Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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DNR crossing fingers on turkey hatch

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn Contributing
Writer

Athens, Ohio — With fingers crossed and a breathed sigh of
relief, Ohio’s forest game biologists are hopeful about this year’s
wild turkey hatch.

It wasn’t that way just a few weeks ago, however. That is when
DNR Division of Wildlife biologists were wearing down their worry
stones, concerned that the statewide bout of cool, wet weather had
seriously damaged wild turkey poult production.

Young turkeys are especially vulnerable to damp, chilly weather.
The birds frequently suffer from stress-related infections and
consequently die.

But it appears the state’s wild turkey flock has turned the
corner and may be in better shape than at first glance, says Dave
Swanson, the wildlife division’s chief forest game biologist.

“Early on, the reporting cards were indicating that people were
seeing a lot of lone hens or groups of hens,” Swanson said.

“During much of June, though, there’s been a greater number of
reporting cards that show hens with six, seven, eight, or even
nine, poults. I’m pretty optimistic and I think we’ll be okay.”

Swanson did say some reports point to renesting by hen turkeys,
which had seen their first sitting flooded out.

It is these late-arriving poults that are at greatest risk from
late June’s tremendous heavy rain showers, Swanson said.

Yet, the biologists are hopeful this year’s wild turkey
production will mirror that of last year.

Last year, the state calculated a 3.4 poult-to-hen ratio with
the long-term average being 3.3 poult-to-hen ratio, Swanson
said.

In Ohio, a typical hen wild turkey will produce between 10 and
12 eggs, though mortality generally hovers around 50 percent,
Swanson says.

Factor in predation along with bad weather and fully two-thirds
of a hen’s initial clutch are eventually lost even before the first
shot is fired during the autumn wild turkey hunting season, Swanson
says.

Ohio’s fall wild turkey hunting this year will run Oct. 14 to
Oct. 29 with the archery-only season running Oct. 30 to Nov. 26.
Between 1,200 and 1,500 birds are typically harvested during this
period, Swanson said.

And if poult production is good, then many of these harvested
birds will be from this year’s hatch. Otherwise “a lot of our hens
will get shot,” Swanson said.

Which, we hope, will not be the case this season, Swanson also
said.

“I believe we are headed in the right direction,” he said.

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