Ohio fall turkey harvest falls on hard times
Columbus — Ohio’s to-date 2021 fall season turkey kill has tanked, but considering the number of fall-season turkey license sales are in a free fall, too, the precipitous drop is a given.
Ohio’s hunters reported 477 wild turkeys of both sexes as being taken through Nov. 9 of the 2021 fall wild turkey-hunting season. This figure represents a 38% decline from the previous same to-date three-season average, says Mark Wiley, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s lead wild turkey biologist.
However, through Nov. 9, the wildlife division had issued only 6,919 fall turkey permits. The total at the end of the 2020 season was 9,018 fall turkey permits, representing a roughly 23% drop in comparable to-date fall turkey tag sales.
Wiley did say also the counties with the highest 2021 to-date fall turkey kills were Coshocton (20), Highland (18), Ashtabula (17), Trumbull (17), Columbiana (16), and Stark (16).
“There appears definitely to be an acceleration of the decline” in both the turkey kill as well fall turkey season permit sales, Wiley says.
However, says Wiley, he is uncertain whether the drop in sales is because prospective hunters are shying away from buying tags because of a perception of a declining turkey flock in Ohio.
Or perhaps because Ohio hunters increasingly believe the fall season is damaging long-term wild turkey recruitment. That contention is based on the fact that hen turkeys are legal during this period. Thus, these prospective hunters are passing on the autumn season, Wiley says.
“We hear both concerns,” Wiley says.
That being said, Wiley notes that poult numbers were above average across the state this spring, both inside as well as outside the 17-year cicada emergence range seen across large swaths of Ohio.
“Poult production was pretty uniform across the state,” Wiley says, also indicating that poult survival was likewise good owing to generally favorable weather conditions.
How all of this will shake out for the 2022 fall wild turkey-hunting season – as well as the spring 2023 spring wild turkey-hunting season – is open to conjecture as the wildlife division begins focusing on developing regulations for those seasons, Wiley says.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re looking that far ahead,” Wiley says, adding that hunter attitude toward the entire fall season concept will come into play as the agency maps its future regulatory blueprint.
The fall turkey season in Ohio runs through Nov. 28.