Wild turkey season shaping up to be good


My favorite springtime activity is almost here. There is nothing more exhilarating to experience in the woods in the spring than to trick a gobbler to come to your calling. With the early spring weather this year, the turkeys should be in the heart of their breeding season which should make the season opener a good one.

Ohio’s 2024 youth wild turkey hunting season is Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14. Ohio’s regular seasons are divided into two zones: the south zone, which opens to hunters on Saturday, April 20, and the northeast zone (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties), which opens on Saturday, April 27. The season limit is one bearded turkey.

During the 2023 spring turkey seasons, hunters harvested 15,673 birds. Among those were 1,823 turkeys checked by young hunters during the two-day youth season. Eastern and southern counties, where forested habitat is most abundant, typically record the highest number of harvests. The top five counties in 2023 were Ashtabula (454 birds taken), Gallia (428), Muskingum (420), Monroe (410), and Tuscarawas (408).

The restoration of the wild turkey in Ohio is among the state’s most notable wildlife success stories. Wild turkeys were extirpated around 1904, and the Division of Wildlife began reintroducing wild turkeys to the Buckeye State in the 1950s. For the next five decades, the wild turkey population grew and expanded rapidly, facilitated by trap-and-transfer efforts. By 1999, wild turkeys were found in all 88 counties.

Each summer, the Division of Wildlife collects information on young wild turkeys, called poults. Brood surveys in 2021, 2022, and 2023 showed above average results that will benefit Ohio’s wild turkey population numbers this spring. The statewide average poults per hen observed was 2.8 in 2023, 3.0 in 2022, and 3.1 in 2021, with a long-term average of 2.7.

In addition to turkey brood surveys, the Division of Wildlife is studying the nesting and survival of hen turkeys in eastern Ohio in collaboration with researchers in Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Last year, Ohio’s biologists affixed GPS transmitters to 49 hens and gathered information on their movement, survival, and nest activity timing. This year, staff are gathering data from 137 hens via GPS transmitters.

Division of Wildlife staff are also conducting research on the gobbling frequency and timing of male wild turkeys. Biologists placed 32 recorders in northeast and southeast Ohio this spring to record wild turkey gobbles and learn more about factors that influence gobbling. Preliminary results from 2023 show that gobbling peaked in late April, with a smaller peak in the first half of May.

Information gathered from the brood surveys, multiyear nest study, and gobbling research will influence wild turkey management decisions in the coming years. This helps the Division of Wildlife structure science-based turkey hunting regulations, ensuring wild turkey success across Ohio for many more years.

During the two-day youth hunting season, hunters ages 17 and under can participate with a youth hunting license ($10 for a one-year license) and youth turkey permit ($16). Licenses and permits can be purchased on the Ohio Wildlife Licensing System, via the HuntFish OH mobile app, or at participating license sales agents. Youth hunters are required to be accompanied by a nonhunting adult, 18 years of age or older. Hunting hours during the youth season are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset.

In both the south zone and northeast zone, turkey hunting hours for the first nine days of the season are from 30 minutes before sunrise until noon. For the remainder of the season, hours are extended until sunset. The season ends in the south zone on Sunday, May 19, and in the northeast zone on Sunday, May 26. Turkey hunters are required to have a valid hunting license and spring turkey permit, unless exempted. Find more information in the current hunting and trapping regulations.

In youth and statewide seasons, hunters are required to game check their harvested bird no later than 11:30 p.m. on the day it was taken. The Division of Wildlife’s automated game check system is available on wildohio.gov, on the HuntFish OH mobile app, by phone at 877-TAG-IT-OH (877-824-4864), or at a participating license agent. Reporting your harvest allows the Division of Wildlife to monitor wild turkey populations from year to year and impacts management decisions on wild turkeys.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

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

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