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Texas outlook: lots of Jakes, harder hunts for mature gobblers

From the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

-- Turkey hunters in Texas are going to see a lot of jakes and hear from even more this spring, but finding mature gobblers will depend on hunting location.

Most of the state's spring turkey hunting activity occurs in South Texas and in the Hill Country. The Parks and Wildlife Department estimates about 50,000 hunters take part in Texas' spring turkey season, harvesting about 25,000 gobblers.

While most of the Rio Grande turkey range experienced excellent nesting conditions this past spring and summer, after four years of little to no production across much of their territory, the number of mature gobblers will be limited in some areas.

Even so, it may shape up to be a better season than last year, when two years of drought played havoc with nesting success across much of the state.

The abundant rains much of the state enjoyed last year increased nesting cover and the food supply, which led to a huge hatch. That means a lot of young gobblers and juvenile hens.

Texas has the highest density of Rio Grande turkeys in the world. There will still be plenty of mature toms for harvest among lightly hunted populations.

Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season opens in the 102 North Zone counties on April 2 and runs through May 15.

The 54-county South Zone opened March 19 and continues through May 1. Special youth-only weekends are March 26 and 27 and May 21 and 22 in the North Zone, and  May 7 and 8 in the South Zone.

A special one-gobbler-only Rio Grande spring season is set for April 1 to 30 in 8 counties, including Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee and Milam counties.

The spring gobbler-only eastern turkey season is open in 43 East Texas counties from April 1 to 30 with a one-bird bag.

Statewide regulations allow the use of shotgun, rifle, handgun, legal archery equipment or crossbow to take Rio Grande turkey. However, individual landowners and public hunting areas may further restrict the devices to be used. The bag limit for Rio Grande turkey is four turkeys per license year. Regulations and bag limits vary by county.  Only gobblers are allowed to be harvested during the spring hunting season.

For season dates and bag limits, consult the Outdoor Annual online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/annual/.

2010-Eastern turkey hunting is limited to shotgun, lawful archery equipment or crossbow, with a one-gobbler bag limit. All harvested eastern turkeys must be taken to a check station within 24 hours. Contact a TPWD field office, call (800)792-1112 or check online to find a check station at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/season/stations/.

TPWD's public hunting program offers the opportunity to participate in low cost, family oriented, spontaneous hunts for turkeys. Each year, the department publishes maps of more than 1 million acres of public hunting lands. Access for turkey hunting is provided by the Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit. Find information online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/hunt/public/#aph.

The permit costs $48 and may be purchased wherever hunting licenses are sold, and allows an adult access to designated public hunting lands. Having purchased the appropriate Texas hunting licenses and stamps, holders of an APH Permit may take children under age 17 hunting free of charge on these public hunting lands.

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