For the past 10 years or so, the Eastern Turkey has steadily declined in numbers.

The numbers have dwindled so much that many counties no longer have an Eastern Turkey season. What was once a success story has now become a question mark.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department stocked Easterns in over 40 counties in the 1990s, and the birds seemed to do extremely well. Hunting seasons were established and Spring turkey hunting seemed to be in East Texas to stay.

Things have declined and what few counties that still have a season are planning on closing hunting. The counties bordering the Red River and the southern counties on the Sabine River are actually the only counties still enjoying an abundance of these majestic birds.

Newton and Sabine Counties are less populated than Gregg or Harrison Counties, so that could have something to do with the decline, but I have not read any data explaining the lower numbers. I traveled through Sabine and Newton Counties last week and saw turkeys while driving along the highway. Panola County while having a season this year will close the season going forward. The slow ride through Sabine bottoms in Panola County will usually turn up a few birds, but again not in the numbers of just a few years ago.

This years season breaks down this way: Between now and May 14 in the East Texas counties still participating. This is tricky and a little research may be necessary. Go to the TP&W website or handbook to see if the county you plan to hunt still has a season. You will have to check to be sure where you are hunting is not bordering another county that may not have a season. If your hunt results in a harvest, know what steps are required after the shot.

Reporting the harvest is the law, but a little reading will make the entire process simple.

The limit is one gobbler, and there are multiple restrictions in place for the hunter. In addition to the regular hunting license, an Upland Game Bird Endorsement is required. Shotgun, archery and crossbows are the only lawful means of taking a turkey. No hunting over bait of any type. This includes deer feeders. All turkeys must be reported to the department within 24 hours after they are killed.

There are two methods to report the harvest. Download the TPWD app (link is below) or go online. The harvested turkeys may be field dressed, but must otherwise remain intact until reaching a final destination.

Check the county you plan to hunt and get that gobbler.

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