Fall turkey season prospects look good in Texas

Brownwood Bulletin
Scott Anderson

The fall turkey hunting season in Texas should be a good one, according to Jason Hardin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Wild Turkey Program leader.

“If you had birds last year in the areas that you’re hunting, you’ll have them again this year,” Hardin said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “We’ve had a pretty decent hatch the last few years, so across most of the state, you should have similar opportunities to what you’ve had in the past.”

Freezing weather in January and February may have presented a temporary setback as turkeys headed into nesting season. But plenty of rainfall and a mild summer followed, so populations should have recovered nicely from any losses that occurred in the winter.

With archery season set to begin Oct. 2 and the general fall season opening on Nov. 6, Hardin said it is important to check which counties have an open season.

New this year are some changes to TPWD’s north and south turkey hunting zones.

TPWD reorganized the fall south zone to include Goliad, Gonzales and Wilson counties.

Pay attention to your Outdoor Annual, go look up your county and figure out what day your season opens. Moving forward, we hope it will be a lot less confusing on those regulations. If you’re south of Highway 90, your season will open the Saturday closest to March 18. If you’re north of Highway 90, your season will open the Saturday closest to April 1.

Another change introduced by TPWD are mandatory turkey harvest reporting regulations for Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee, Matagorda, Milam and Wharton counties. Those counties also have a one-gobbler annual bag limit. Turkeys harvested in those areas must be reported online or through the My Texas Hunt Harvest app within 24 hours.

It’s just tracking the population. We have our small-medium harvest survey that works really well for most of our four-bird bag limit counties in the heart of the Rio Grande [turkey] country. But those 10 counties are on the eastern edge of the Rio Grande range, and we just don’t get enough harvest to track that population. So, to get a better idea of what’s going on in that area population-wise and harvest-wise, we’ve implemented mandatory harvest reporting.

Panola County will no longer have a spring turkey season. Hardin cited low hunting participation and a smaller turkey population as factors in discontinuing turkey hunting there.

In addition to a Texas hunting license, an upland game bird endorsement is required to hunt turkeys. For complete regulations on the 2021-22 turkey season, visit TPWD’s website.

Beware of prussic acid poisoning

I am receiving calls concerning cattle dying from prussic acid poisoning, but also by drought stress.

Cyanogenic compounds in sorghum species can be brought to life by a killing frost. These compounds heighten the risk of prussic acid poisoning, and livestock will suffer the consequences if affected forages aren’t managed correctly. Many times, livestock losses occur when changing pastures.

Cyanogenic compounds are usually found in nontoxic forms and are bound in plant tissues for most of the year. A cold weather spike can release these compounds, and when a killing frost ruptures plant tissues, prussic acid forms. Cutting sudan for hay also stresses the plant to the point that the regrowth will most likely be toxic when grazed.

“Sorghum, johnsongrass, and shattercane contain the greatest levels of prussic acid and can still be hazardous as weeds in pure stands. Sudangrass contains approximately 40% less prussic acid than other sorghums; however, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids contains greater levels of the toxic compound than sudangrass alone.

Ruminant animals are more susceptible to the effects of prussic acid than their monogastric counterparts. Cattle can consume large amounts of forage, and the release of cyanide might be expedited by the microbes in their rumens. Even so, it only takes a little bit of prussic acid to wreak havoc on animal health.

Cyanide interferes with the oxygen-carrying function in the blood, resulting in animal asphyxiation. A concentration of a mere 0.1% or greater of dry tissue is considered dangerous and can kill livestock.

Symptoms of prussic acid poisoning can appear within minutes of ingestion. These include labored breathing, excessive salivation, staggered movement, and convulsions. To prevent prussic acid poisoning, follow these recommendations for grazing, chopping, and mowing frosted forages.

Grazing: If a killing frost occurs, do not graze or greenchop sorghum species for seven to 10 days. Duppstadt says since cyanide is a gas, it will dissipate slowly over time. Prussic acid levels are highest in plant leaves, and levels will not decline until plant tissues die.

A nonkilling frost can still make forages toxic. Avoid grazing regrowth from a frosted field for at least two weeks, or until plants are 2 feet in height. Even after a pasture meets these criteria, Duppstadt advises farmers to take additional action before allowing cattle to graze.

Animals may selectively graze young growth that still has high concentrations,” Duppstadt warns. Rotational grazing or feeding with other safe pastures, dry hay, or ground cereal grains beforehand can reduce the risk by decreasing their overall consumption.

During the fermentation process, cyanide gas will escape. Nonetheless, it is still necessary to test prussic acid levels before feeding.

Baling: Farmers can mow forage any time after a frost if it will be left to wilt. Duppstadt says prussic acid levels can drop 75% when hay is left to dry in a field, reducing the risk of poisoning significantly. Of course, drying forage late in the season to bale is often a difficult process.

Prussic acid can cause problems throughout the growing season, not just when it freezes. High fertilization rates and drought-like conditions encourage this toxin to accumulate in sorghum species as well. If prussic acid poisoning occurs at any time, contact a veterinarian for immediate treatment.