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Texas’ 2007 Spring Turkey Outlook
Plenty of mature toms are out there, and ready to talk turkey. How’s the coming spring season shaping up around our state? ... [+] Full Article
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Texas Sportsman
Texas’ Spring Turkey Forecast

Since some counties have slightly different regulations or bag limits, it’s always smart to check the Parks and Wildlife Department’s Web site or the 2007-08 Outdoor Annual to make sure you hunt legally.

Though some form of spring turkey hunting is legal in 195 of the state’s 254 counties, even a quick look at the latest available turkey harvest numbers shows that in spring 2006 most of the hunters (25,265) killed the most gobblers (10,609) in the Edwards Plateau region -- better known to many of us as the Hill Country. Hunters took about half as many gobblers (5,275) both in the Cross Timbers (the woody counties west of Fort Worth) and the Rolling Plains of West Texas. The only other region with a four-digit spring gobbler harvest was the South Texas Plains, where an estimated 3,971 turkeys were tagged during the spring hunt.

The harvest numbers explain why the TPWD has kept Dr. T. Wayne Schwertner stationed in Mason, right in the middle of Texas’ top turkey country. He has spent several years as the agency’s turkey program leader, though last fall, the department hired a new biologist to take on that job. Schwertner will now be focusing on the white wing dove resource.

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“It’s the same story over most of Texas,” he said in assessing the prospects for this year’s spring season. “The state got lots of rain in the spring and summer of 2007. When that happens, it makes wildlife biologists look like geniuses.”

Heavy rains in the “Big Three” turkey regions, the Edward Plateau, the Rolling Plains and South Texas, have resulted in good production of Rio poults.

“There are going to be a lot of jakes, but it won’t be a great year for a lot of gobblers,” Schwertner said. “There will be a lot of birds, but not many older gobblers with long beards and spurs.”

Though some years the Lone Star State’s varying weather patterns make the prospect different across the state, this year, as Schwertner said, the crystal ball is exceptionally clear from region to region.

“Wherever the Rio Grande occurs,” he continued, “it’s going to be a good year.”

Even up in the Panhandle, where only 119 gobblers were taken in 2006, the outlook for this spring is favorable, Schwertner said. Because much of the Panhandle is agricultural land, the turkeys are concentrated in the drainages, particularly in the Canadian River breaks. But in those rough draws, the hunting will be good.

The only downside when it comes to the robustness of Rios is the continuing urbanization along the Interstate 35 corridor.

“Every acre under concrete or a golf course is one less acre of turkey habitat,” Schwertner said. When enough rural acreage disappears, an area is obviously going to have fewer birds.

“If they experience enough disturbance, even if they still have some small pockets of habitat, turkeys will leave an area where urbanization has occurred,” he said.

But there is some indication that turkeys may be able to adapt to urbanization just like deer have done.

“Last spring, they saw some gobblers strutting behind the Parks and Wildlife headquarters in Austin,” Schwertner said. “The headquarters complex is not far from McKinney Falls State Park, but so far as I know, that’s a first to see wild turkeys around headquarters. That’s pretty close to the city now.”

He said the agency is working with the University of North Texas on a study focusing on an area near Lake Lewisville in Denton County. The researchers are trying to determine the minimum area required to support Rio Grande turkeys, as well as the minimum number of birds that need to be stocked to rejuvenate a population.

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