Turkey sightings in northwestern Ohio reason for hope
The photograph taken by the trailcam did not lie, but I had to look twice to believe it: Two wild hen turkeys strutting in the snow in a little meadow patch 200 yards behind my house on Froggy Bottom in western Sandusky County.
Lots of you who live in turkeyland take them for granted. But I have lived above the bottom, just above the 500-year flood line, for 44 years. It lies in the heart of “Agland,” where turkey biologists 35 years ago said we would not be seeing wild turkeys.
Turkeys then were considered to be a “big forest” bird, which means the more-or-less “forested” portions of eastern and southern Ohio, such as this state’s meager “forests” may be.
Well, turkeys began thriving in places where it was thought they would never do well because of a lack of large forests.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife began a trapping and relocation program in 1956, using turkeys captured in other states. As the state’s population built up, turkeys were relocated throughout Ohio’s forestlands.
For a long time, no one thought they would do well in farm country. But they never asked the turkeys.
In 1994, the wildlife division began experimental stocking of birds in some of the more heavily wooded northwest and western Ohio counties, starting with Williams in the extreme northwest corner. Biologists hoped that the birds would adapt to river and creek corridors. They did – big-time.
By January 2000, the remaining turkey-less northwest and western counties were stocked, including parts of Lucas, Ottawa, Wood, Sandusky, Allen, Putnam, and Van Wert counties. The birds, so to say, never looked back.
In my home county, Sandusky, some birds were stocked in the Muddy Creek watershed, about 8 to 10 miles from my homeland. For 17 years I hoped against hope that I would see some of these beautiful, smart gamebirds in my own creek bottom. I listened for gobbling, I looked in the winter snows for tracks, I hoped. Nothing.
Then, magically, in mid-February, that fine trailcam, a 70th birthday gift from the kids, digitally captured those two hens in the snowy meadow. Where there are girls, there will be boys. I cannot wait to sit on my back hillside some pre-dawn and listen for gobbling come spring. Oh boy.