Turkey harvest continues trending downward


Water and Wings by Ken Parrott



Ohio wild turkey hunters harvested 11,872 birds during the spring season that concluded on Sunday, May 29, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. The total statewide harvest represents 30 days of hunting in two zones between April 23 and May 29, and includes the 1,103 wild turkeys taken during the youth season April 9-10.

The three-year harvest average (2019, 2020, and 2021) for the spring season is 17,173 wild turkeys. During the 2021 season, the number checked was 14,546. New in the spring 2022 season, hunters could only harvest one bearded turkey. In previous seasons, dating back to 1992, the season limit was two bearded turkeys. In 2021, there were 1,824 hunters who harvested a second turkey.

All hunters were required to check in their harvest using the game-check system. The top 10 counties for wild turkey harvest during the 2022 season: Ashtabula (348), Tuscarawas (338), Belmont (314), Guernsey (312), Columbiana (309), Harrison (299), Muskingum (298), Trumbull (295), Jefferson (292), and Gallia (280).

Ohio has two zones for spring wild turkey hunting: the south zone and the northeast zone. The northeast zone includes Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties, while the south zone covers the rest of the state. In the south zone, 11,030 turkeys were harvested, with 840 turkeys checked in the northeast zone.

Adult male turkeys (gobblers) made up 74% of the total 2022 harvest with 8,791 turkeys taken. Following strong summer brood results in 2021, biologists expected a high proportion of immature birds (jakes) in the harvest this year. Hunters checked 2,950 juvenile male turkeys in 2022, representing 25% of the harvest, compared to 2,397, or 16% of the harvest, in the 2021 season. 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.

Declining wild turkey harvests, 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. 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.

The Division of Wildlife began an extensive program in the 1950s to reintroduce wild turkeys to the Buckeye State. Ohio’s first modern day wild turkey season opened in 1966 in nine counties, and hunters checked 12 birds. The total number of harvested turkeys topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. Turkey hunting was opened statewide in 2000. The record Ohio wild turkey harvest was in 2001, when hunters checked 26,156 birds.

Each summer, the Division of Wildlife conducts a turkey brood survey to estimate population changes. The Division of Wildlife remains vigilant in monitoring Ohio’s wild turkeys. Young turkeys will be tracked closely in the coming years. The brood survey is largely based on public reports. The Division of Wildlife encourages people to submit observations of young turkeys during July and August at wildohio.gov.

• The post spawn 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. Don’t forget on June 18 and 19, all Ohio residents are invited to experience Ohio’s fantastic public fishing opportunities without purchasing a license. All size and bag limits apply during these two days.

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.