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ROBERT LINDER: It’s time for a little ‘mano y mano’ with gobblers

SPECIAL TO THE PICAYUNE

The spring turkey hunting season in Texas is upon us. It is a beautiful, exciting time of year for all turkey hunters. The bluebonnets are usually out, and it isn’t too hot yet.

Texas is fortunate to have about 500,000 Rio Grande species of turkey within our borders. We also have about 8,000 eastern species of turkey near our eastern border and in the Piney Woods area.

By mid-March, it is already getting warm in South Texas, and the turkeys breed a bit earlier down there. So Texas has a south zone and a north zone for turkey hunting. Basically, below Interstate 10 is our south zone and above is the north zone.

The south zone is open March 15-April 27 (Rio Grandes). The north zone is open March 29-May 11 (Rio Grandes). The eastern species season is April 15-May 14.

We have four turkey tags for use in most counties, allowing for a long hunting season. However, watch your regulations, as eight counties have a one-bird-only limit.

It is always best to get the free Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hunting and fishing regulations book. This book provides all of the information and requirements you need for a safe hunt. It will be necessary to purchase an Upland Gamer Bird Conservation Stamp along with your hunting license.

The main thing is to grab a hunting partner, or a family member, and get into the woods this spring with a box call or a slate call and enjoy watching the gobblers strut.

The breast of a turkey is some of the finest and healthiest of game meats. There are many recipes available to help you enjoy your gobbler.

Jakes, the first-year gobblers with short beards, are legal in Texas. It is the perfect bird for a first-time hunter or your younger family members. Look at the head of the turkey and make sure it is either red, white or blue and the bird has a beard coming out of its chest. Then, you know you have a gobbler.

Hens have dark grey heads and are smaller.

Most hunters use shotguns (12-gauge or 20-gauge) with 4-5 or 6-size shot. Birds need to be within 20-35 yards for a safe kill. Another key element is to be in camouflage with a camo face mask and gloves. Then, when the turkey is close, do not move. Turkeys have excellent eyesight, and their eyes are on the sides of their heads for seeing 270 degrees.

Patience is a virtue when hunting wild turkey. So have fun this spring as you pursue the wary, wild bird, mano y mano.

On March 21, at the Lakeside Pavilion, 307 Buena Vista Drive in Marble Falls, the Highland Lakes chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will hold a fundraising banquet for the conservation of the wild turkey. Put that date on your schedule. Call me at (713) 825-0425 for more information.

Robert Linder is a nationally recognized expert on turkey hunting and turkey calling.