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Texas' 2005 Spring Turkey Forecast
Hunters eager to get out and challenge our eastern and Rio Grande gobblers will surely want to read this ... [+] Full Article
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Texas Sportsman
Lone Star Turkey Outlook For 2006

In 2004, the spring rains came -- and they didn't stop. Much of South Texas experienced above-average amounts of rainfall from spring throughout the summer months. Mild temperatures also were the norm that year, and turkey populations not only increased in the generally recognized hotspot areas but also expanded their numbers in places that long had contained only marginal populations of birds. Solid reproduction in 2004 resulted in a lot of jakes for last year's hunters, and hold promise for there being a lot more of the larger gobblers for this season.

Expect South Texas turkey hunting to be the best in years in many areas, including the historical hotspot counties through which the Nueces River runs from south of San Antonio to around Choke Canyon Reservoir, and all the way to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Many hunters think that relatively few turkeys strut across the wide-open plains region of the Texas Panhandle. They're mistaken: Turkey numbers may be spotty, but wherever appropriate habitat can be found along the major rivers such as the Canadian, plenty of birds -- and lots of big gobblers -- are present too.

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I hunted near the town of Canadian along a tributary of the Canadian River last spring and had one of my most enjoyable hunts ever. The rolling, low brush and weeds that follow the otherwise heavily-timbered river gave me and my hunting companions one thing that's often critical to bagging a wary gobbler, or one that's already taken up with a hen: good concealment, which is absolutely necessary when you're trying to steal up on the birds.

Myriad ditches run from the surrounding roller-coaster-like landscape, making it relatively easy to make a move from behind turkeys that were heading away. The idea is to get in front of them, and then to entice them to the call -- appealing as much to their general curiosity as to their mating drives, I suppose. It was just such a maneuver that helped me bag a gobbler with a 10 1/2-inch beard and 1 1/2-inch spurs in late April.

Another good thing about turkey hunting in the southeastern Panhandle is its relatively novelty to landowners. They've known for years that they've got turkeys, but as that's not been widely known by very many hunters, spring hunting pressure has been light.

For the second season in a row, hunters after eastern gobblers will have a 30-day season, and it looks like it's going to be another great year. The extreme southeastern areas are a little uncertain, owing to the possible loss of birds and their habitat caused by the high winds and flooding brought by Hurricane Rita.

Eastern turkeys once occupied many areas of East Texas but were virtually eliminated by commercial and illegal hunting and other factors by the turn of the last century. TPWD officials accordingly deserve a big pat on the back for their restoration efforts, which began in the early 1970s with stockings of birds obtained from Mississippi and other states.

The first eastern turkey spring season was held in Red River County in 1995. Yearly stockings of the birds throughout the region have been so successful that 43 counties now have a spring season.

Only in the East Texas region are turkey hunters required to check their gobblers in at TPWD check stations, at which around 150 birds have been checked in each of the past two years. Too, this is the only region in which shotguns must be used to hunt spring turkeys.

Because of the continuing stocking of turkeys in many of the counties, hunters should be on the lookout for banded birds. Wildlife officials report that only a few bands have been recovered in recent years, thus indicating that most of the turkeys harvested were raised in the wild.

* * * With prospects this bright for another banner season, it'd be a shame for any Texas turkey hunter to miss it. Grab your shotgun, your favorite turkey calls and turkey loads and head for the woods. I'm betting that you'll be glad that you did!

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