State kicks off turkey hunt April 19

Athens, Ohio – April 19 through May 16 will provide turkey
hunters with many opportunities to hunt Ohio’s estimated 200,000
wild turkeys.

After a very abusive winter of deep snow and limited food
sources, one wonders about the fate of turkeys. Have many survived?
Will we have hunt able numbers? What portions of Ohio will provide
2010 turkey hunters with the best opportunities?

There’s no legally hunted wild game species that maintains
constant numbers. Many factors control wildlife populations.
Weather conditions, predators, food abundance and human pressures
dictate each species survival. Obviously, Ohio has been successful
with maintaining adequate wild turkey numbers. But, your successes
each spring can change because of numerous factors.

When you begin your pursuit of a majestic gobbler this April,
what are the most obvious counties in Ohio to locate turkeys?

“The short answer is that wild turkeys have declined in
southeastern Ohio since the population spike experienced after the
1999 record hatch. A dry spring/summer continued then -_with an
emergence of the 17-year cicadas hatch – led to high brood
survival, record turkey populations, and harvests,” said Mike
Reynolds, a turkey biologist for the DNR_Division of Wildlife.
“This decline was not unexpected and a couple of good poult hatches
will likely help boost overall turkey numbers again. Meanwhile,
rapid population growth and expansion have led too increased
populations in other parts of Ohio.”

“Some of the best turkey populations in southern Ohio right now
are in the counties bordering the Ohio River, from Clermont County
to Gallia County,” he said. “These two counties experienced an
abundant cicada hatch and good turkey brood survival in 2008. I
believe these counties should have a strong number of 2-year-old
birds during 2010. Highland County and the west side of Ross County
also experienced this hatch, but not the east side of Ross County.
So, there are likely fewer numbers of turkeys in the traditionally
strong numbers of birds in Tar Hollow. Although there have been a
decent sized number of flocks in the Tar Hollow area this winter,
they frequent the agricultural fields on private lands, along the
west side of the State Forest.”

Reynolds believes that private lands are one of the best spots
to find turkeys this spring.

“I would be quick to add in most southeastern Ohio Counties,
wild turkey harvests remain at, or even slightly above, the harvest
and population levels observed before the population spike observed
in the early 2000s (after the 1999 turkey hatch). For Ohio’s
future, turkey populations will likely fluctuate with reproduction
success. Hunters should always expect ups and downs in established
turkey populations,” he added.

Last year, Ohio had the third highest turkey harvest on record
behind the 2001 and 2002 harvest records. From a habitat management
standpoint, as Ohio’s forests mature, landowners need to conduct
more thinning and prescribed burning in forests to improve nesting
and brood-rearing habitat for turkeys, said Reynolds. Maintenance
of herbaceous openings, or food plots, will also create better wild
turkey brood habitat.

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