It's almost curtain time for East Texas spring turkey hunters. The spring gobbler season gets underway April 15 and runs through May 14 in 28 counties.
It's a pretty cool show when you get to play the game, one that revolves around calling a revved-up Tom into shotgun range and watching him gobble, spit, sputter and strut in a haughty display of self importance.
If it sounds like there are fewer East Texas counties with a spring season this year than there used to be, that's because there is.
In the mid-2000's, as many as 43 East Texas counties had a spring gobbler season. Then, citing dwindling populations and limited hunter participation, Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists in 2012 elected to close the season in 15 counties including Cherokee, Delta, Gregg, Hardin, Houston, Hunt, Liberty, Montgomery, Rains, Rusk, San Jacinto, Shelby, Smith, Tyler and Walker.
Plans are in the works to re-evaluate properties within some or all of those counties for possible "super stockings" with wild trapped birds in hopes that a season might be reopened in the future.
East Texas counties where it is still legal to hunt gobblers in the spring include Angelina, Bowie, Brazoria, Camp, Cass, Fannin, Fort Bend, Franklin, Grayson, Harrison, Hopkins, Jasper, Lamar, Marion, Matagorda, Morris, Nacogdoches, Newton, Panola, Polk, Red River, Sabine, San Augustine, Titus, Trinity, Upshur, Wharton and Wood.
Hunters are allowed to take one gobbler annually in these counties using shotgun, crossbow or archery gear, only. No rifles or hunting over bait allowed.
Historically, one of the best deals going for East Texas turkey hunters has been the availability of decent numbers of birds on public hunting lands.
These lands, which include several hundred thousand acres of national forest, and some wildlife management areas, are open for spring turkey hunting so long they are located within a county with an open season. A high percentage of the national forest land can be accessed for free; WMA entry requires a public hunting lands permit, which costs $48.