Local turkey numbers are down

Water and Wings by Ken Parrott

Hunters checked 2,430 birds during Ohio’s opening day of wild turkey hunting season in the south zone on Monday, April 20, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. Hunters harvested 2,979 wild turkeys during the 2019 south zone opening day.

In addition to Monday’s results, youth hunters harvested 1,843 during Ohio’s youth season on April 18-19. The state has two zones for spring turkey hunting: the south zone and the northeast zone. The south zone opening day was Monday, April 20. The northeast zone, which includes Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties in Ohio’s snow belt, begins Monday, May 4.

The top 11 counties for wild turkey harvest during opening day of the 2020 south zone include: Harrison (93); Belmont (89); Guernsey (80); Tuscarawas (73); Jefferson (70); Monroe (69); Columbiana (65); Meigs (65); Washington (65); Brown (64) and Coshocton (64). Locally, Morrow, Knox, Richland, counties were significantly down compared to last year.

Ohio offers more opportunities for hunters of all ages to pursue wild turkeys. For 2020, the south zone is open to Sunday, May 17. The northeast zone dates are from Monday, May 4, to Sunday, May 31. Find complete details in the 2019-2020 Hunting and Trapping Regulations or at wildohio.gov. For summaries of past turkey seasons, visit wildohio.gov/turkeyharvest.

Hunting hours from April 20-26 in the south zone and May 4-10 in the northeast zone are 30 minutes before sunrise until noon. Hunting hours from April 27-May 17 in the south zone and May 11-31 in the northeast zone are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.

The spring turkey season bag limit is two bearded wild turkeys. Hunters may harvest one bearded turkey per day, and a second spring turkey permit may be purchased at any time throughout the spring turkey season. Turkeys are required to be checked no later than 11:30 p.m. the day of harvest. All hunters are required to report their turkey harvest using the automated game-check system, which is available online, by phone or at a participating license agent.

Hunters may hunt wild turkeys with shotguns or archery equipment. It is unlawful to hunt turkeys using bait, live decoys or electronic calling devices, or to shoot a wild turkey while it is in a tree. The Division of Wildlife advises turkey hunters to wear hunter orange clothing when entering, leaving or moving through hunting areas in order to remain visible to others.

• Thanks to thousands of reports from citizen scientists during February and March, 707 bald eagle nests have been confirmed in Ohio, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife.

The bald eagle is one of Ohio’s greatest wildlife success stories. The nest census was the first undertaking to discover all such sites for the first time in eight years. The results show an increase of 151% from the 2012 census, when 281 nests were recorded in Ohio. The high number of nests represents the hard work and dedication put forth for Ohio’s wildlife.

The Division of Wildlife received approximately 2,500 reports from the public for the 2020 census. Wildlife staff, including wildlife officers and biologists, verified nest locations in 85 counties.

Counties along or near Lake Erie have the highest number of bald eagle nests. Bald eagles thrive near Lake Erie because of the abundance of food and nesting habitat. The 12 counties with the highest number of eagle nests include: Ottawa (90), Sandusky (50), Erie (32), Trumbull (26), Seneca (24), Wyandot (19), Lucas (18), Licking (17), Ashtabula (16), Knox (16), Mercer (16) and Wood (16). Locally, Morrow County has 4, Marion 11, Richland 14, and Crawford 6.

The bald eagle was once an endangered species, with only four nesting pairs in Ohio in 1979. However, thanks to partnerships between the Division of Wildlife, Ohio zoos, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, concerned landowners, and sportsmen and women, its population increased. After much hard work and continued conservation, the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007 and from Ohio’s list in 2012.

Excellent viewing opportunities can be found at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area (Lucas and Ottawa counties), Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area (Sandusky County), Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (Lucas and Ottawa counties), Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area (Trumbull County) and Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area (Wyandot and Marion counties). In southern Ohio, eagle nests are found near major rivers such as the Muskingum, Hocking, Scioto and Great Miami.

Bald eagles in Ohio typically lay eggs and incubate in February and March. Young eagles leave the nest about three months later, usually in June. The birds nest in large trees such as sycamores, oaks, and cottonwoods near large bodies of water. Fish and carrion are preferred foods.

Remember that bald eagles are protected under both state law and the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. It is illegal to disturb bald eagles. When viewing these majestic birds, remember to respect the bird’s space and stay at least 100 yards away from the bird or nest. Disturbing bald eagles at the nest site could lead the pair to abandon the eggs.

As with many of Ohio’s native wildlife species, bald eagles require specific habitat conditions to thrive. Bald eagle habitat protection and research is funded by the sale of bald eagle conservation license plates, income tax check-off donations to the Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund and sales of the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good FIshing!


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.