Woods, Waters and Wildlife

Turkey time in Texas

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Indeed it is turkey time. Hunters have been practicing turkey calls for weeks!

The South Zone for Rio Grande turkey hunting opened March 17 and closes April 29. The North Zone opens March 31, closing May 13. In counties only allowing one turkey gobbler, the season runs April 1- 30. Most other counties in the south and north zones allow a four-bird bag limit (fall and spring seasons combined).

Some counties stipulate only gobblers may be taken; some also allow shooting bearded hens. Check the particular county in which you plan to hunt to avoid a fine and loss of your game bird. All counties are listed alphabetically in the back part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, the free regulations pamphlet available where licenses are sold, and through Texas Parks and Wildlife (TWPD) offices.

There is a different season and bag limit for eastern turkeys. It is in east Texas, as you might expect, and is only open in 15 counties, April 15- May 14. The bag limit is one gobbler, in the spring, only. There is no legal hunting of eastern turkeys in the fall. A special regulation requires that all eastern gobbler harvests be reported to TPWD within 24 hours of the kill. An app for smart phones – “My Hunting Harvest” – enables that. Or the website or a phone call will handle it. It’s a costly violation to fail to report. The difference in seasons and bag limits for eastern turkeys are good reasons to check counties in the Outdoor Annual. Hunting is expensive enough without the added cost of a hunting violation fine.

All legal firearms and archery gear are permissible for hunting Rio Grande turkeys, BUT, shotguns only are required for – you guessed it – eastern turkeys. See page 54 in the Outdoor Annual for archery regulations.

A few years ago, an outdoor writer colleague got sanctimonious in condemning using rifles instead of shotguns for turkey hunting. He claimed turkeys “deserved better” than being shot with rifles, writing that to hunt them around feeders and appealing to their need to feed was unethical. He wanted everybody to hunt with shotguns and call turkeys, like he does.

I hunt like he does – with a shotgun and turkey calls. But I admire someone who can make a clean kill – like a head shot – with a rifle. And appealing to hunger doesn’t seem any less ethical than appealing to breeding. Many male species – especially deer and man – have been reported to have preferred postponing a meal if given breeding as an alternative.

Most hunters nowadays use shotguns. Calling a turkey within range is a thrill.

TPWD turkey program leader Jason Hardin says there are plenty of turkeys in Texas, and many hens are already bred. That could mean gobblers will readily come to calls since unbred turkeys could be scarce. South Texas has high populations, as does the Hill Country. The Rolling Plains population is still low.

It’s important to wear camo and SIT STILL! Turkeys’ instincts detect even slight movement.

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