While the 2022 drought and heat have reduced wild turkey numbers across Texas, hunters who hit the field this spring should see plenty of birds in areas that typically house huntable populations of wild turkeys.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologists say hunters will have the most luck in the Cross Timbers, Edwards Plateau and South Texas ecoregions.
“Much of the state had poor recruitment last spring and summer, but hunters should still expect to see quite a few 2-year-old and older gobblers,” said Jason Hardin, TPWD Wild Turkey Program leader. “The lack of juvenile hens may improve hunting conditions. Juvenile hens or jennies put little effort into nesting most years, and therefore are usually a distraction from hunters and their decoys. Once adult hens begin nesting, hunters should be able to find plenty of workable gobblers.”
In East Texas, only 12 counties have an open hunting season. Areas in the region that have traditionally supported a good population of turkeys will see similar conditions this year. Hunters are reminded to report their harvest of wild turkeys through the My Texas Hunt Harvest app or online within 24 hours of take. East Texas counties with an open spring season and mandatory reporting include Bowie, Cass, Fannin, Grayson, Jasper, Lamar, Marion, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Red River and Sabine.
The Rolling Plains has been a longtime destination for wild turkey hunters. Historically, this area has held very good numbers of birds along major and secondary watersheds like the Canadian River, the Salt Fork and the Red River. The drought of 2022 has reduced overall turkey numbers, but there are still huntable populations across the Rolling Plains. The past decade has seen a decline in overall turkey numbers in parts of the ecoregion. TPWD biologists are hoping recent winter moisture will continue to set the stage for a good nesting season.
The Edwards Plateau has long been a stronghold for wild turkeys, providing some of Texas’ highest bird densities and annually producing some of the highest harvest numbers. This is especially true in the western portion of the region though, like the rest of the Rio Grande wild turkey range production and recruitment were down significantly in 2022, with very few poults produced. The good news is there are still lots of mature birds on the landscape.
As with most large ecoregions, TPWD biologists have mixed reports of turkey numbers and recruitment in South Texas. While the areas around Uvalde reported below-average production and recruitment over the last two years, other areas in the Coastal Sand Sheet in Brooks, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy counties reported fair recruitment. Hunters should expect to see lots of 2-year-old gobblers across most areas that hold wild turkeys in South Texas. Hunters should focus their efforts on creeks and drainages with larger trees in the central and western portions of South Texas and around oak mottes in the Coastal Sand Sheet.
Ten counties in the Oaks and Prairies ecoregion of Central Texas (Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee, Matagorda, Milam and Wharton) offer a spring season from April 1–30. Historically, there hasn’t been a significant number of turkeys in the region so only a spring season is offered, and hunters are only allowed a one-bird bag limit per county. Starting last year, all wild turkeys harvested in these counties now have mandatory harvest reporting requirements and must be reported within 24 hours through the My Texas Hunt Harvest app or online.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved a digital tagging option for those hunters who purchased a Super Combo license online. All hunters who chose to use the digital tagging option must report their harvested wild turkey at the time of harvest. Rules and guidance associated with the new digital tagging option can be found on the TPWD Website.
The data obtained from these harvest reports helps TPWD better manage this population. TPWD encourages turkey hunters to learn about and share these new rules with fellow turkey hunters and landowners in the region to help TPWD keep tabs on these populations.
The traditional North Zone spring season boundary has moved south to Highway 90 west of San Antonio. Several counties in the southern Edwards Plateau that were previously in the South Zone are now part of the North Zone. The South Zone Counties open annually on the Saturday closest to March 18 and the North Zone opens the Saturday closest to April 1.
Hunters are reminded to review the Outdoor Annual before opening day to ensure they are hunting during a legal season. Hunters can check the TPWD website for exact season dates for the county where they plan to hunt. Hunters must possess an Upland Stamp Endorsement to hunt wild turkeys in Texas.
The spring season dates are as follows:
Rio Grande: North Zone — March 25–26; May 20– 21
Rio Grande: South Zone — March 11– 12; May 6– 7
Spring Regular Season
Rio Grande: North Zone — April 1 – May 14
Rio Grande: South Zone — March 18 – April 30
Rio Grande: Special One Turkey Bag Limit — April 1– 30
Eastern Turkey: April 22 – May 14
Additional information about harvest reporting, bag limits and more can be found in the Outdoor Annual on the TPWD website or via the Outdoor Annual app. Both apps are available for free download from Google Play or the App Store.