Turkey kill down this Ohio spring
Athens, Ohio — Hunters checked 17,647 wild turkeys during Ohio’s four-week statewide spring turkey hunting season that ended May 15, according to the DNR Division of Wildlife. The preliminary total represents a 3 percent decrease over last year’s harvest number of 18,162.
“We came in pretty close to 18,000,” said Division of Wildlife biologist Mike Reynolds, who had predicted that number prior to the season. “There was a high number of adult birds in the harvest. We knew we’ve had three bad hatches in a row so we expected to see a large number of adult birds. There were relatively few jakes in the harvest. We averaged about four adults per jake.”
Typically, the tom to jake ratio would be about 2-to-1, Reynolds said.
“In years where we have average hatches we see about two adults per jake,” he said. “Part of that is that we did have some holdover from 2008 but we also know we’ve had poor reproduction over the last couple of years.”
Ashtabula County again led the state in the number of turkeys killed with 762. Counties with additional high harvest numbers were: Tuscarawas-531, Guernsey-495, Coshocton-492, Muskingum-486,
Belmont-456, Knox-451, Harrison-450, Trumbull-428 and Adams-420.
“All in all, it looks like the record rain and flooding definitely had an impact on western Ohio,” Reynolds said. “We’ve been seeing steady growth in the western Ohio turkey kill in the past decade. We saw some setbacks there, particularly in southwest Ohio. We saw a mixed bag in eastern Ohio. A lot of counties were either close to last year or up. Counties down along the Ohio River were down.”
The Division of Wildlife, Reynolds said, sold about 10 percent fewer spring turkey permits than a year ago.
“So, overall success rates were pretty good,” he said. “We killed about the same number of birds with fewer hunters out there.”
The early and warm spring probably did have an impact on the kill, Reynolds said.
“By the end of the first week (of the season), it was green,” he said. “It was hard to hear and see turkeys. But, our hunters are adaptable and they were able to find ways to find birds.”
The Division of Wildlife estimates that more than 70,000 people hunted turkeys during the season. Prior to the start of the spring hunting season, state wildlife biologists estimated the turkey population in Ohio to be more than 180,000 birds.
The season could have been worse, Reynolds said.
“Had it not been for that 2008 hatch, I would have expected fewer birds,” would have been killed, he said. “Looking at next year, we have excellent hatch weather right now and I’m already getting brood reports. But, I’m expecting fewer turkeys will be killed next year. We’re not producing a whole lot of poults that past three years. But, if we get a good hatch (this year), we could start to rebound very quickly.”
Wild turkeys were nearly eliminated in Ohio before being reintroduced in the mid-1950s by the Division of Wildlife. The first spring turkey hunting season opened in 1966. Wild turkeys are now present in all 88 counties.
Turkey hunters are reminded that hunting licenses purchased now are also valid during the 2012 fall hunting season. Spring turkey permits are good for spring season only. Those participating in the fall turkey season will need to buy a fall turkey permit.
“The turkeys that will be harvested in the fall are young birds, but there really isn’t a big interest in fall hunting,” Reynolds said. “We don’t sell very many permits and success rates are very low in the fall.
That tells me that people are buying permits just in case. They’re bowhunting for deer and if they get the opportunity they may harvest a fall turkey. My guess is that they’re not actively seeking turkeys.”
Only about 20,000 turkey permits are typically sold in the fall, Reynolds said.
“We just don’t have strong fall hunting traditions like they do in New York and Pennsylvania,” he said.