Ohio spring turkey kill total ‘is down for several reasons’

Brad Holtcamp Turkey
Brad Holtcamp, of Concord Township, was one of Ashtabula County’s first successful turkey hunters and helped the county stand out as the top spot for spring turkey harvests. (Photo courtesy Brad Holtcamp)

Ohio’s final 2022 spring turkey season kill numbers continues to show they’re slipping and sliding on black ice.

Even so, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is reporting at least some positives.

For the 2022 statewide spring wild turkey-hunting season, a total of 11,872 birds were taken. In 2021 that figure was 14,546, while the three-year average figure stands at 17,173 birds.

The total statewide kill represents 30 days of hunting in two zones between April 23 and May 29. Included are the 1,103 wild turkeys taken during the youth season April 9-10.

In terms of pecking order, the top 10 counties for the 2022 spring wild turkey season were: Ashtabula (348), Tuscarawas (338), Belmont (314), Guernsey (312), Columbiana (309), Harrison (299), Muskingum (298), Trumbull (295), Jefferson (292), and Gallia (280).

Of Ohio’s 88 counties, only five saw gains over their respective three-year averages: Clark, Mercer, Logan, Van Wert, and Union. The kill was the same in Greene County, while no birds were shot at all this year in Ottawa County.

Interestingly, there were also 131 bearded female turkeys (hens) checked. The Division of Wildlife sold and distributed 48,815 wild turkey permits during the spring hunting season. In 2021, that sold and distributed figure was 61,135 permits.

Declining wild turkey kill numbers – a result of lower wild turkey numbers – have been a long-term trend since 2001. Population declines have been noted in many other eastern U.S. states, the wildlife division says.

Mark Wiley – the wildlife division’s lead wild turkey management biologist – says the statewide spring kill total “is down for several reasons.”

“Wild turkey numbers are likely depressed across much of the state, having not yet recovered from a string of years with poor poult production,” Wiley said.

Also, says Wiley, “the bag limit reduction and long-term hunter declines have directly impacted spring permit sales totals and spring harvest totals.”

However, Wiley has previously noted that the now-abandoned second-bird allowance contributed only minimally to the overall season tally. In 2021, for example, the second-bird accounted for only 1,824 turkeys.

Wiley does say that preliminary results suggest 2022 permit success rates – “the percentage of permits resulting in a harvest”– for residents, nonresidents, and youth hunters were slightly higher than success rates in 2021.

“When comparing permit success rate it is important to consider how hunter effort might change year-to-year. Post-season hunter surveys will be used to evaluate trends in hunter effort,” Wiley says.

Furthermore, says Wiley, “it is worth noting how the percentage of jakes in the 2022 harvest is approximately 25%, which is higher than the previous four spring seasons.”

“We typically observe this type of increase in jake harvest in a spring following a spike in the poult index, which we had in 2021,” Wiley said.

And though any wild turkey population rebound will likely take more than one year of good poult numbers to boost numbers to levels Ohio hunters are used to experiencing, “it is encouraging to see that all indices suggest a strong class of turkeys was produced in 2021,” Wiley says.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Ohio – Jeffrey Frischkorn, Turkey

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