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Strutting Rio Grande gobblers found plentiful this spring season

April 6, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated April 5, 2014 at 11:06 p.m.

A solid 2012 hatch has many 2-year-old birds on the ground in the Crossroads.

Green buds on trees, pollen in the breeze, bluebonnets along the highway and Rio Grande toms gobbling in South Texas are rites of spring.

Turkey season runs through April 27 in the South Zone, and according to reports around Victoria, there are plenty of strutting birds.

"It looks really good around, and the toms have been strutting," said veteran hunter Randy Stacy. "There are lots of 2-year-old birds out there from the good hatch we had a couple of years ago."

Range conditions have improved with spring rains. That, combined with excellent nesting habitat conditions this year could result in above-normal breeding activity.

And when turkeys are in the mood for love, they are on the move and more susceptible to hunters.

Stiff winds this week and overcast skies hinder bird movement; however, when the sun pops out again, so should gobblers.

The North Zone season runs through May 11, and prospects look solid as well.

Trophy hunters after true longbeards have reported good decoying action. However, as the season progresses, don't look for too many gullible beards among the bluebonnets.

"There are lots of jakes (juveniles)," said Stacy. "But most hunters don't shoot jakes, anyway. I have seen lots of large, old birds, and many are hot on hens."

Texas Parks and Wildlife estimates about 72,000 hunters take part in the spring turkey season, taking about 25,000 gobblers. Most spring turkey hunting occurs in South Texas and the Hill Country.

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.

Fifty Rio Grande wild turkeys sporting shiny and colored leg bracelets are roaming the woods this spring in Llano and Mason counties. Some have designer backpacks and state-of-the-art electronics.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists working closely with local landowners trapped, tagged and outfitted these birds with GPS tracking devices for Rio Grande wild turkey fieldwork to identify specific habitat characteristics of nesting, brood-rearing, loafing and roosting sites.

The project consists of three turkey trapping sites on private land in eastern Mason and western Llano counties. Local landowners and biologists alike are interested in how this high-tech information can improve land management decisions.

South Texas spring turkey season is a shotgun-only affair with a bag limit of four birds per season. Patience is of the utmost importance with still, quiet, full-camouflaged shooters bagging the majority of wary birds.

If nothing else, enjoy Texas' spring wildflowers growing in a pasture or meadow near you.

Recent rains have flora blooming wild, and the picture painted when a gobbler struts amid the flowers is often more of a prize than the bagged bird itself.

Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain. He can be reached at binkgrimes@sbcglobal.net.

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