By Gary Jonier
TFB Radio Network Manager

With many mature toms strutting across the Rio Grande turkey range, Texas hunters should have a good shot at a long beard this spring.

Jason Hardin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) turkey program leader, said good habitat conditions could make for challenging hunting, but the middle to latter part of the season should be phenomenal.

The general spring season for Rio Grande turkeys in the South Zone runs through April 28 and then culminates with a youth-only weekend May 4-5.

In the North Zone, the next youth-only weekend season is May 18-19. The current North Zone general season runs through May 12.

A special one-gobbler limit season runs April 1-30 in Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee, Matagorda, Milam and Wharton counties.

Hardin said there are not many jakes this year due to low recruitment associated with dry conditions the past two years.

“We really bumped the turkey population up in 2015 and 2016. You’re going to see a lot of three- and four-year-old toms out there,” Hardin told the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “A lot of our toms live to be a ripe old age. So expect to see a bunch of big, mature toms out there this year.”

Hardin recommended hunters rely on their decoys to do most of the work and minimize calling, as late- season gobblers will be wary of calls. He stressed that those hunters willing to put in the time and patience this spring should have an opportunity to harvest a boss tom.

“We don’t have a lot of hunting pressure in Texas. Our harvest rates are usually around three to five percent statewide. It provides a lot of opportunities because our harvest rates are so low,” Hardin said.

He noted spur length is probably a hunter’s best bet to age a turkey, especially if the bird is 3-years-old or older.

New this season, hunters have the option to use pre-charged pneumatics (air guns) as legal means for harvesting Rio Grande turkeys in Texas.

Eastern spring turkey hunting in the counties having an open season starts a week later this year on April 22 and runs through May 14. Hunters are required to report harvest of eastern turkeys electronically to TPWD within 24 hours of harvest.

Reports can be made through the TPWD My Texas Hunt Harvest App or online from the TPWD turkey page at

The app is available for free download from Google Play or the App Store. Hunters will be issued a confirmation number upon completion of the reporting process. Hunters still have to tag harvested birds.

The harvest reporting app can also be used as a tool for voluntarily reporting and tracking harvests of other resident game species, including Rio Grande turkeys. With My Texas Hunt Harvest, hunters can log harvested game animals and view harvest history, including dates and locations of every hunt.