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Seasons & Regulations 2014 ING HUNT T FORECAS T TURKEY PHOTO © TODD STEELE H E L O N G -T E R M D R O U G H T has taken a toll on Rio Grande turkeys in the western edge of their range. Some areas in the eastern Panhandle have seen reductions in numbers below recent norms. South Texas has also experienced some recent declines. There- fore, there may not be a lot of young birds across much of the Rio’s range in Texas. Fortunately, says Jason Har- din, turkey program leader, hens can forgo nesting during drought years, which reduces their risk of mortality on the VIDEO Turkey Calling Basics 28 O TEXAS HUNTING 2014 nest and can sustain them to the next nesting season. “Even in drought years, hens can still pull off a successful nest with timely rainfall,” he explains. “The best years are those when the rains start in midwinter and keep coming until the opening of nesting season. Cooler summer tem- peratures can be a significant determining factor as well.” These droughts have not only reduced nesting success, but, more importantly, have caused the loss of vital roost- ing habitat. Roosting habitat is the chief limiting factor for the success of an area in sustaining Rio Grande turkeys. The South Texas Brush Country has lost a considerable number of hackberry trees, and these trees are some of the best roosting habitat in many counties. Without them, the carrying capacity of an area is reduced. “There was late production last year in parts of South Texas and decent production in the eastern portion of the Rio’s range this past sum- mer,” Hardin says. “There was good production last year across much of the Rio range, so there should be a decent number of 2-year-old birds out there to keep hunting interesting.” Hardin says it is always hard to provide a good forecast for the eastern wild turkey. “I have been getting reports on increases in observations this past fall,” he says. “Hope- fully this will lead to a bump in the number of observations.”