Turkey kill predicted at about 18,000

Athens, Ohio — The spring turkey season in Ohio – April 22 to May 19 – is shaping up to be close to last year when Ohio hunters killed around 18,000 birds.

“I’m going to guess that we’re going to see a harvest pretty similar to last year, right around 18,000 birds,” said Mike Reynolds, a biologist for the DNR Division of Wildlife in Athens.

The 2011 hatch was one of the worst on record for Ohio, Reynolds said. That year, torrential rains, flooding and cold temperatures prevented optimum hatch conditions, the biologist said.

“It just wasn’t a great year for turkey brood survival,” he said.

A much better hatch occurred in 2012.

“So, you’re probably going to see fewer 2-year-olds this season and a lot of times the 2-year-olds are going to be the most vocal and vulnerable to hunters,” Reynolds said. “But, that will be set off by a better number of jakes than we saw the year before.”

Two-year-old turkeys are typically the most harvested bird because they are the most vocal and readily located by hunters, Reynolds said. They are not the most dominant birds in the bunch and they typically won’t have a harem of hens with them.

“So, they’re doing a little more gobbling to attract a few hens while the boss gobblers might have a whole harem collected,” Reynolds explained. “When we have a good hatch, we usually have a good harvest two years later because those birds are really vocal and they’re looking for hens.”

Ohio hunters in subsequent years should be looking forward to better turkey hunting, Reynolds said.

“The good news is that with a better spring (hatch) in 2013 combined with 2012 things will be looking up for 2014,” he said.

There are still likely a handful of birds leftover from 2008 that will be true longspurs, Reynolds said. Any lucky hunter who stumbles upon one of those birds will be fortunate.

“That last great cicada hatch from 2008, most of those birds (from that year) are likely dead and gone by now,” he said. “But, if there’s a few of those turkeys still out there, some hunters are going to be real lucky with a real trophy bird.”

The next great cicada hatch, which is good for turkeys because they gorge on them, will be in 2016.

“That one will be throughout almost the entire eastern half of the state,” Reynolds said. “The last time that brood (of cicadas) hatched was in 1999 and it resulted in phenomenal growth in the turkey population. In 2001, 2002 and 2003 we had some of the best turkey harvests in the history of the state.”

Biologists hope this spring comes on warm and stays warm for turkey brood survival.

“A couple of warm springs strung together and we’ll see some rebound in the turkey numbers and get some really good hunting,” Reynolds said.

The turkey population in Ohio is estimated at about 180,000. Typically, the spring harvest represents about 10 percent of the overall population, Reynolds said.

“They may not be as vocal as other years, but overall turkey numbers are still pretty good,” he said.

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