Turkey harvest continues trending downward


Water and Wings by Ken Parrott



Ohio’s wild turkey hunters have harvested 11,770 birds through Sunday, May 22, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

The total statewide harvest represents 23 days of hunting in the five northeastern counties (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull), 30 days in the remaining counties, and includes the 1,103 wild turkeys taken during the youth season April 9-10.

The three-year average (2019, 2020, and 2021) using the same dates is 17,060 wild turkeys. During the 2021 season, the number checked was 14,450.

The spring wild turkey hunting season concluded in most Ohio counties on May 22. Hunting in the northeast zone remained open until Sunday, May 29.

The top 11 counties for wild turkey harvest during the 2022 season so far: Tuscarawas (338), Ashtabula (318), Belmont (314), Guernsey (312), Columbiana (309), Harrison (298), Muskingum (294), Jefferson (292), Gallia (280), Adams (278), and Brown (278).

Declining wild turkey harvests, likely a result of lower wild turkey numbers and decreased hunter participation, have been a long-term trend since 2001, when Ohio’s harvest peaked. Several factors play a role in fluctuating turkey populations, including weather events, predation, disease, and hatch productivity. The Division of Wildlife is taking conservation measures to reduce the wild turkey harvest while ongoing research looks closely at Ohio’s population.

Each summer, the Division of Wildlife conducts a turkey brood survey to estimate population changes. Poor hatches from 2017-2019 have caused a temporary depression in turkey numbers. The Division of Wildlife remains vigilant in monitoring Ohio’s wild turkeys. Biologists expect the population dip to be temporary given the 2021 brood survey showed encouraging results. Young turkeys will be tracked closely in the coming years. The brood survey is largely based on public reports. Submit observations of young turkeys during July and August at wildohio.gov.

• Observers found 371 sandhill cranes in Ohio as part of the one-day April 2022 Midwest Crane Count, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The count was coordinated by the Division of Wildlife, International Crane Foundation, and Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative.

The survey was conducted in 24 preselected counties during the crane’s nesting season. Counties were selected based on the availability of wetland habitat that cranes use for nesting. The top seven counties with the most sightings were Wayne (84), Lucas (60), Geauga (56), Trumbull (47), Holmes (18), Ottawa (17), and Wyandot (17). Volunteers searched crane habitat within a 10-square mile survey block.

The count was the second of what will be an annual event to track the status of sandhill cranes in the Buckeye State. The count in 2021 found 160 sandhill cranes across five counties. Sandhills can be secretive during the breeding season, and the survey is an effort to better understand Ohio’s breeding population.

A sandhill crane is a tall wading bird characterized by a long neck and bill. It is mostly gray in plumage with a red patch on its forehead. It is often recognized by its rolling bugle call. Sandhills are migratory, breeding in wetlands across the northern U.S. and Canada, and wintering farther south in North America.

These regal birds were once extirpated from Ohio. They returned to Wayne County in 1987 to breed and have been slowly expanding since. They are still listed as a threatened species in Ohio.

• The post pawn is here and that means the fishing can be the best of the year. Most species of fish have finished spawning which causes them to lose a lot of weight so they are constantly eating trying to restore their body condition. This can be an excellent time to catch a lot of fish in a short amount of time especially for species like walleye and bass.

The fishing has been tremendous up at Lake Erie for just about any species you want to pursue but the walleye fishing is as good as it gets right now. Many anglers are limiting out in a matter of minutes once they find an active pod of feeding fish. Crankbaits, spoons, and nightcrawler harnesses are all catching keeper walleye right now.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

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Water and Wings by Ken Parrott

Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.

Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.