect another year of turkey population growth,” said Jason Hardin, TPWD turkey program leader, in a news release.
“We currently have good soil moisture across much of Texas and just need a little more to keep us on track for another great year of recruitment.”
As noted above, there will be plenty of jakes out there this spring. But there will also be a fair number of gobblers sporting long, sharp spurs and paintbrush beards dragging the ground. About the only thing missing will be the gobblers somewhere between those loud-mouthed youngsters and the old, mature wise guys.
“With low harvest rates, most Rio Grande turkey hunters can expect to see some 4- and 5-year-old toms across most of the Rio Grande range,” said Hardin. “There are not going to be a lot of 2-3-year-old birds out there this spring.”
As is usually the case, the hunting might be slow in the early days of the season due to the way that turkey biology works. But as the season goes along, expect the old gobblers to feel increasingly lonely as hens go to nest.
“With the spring coming on strong, toms will pair with hens early in the season,” said Hardin. “But as those hens begin to initiate nesting activities around the middle of the season, the toms will turn on and readily come to calling.”
For turkey hunters here in Grayson County, as well as Fannin and Lamar counties to the east, the Lone Star State’s Eastern spring turkey hunting season is still several weeks away from starting it’s April 22-May 14 run.
If you chase turkeys in Grayson County or to the east, keep in mind that hunters are required to report their harvest of an Eastern wild turkey electronically to TPWD within 24 hours of harvest.
Reports can be made through TPWD’s My Texas Hunt Harvest App or online from the TPWD turkey page at www.tpwd.texas.gov/turkey . By the way, the agency says in its news release that the app is available for free download from Google Play or the App Store.
TPWD also says that successful hunters will be issued a confirmation number upon completion of the reporting process through the app or online. Keep in mind that successful Eastern turkey hunters still have to tag their harvested bird.
If you’re able to get out and go turkey hunting this season, keep in mind that many counties are issuing public health emergencies that bring about new regulations aimed at controlling travel, limiting business activities, stopping the gathering of groups, and flattening the curve of COVID-19’s deadly spread.
Enjoy the season and harvest a bird if you can. But do so by following all rules and regulations from the CDC, the federal government, and state and local agencies too.
Practice proper social distancing stay out of groups and wash your hands frequently with plenty of warm water and soap.
Because as strange and gloomy as this current spring turkey season might seem to be in Texas, we’ve all got to do our part to make sure as many of us as possible see spring turkey season roll around again next year.