Ohio spring turkey season off to good start


Ohio wild turkey hunters checked 4,367 birds during the opening weekend of the spring hunting season, April 20-21, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

In 2023, hunters harvested 4,078 turkeys during the opening weekend. The three-year average during the first two days of the spring season from 2021 to 2023 is 3,758 birds. Not included in this year’s opening weekend results are the 1,785 wild turkeys taken during the youth-only weekend, April 13-14.

Turkey season kicks off in the northeast zone (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull) on Saturday, April 27. Hunting hours during the first nine days of each zone are from 30 minutes before sunrise until noon. Hours in the south zone (83 of Ohio’s 88 counties) are from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset beginning Monday, April 29 and continuing until the season closes on May 19. The northeast zone’s hours are from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset from May 6-26.

The season bag limit is one bird statewide. Check the Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations for more information.

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). As of Sunday, April 21, the Division of Wildlife has issued 40,405 turkey permits that are valid throughout the spring hunting season.

It was a fun opener for me. I was fortunate enough to harvest a granddaddy of a bird. I had started the morning talking to two gobblers on their roost. They were very vocal but had hens with them and they went the other way after they flew down. Instead of risking a move and trying to get ahead of them I decided to stay put and wait things out.

My choice was a good one because after about 30 minutes of calling, this lone bird came from a different direction. He really tested my patience as he got hung up on the other side of a small wetland and he didn’t want to come around it. He must have gobbled a hundred times demanding that I come to him as most hens do in the wild. I felt that I was too close to risk a move so I stayed put and kept softly calling. After a thirty minute standoff he finally gave in and came around the swamp and it was game over. My patience had paid off.

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 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. Ohio’s turkey biologists have found that spring turkey hunting success is closely tied to the hatch productivity two years prior.

Wild turkeys were extirpated from 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.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

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

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