There are no outdoor pursuits that compare with spring turkey hunting in Texas, due in large part to the nature of the game you’re pursuing and the often quirky behavior known firsthand by veteran hunters.
The general Rio Grande spring turkey season runs March 18 to April 30 in South Texas and two weeks later in northern counties, and though the success rate across the state generally is less than 40 percent overall, hunters should learn a new lesson each time they strike out in order to cash in on their next opportunity. Just as there are plenty of nuances to turkey behavior, you can do little things to complement tried and true practices in the field that may help out in your pursuits.
With this in mind, here’s an A to Z look at turkey hunting in Texas, including tips, tactics and regulations for the crafty birds.
Spring turkey hunting guide
Advance scouting can help you find roost sites and travel corridors.
Bring a box call, even if you prefer a slate or mouth call, since the box can spit out louder cackles and bring more attention, especially if it’s windy.
Camouflage yourself from head to toe, including gloves and face mask, since turkeys have excellent eyesight.
Decoys certainly help bring in social birds, and deploying more than one may entice them even more.
Even small variances in the terrain can make a turkey seem farther or closer than it really is, so let the birds come to you instead of going to them.
Find a wide tree to sit up against, which will break up your silhouette when you set up to call in birds.
Grab a comfortable cushion to pad your derriere, even if you have a turkey vest with a built-in seat, to make it easier on longer waits.
Hold still if you can see birds, and if you must move to get a shot, wait until a strutting gobbler is looking away from you.
Inspect your setup and get rid of vegetation that may hinder a shot or add cover if you find the perfect tree that’s a little bare.
Join in on the calling if you’re not alone to give the impression of multiple birds in an area.
Keep proof of sex (leg with spur, patch of feathers with beard) on your bird(s) until you get home and don’t breast them out until at a final destination.
Line up your shotgun sights just above the feather line on a turkey’s neck instead of directly at the head so you’ll still see it if it moves and won’t shoot high.
Make sure you have a $7 upland game bird stamp (endorsement) on your hunting license.
Napping under a big cottonwood or oak is understandable, but stay alert otherwise since early season birds may not be as vocal and could sneak in quietly.
Only shoot gobblers or jakes since hens, unless they also have beards, are illegal to harvest in the spring.
Pattern your shotgun and get comfortable holding it while sitting
Quiet, call-shy birds can be had, but setting up an ambush along a travel route likely is your best and only option.
Reach for a locator call (owl hooter, crow cackle) if you know birds are in the area but aren’t reacting to your turkey impressions.
Set your sights carefully when attempting to shoot, even with a tight turkey choke, especially if hens are near your gobbler.
Treat clothes with permethrin, which will kill disease-carrying ticks.
Use bug repellent with DEET to deter mosquitoes for the same reason.
Vocal birds often won’t cross fences or wade through thick vegetation, so set up to make it easier for them to come in.
Watch for snakes, especially during warm afternoons in dense cover.
X marks the spot for feeding and dusting areas, so look for tracks or feathers that have fallen off and set up near them if you haven’t had luck elsewhere.
You can expect to walk a lot if birds aren’t responding and you’ve got to seek them out, so wear comfortable boots.
Zero in on having fun and take along a youth, especially during the youth-only season dates, which are March 11-12 and May 6-7 in South Texas and March 25-26 and May 20-21 in northern counties.
Turkey hunting can be tough. It’s a fact proven the hard way.
However, there’s no such thing as a bad spring turkey hunt — even the ones that don’t turn out like you expect. All you can do is chalk it up to the next time you’ve got the chance to chase after a wily gobbler and enjoy the scope of the spring panorama.
I promise you won’t be disappointed.