Spring turkey harvest: state’s second best on record

Columbus – The recently completed spring turkey season was the
second best on record in Ohio, according to the DNR_Division of
Wildlife.

Hunters checked 21,909 wild turkeys during Ohio’s four-week,
statewide season that ended May 16, according to the Division of
Wildlife.

The preliminary total represents nearly a 16 percent increase
over last year’s preliminary harvest number of 18,936.

Only 2001 was a better season, one in which Ohio hunters killed
more than 26,000 birds.

Ashtabula County again led the state in the number of turkeys
killed with 923. Counties with additional high harvest numbers
were: Clermont – 664; Harrison and Tuscarawas – 621; Guernsey –
618; Highland – 612; Adams – 606; Trumbull – 588; Monroe – 576; and
Coshocton – 563.

In addition to the turkeys taken during the regular season,
young hunters harvested another 2,184 birds during a special hunt
for ages 17 and younger held April 17-18.

A cicada hatch, primarily in southern Ohio, in 2008 paid big
dividends for this year’s turkey crop, said Mike Reynolds, a
Division of Wildlife biologist.

“That’s really what drove this kill,” said Reynolds. “If you
look at the numbers … we can make some pretty good assumptions
based on where turkeys were checked as to where they were
killed.”

The numbers indicate that the greatest increases came in
southeast and southwest Ohio whereas the other parts of the state
showed just nominal increases, said Reynolds. District 4, which
includes southeast Ohio, saw a harvest increase of 25 percent. The
increase in District 5 – southwest Ohio – was 22 percent.

“The increase in kill in southern Ohio really drove the harvest
this year,” Reynolds said. “It was because of the 2008 cicada
hatch. We had incredible nest weather so we had turkeys hatching
out poults. And, secondly we had great poult survival.”

Counties that saw some of the biggest increases over last year
were the suburban Cincinnati counties of Clermont, Highland and
Adams, Reynolds said.

“Those Cincinnati hunters stayed right there in southwest Ohio
and they had phenomenal success,” he said.

Reynolds said he is already looking forward to 2016 when another
cicada hatch should blanket eastern Ohio.

“Those are incredible events that can take a good turkey season
and turn it into a phenomenal turkey season.”

Cicadas are pure protein, and when a hatch occurs they are
available everywhere as a food source, Reynolds said. Poults can
maximize their growth rate and their survival during such an event.
When this happens, you typically see a lot of jakes in the first
year after a cicada hatch.

“In the second year (after a cicada hatch), you’ll see a lot of
2-year-old birds out there that do a lot of gobbling, make for more
fun, and better hunting,” said Reynolds. “That’s what we saw this
spring.”

Reynolds expects this event to have a carryover effect into next
year’s spring season.

“There’s going to be a lot of mature gobblers in southern Ohio,”
the biologist said. “There’s going to be a lot of 3-year-old birds
with some nice spurs and beards on them.”

There is also a word of caution for next year, says
Reynolds.

“2009 was not a good hatch,” he said. “Although we’re going to
have some carryover, especially in southern Ohio, it would not
surprise me if in the spring of 2011 the kill drops a little bit. I
still think it will be over 20,000 birds (harvested), but we may
see a dip.”

Right about now is the time that adult turkeys should be
hatching poults. The weather so far this spring has been somewhat
conducive to a decent hatch, Reynolds said. In any event, fingers
are crossed, he said.

“A_good hatch this year could (offset) the effect of a poor
hatch last year,” he said. “We have some good things going on with
turkeys and hopefully it will continue.”

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 wild turkey
population in Ohio to be more than 240,000 birds. The annual
gobbler kill typically represents about 10 percent of the overall
flock.

Wild turkeys were nearly extirpated 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 licenses purchased now are also
valid during the 2010 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 2010-2011
licenses will not be printed on weatherproof paper. Sportsmen and
women should protect their licenses and permits from the elements
by carrying them in a protective pouch or wallet.

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