Spring wild turkey season has concluded


Wild turkey hunters across Ohio checked 15,535 birds during the spring 2024 season which concluded on Sunday, May 26, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. The total statewide harvest represents all turkeys checked from April 20 to May 26, and includes the 1,785 birds taken during the two-day youth season April 13-14.

During the 2023 season, the total number of turkeys checked was 15,673. The three-year average for the spring season (2021, 2022, and 2023) is 14,030.

Adult male turkeys made up 82% of the final count with 12,778 birds taken. Following above-average brood production summers in 2021 and 2022, biologists expected a high proportion of adult birds in the total harvest this spring. Hunters checked 2,595 juvenile male turkeys in 2024, representing 17% of birds taken. Turkey hunters also checked 162 bearded female turkeys (hens) during the 2024 season.

The Division of Wildlife issued 51,530 spring turkey permits for use during the spring hunting season. In 2023, the spring turkey bag limit was reduced from two to one in an effort to conserve Ohio’s population.

Ohio’s wild turkey abundance peaked in the early 2000s. Since then, statewide turkey populations and spring harvest have generally declined. The Division of Wildlife began an in-depth study of wild turkey nesting and movement in 2023 to better understand and manage the state’s changing turkey population and expanded that study in 2024. Last year, 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.

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 benefitted 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. The brood survey is largely based on public reports.

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.

The Division of Wildlife began an extensive program in the 1950s to restore wild turkeys to the Buckeye State after they were extirpated in the early 1900s. Ohio’s first modern day wild turkey hunting 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 highest Ohio wild turkey harvest was in 2001, when hunters checked 26,156 birds.

• Volunteer observers reported 412 sandhill cranes during the fourth annual Midwest Crane Count on Saturday, April 13, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The count was coordinated by the Division of Wildlife, International Crane Foundation, and Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative.

During last year’s count, volunteers observed 357 cranes. The 2024 results show a 15% increase in sightings from 2023, likely because of a growing breeding population of sandhill cranes as well as greater survey effort. Volunteers surveyed 32 counties this year and found cranes in 26 of those. The five counties with the most sandhill cranes reported during the 2024 count were Wayne (106), Lucas (56), Geauga (48), Holmes (28), and Richland (27).

The survey was conducted in pre-selected counties during the crane’s nesting season to monitor Ohio’s growing breeding population of sandhill cranes. Counties were selected based on the availability of wetland habitat that cranes use for nesting. Killbuck Marsh and Funk Bottoms wildlife areas in Wayne County are prime breeding areas for sandhills. Volunteers searched crane habitat within a 10-square mile survey block.

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. During the breeding season, sandhills can be secretive and take on a rusty color from muddy environments. 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.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

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

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