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Texas' 2005 Spring Turkey Forecast
While turkey gobblers can certainly live beyond 4 years, a predator or hunter takes most of them long before that age. "That age-class of birds from 2001 was so significant that we going to have a larger age-class of 4-year-old birds than we've had in some time," Simons said.
According to Simons, Texas landowners have good reason for giving more attention to spring turkey hunting. "Landowners have recognized that turkeys have a real value," he explained, "and the primary value of turkeys is in the spring season, instead of shooting them in the fall." The many deer hunters who've taken up turkey hunting either don't want or don't have time to shoot the birds in the fall. Consequently, more birds are making it through the fall into the spring season.
"I anticipate this next year is going to be a good season," Simons said. "My only concern is similar to what happened to us in 2002, when we had a huge hatch in 2001 and we had a bunch of jakes in 2002. The jakes just dominated the scene. A guy would be trying to work a bird and a gang of jakes would come in and push that mature bird off. We had a big hatch this year -- so we'll have lots of jakes next year."
Ken Mayer of All American Outfitters in Clarendon will book 40 or 50 guided turkey hunts a year on 15,000 acres in Donley and Hall counties.
"We are getting so many turkeys here that they are starting to be a nuisance during deer season," Mayer said. "Not many local guys really hunt turkeys here. They eat up feed at deer feeders before deer get there. A lot of these landowners here just think they are vermin."
Mayer notes that strong reproduction has filled the region with flocks of turkeys. "We haven't had a bad hatch for the last four or five years," he observed. "Two years ago I found a nest when hunting that had 14 eggs in it. And last season, Dad found a nest that had 16 eggs in it. Ever since I've been hunting turkeys here, we've seen more and more every year.
"We killed 40 turkeys with 29 hunters in 2004. We have guys who want to book a three- or four-day hunt, but I tell 'em to not plan on more than two days, because we're only going to let 'em shoot two gobblers. Most people don't believe they can count on getting their two gobblers in two days of hunting, but they're apt to see 100 in a day."
In the fall of 2004, Mayer reports, they were seeing groups of upwards of 100 hens and poults, and 20 to 30 longbeards per group.
This is the only region of the state in which turkey hunters are required to check gobblers in at TPWD check stations and shotguns are the only legal firearms.
"This marks another milestone in the state's successful effort to restore the wild turkey on suitable habitat in East Texas," said Dr. Mike Berger, director of the department's Wildlife Division. "The commission's charge to us has been to maximize hunting opportunity whenever that resource can sustain it."
By region, the Edwards Plateau produces the most gobblers, with about 7,500 birds taken each year. The Cross Timbers region, which stretches from Fort Worth to Brownwood, is second, with about 6,000 birds taken.
The season for eastern gobblers first opened only in 1995, and then in just one county, but it has now extended to 42 counties through the Pineywoods and portions of the Post Oak Savannah.
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