Turkey populations are dependent upon good habitat to reproduce and thrive. Habitat is probably the most important component to maintaining a healthy population of birds in just about any area. However, there is one thing that can really help the long-term turkey hunting outlook as well as annual reproduction: Weather. Wild turkey numbers tend to follow environmental conditions very closely. More accurately, turkey populations and climatic conditions are closely correlated.
Favorable weather patterns mean better turkey habitat, additional and high quality forage, and better reproduction. Texas has faced very dry conditions in two of the past three years. This year is looking much better than 2008 and 2009, but when it comes to turkey hunting this spring, the past years are much more important at adding birds into the current, huntable population.
Like most wildlife populations, wild turkey numbers can be highly impact by a few bad years. Texas, for example, went through drought conditions in both 2008 and 2009. As a result of poor rainfall, native habitat suffered and so did the turkey nesting. Extreme heat and dry conditions left little in the way of food and turkey nest literally baked on the ground. Without adequate soil moisture, the earth cannot “sweat” to cool itself, and turkey eggs get overly heated. As a result of two very dry years, very few birds were recruited into existing turkey populations over the past two years. As such, these birds will be “missing” in future hunting seasons.
Looking back over the past years, it looks like 2010 Spring turkey hunting season in Texas will be fair at best, except for areas where excellent turkey habitat exist and proper harvest management have been practiced in the past. Those areas stand to have another good season thanks to proper turkey management. The last 3 out of 4 years have been dry, and it could be catching up with turkey throughout Texas, especially the Hill Country.
That being said, climatic conditions over this past winter have set this Spring up to be the best in 5 years as far as potential turkey nesting goes. In fact, the next few months are quite important to add a new cohort of turkey to the existing population. Three bad years of turkey production really could put a damper on bird numbers in certain areas where sound harvest and turkey management practices are not implemented.
In closing, wild turkey populations as a whole are doing fine, but hunters as well as turkey populations stand to benefit from improved climatic and turkey habitat conditions. Hunters heading to the field should find 3 year old birds that were born during the good-rainfall year of 2007, but don’t expect to see a bunch of jakes. There will be some older birds around, but let’s hope this year can put a bunch of young turkey on the ground. Good huntin’!
Turkeys have already spread out and I have seen gobblers strutting in both Bell and Blanco Counties earlier this week. It looks like hunting will be better earlier in the season rather than later.