Texas is home to some great Rio Grande and Eastern turkey hunting, but wild turkey populations are constantly changing. Habitat loss, ever-changing weather patterns, and increased hunter demand means Eastern turkey hunting seasons and regulations will always adapt to manage Texas’ Eastern turkey population. That being known, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted turkey-hunting regulations for the 2011-2012 season, with relatively few changes.
Effective for the 2012 season, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is closing spring Eastern turkey hunting in the following 15 East Texas counties in response to low turkey populations and harvest numbers: Cherokee, Delta, Gregg, Hardin, Houston, Hunt, Liberty, Montgomery, Rains, Rusk, San Jacinto, Shelby, Smith, Tyler and Walker. Closing spring Eastern turkey seasons in these counties of Texas will enable biologists to reassess Eastern turkey restoration efforts in areas having suitable habitat, restock sites and provide brood stock protection.
Texas’ goal is to reopen turkey hunting once the Eastern turkey populations in the affected counties are capable of sustaining harvest. Reduced harvest combined with habitat improvement may help the cause. Let’s remember that much of Texas has been greatly impacted by drought during three of the past four years. And remember, turkey habitat management at the ranch level or through management co-ops can help Eastern turkeys at the local level.
Also effective for the 2012 season, TPWD is delaying spring Eastern turkey hunting in the remaining counties of Texas having an open turkey season by two weeks. This means the season will run from April 15 through May 14 beginning in 2012. Wildlife biologists say the delay gives hens time to begin nesting prior to the turkey season opening. Beginning in 2012, Texas hunters may harvest any bearded Rio Grande turkey during the spring season in all counties having a bag limit of four turkeys. This includes a lot of counties, many of which are located in north-central Texas, the Texas Hill Country, and South Texas. The turkey hunting season in Texas may be taking a slight haircut in your area, but remember that it’s the right decision if Eastern turkey populations are declining.
Texas weather has everything to do with turkeys, especially Eastern turkeys. For a good hatch, and for poults to thrive into adulthood, turkeys need rain at just the right times. Fall rains provide deep soil moisture that leads to an early green-up. In order for hens to prepare their bodies for laying, Eastern turkeys must have a diet high in protein before the breeding season begins. If they get the necessary nutrients, the hens will come into season and breed; if not, their Eastern turkey reproductive systems will short-circuit and shut down before the season starts, or shortly into it. When Eastern turkey hens become unresponsive, gobblers shut down, too, and the spring season is over almost before it begins