Ohio hunters checked 4,078 wild turkeys during the opening weekend of spring hunting season, April 22-23, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. In 2022, hunters checked 3,315 wild turkeys on the opening weekend. The average taken during the first two days of the previous three seasons is 3,590 birds.
The top 10 counties for wild turkey harvest reported during the opening weekend of the 2023 south zone: Adams (129), Muskingum (127), Belmont (117), Guernsey (115), Gallia (114), Harrison (114), Jefferson (111), Monroe (109), Tuscarawas (105), and Meigs (104).
The Division of Wildlife has issued 37,610 spring turkey permits that are valid throughout the spring hunting season. In addition to the opening weekend results, youth hunters checked 1,823 wild turkeys during Ohio’s youth season on April 15-16.
Wild turkey hunting in Ohio’s south zone is open until Sunday, May 21. Hunting hours are from 30 minutes before sunrise until noon through April 30. Beginning May 1, south zone hunters can hunt from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. The spring season begins in the northeast zone (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties) on Saturday, April 29. Check the 2022-23 Ohio hunting and trapping regulations for more information.
Each summer, the Division of Wildlife collects information on young wild turkeys, called poults. Brood surveys in 2021 and 2022 showed above average results that will benefit Ohio’s wild turkey population numbers this spring. The average poults per hen observed was 3.0 in 2022 and 3.1 in 2021, with a 10-year average of 2.7.
Ohio’s spring season limit is one bearded turkey. Hunters are required to have a valid hunting license in addition to a spring turkey permit, unless exempted. Successful hunters are required to game-check their turkey no later than 11:30 p.m. on the day of harvest. Game check, licenses, and permits are available on the HuntFish OH app, via the Ohio Wildlife Licensing System, or at a participating license agent. Game check can also be done by phone at 1-877-TAG-IT-OH (877-824-4864).
Wild turkeys were extirpated in Ohio by 1904 and were reintroduced in the 1950s by the Division of Wildlife. Ohio’s first modern-day turkey season opened in 1966 in nine counties, and hunters took 12 birds. The turkey harvest topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. Spring turkey hunting opened statewide in 2000, and Ohio hunters checked more than 20,000 turkeys for the first time that year. More information about previous turkey seasons can be found in the Spring Turkey Harvest Summary.
Personally, I enjoyed a very good opening day. Despite having to sit in the truck waiting on a downpour to end, I was fortunate for the rain clouds to move on just in time to make it to my spot right at sun up. I had actually spooked a redtail hawk that was in the field I was walking in and when it screamed, a tom in the nearby woods shock gobbled. Twenty minutes later my season was over with an old longbeard that came into the sound of my mouth call. I wish all my hunts went like that.
• I know spring in Ohio can be a roller coaster for weather but this April was extreme. It seems after the nice week-long prelude to summer, Mother Nature decided to pull the rug out from under us and return us back to March. I had a week where the surface water temperatures skyrocketed into the low sixties and then a week later it crashed back down into the upper forties.
The week of warm weather sure triggered a migration of both largemouth and smallmouth bass to shallower waters but now with the drop in temperatures it is like we are starting spring all over and we have reverted to more March-like fishing patterns.
The walleye and crappie have spawned out and have moved on up on Lake Erie, but the bass and other panfish will wait for warmer waters. If Mother Nature is predictable, I imagine the weather will turn sooner or later and we will skip spring and jump right into summer. Once that happens the waters will warm up quickly and the bite will turn on. As always, fishing in Ohio requires patience.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.