In response to declining wild turkey populations during the past few years, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife proposed reducing the 2022 spring wild turkey season limit from two to one bearded turkey. The proposal was made by Division of Wildlife staff to the Ohio Wildlife Council at its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 4.
If approved by the Ohio Wildlife Council, all hunters will be limited to one bearded (male) wild turkey during the spring 2022 hunting season. This proposal includes the statewide spring wild turkey hunting season and the youth spring hunting season.
Wild turkey populations have declined in much of Ohio following several years of below average reproductive success. Preliminary wild turkey reports submitted to Division of Wildlife biologists during the summer of 2021 show some improvement in young turkey (poult) numbers. However, the complete information on which harvest management decisions are based will not be available until September. The proposed revision to the 2022 spring wild turkey season limit would remain in place until trends in reproductive success improve.
No changes were proposed to the 2022 spring wild turkey hunting season dates, zones (south and northeast), hours, or methods of take. Further, no changes were proposed to Ohio’s fall 2021 wild turkey hunting season.
The Division of Wildlife began an extensive program in the 1950s to reintroduce wild turkeys to the Buckeye State. Ohio’s first modern day wild turkey 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. The spring season limit has been two bearded wild turkeys since 1993. Spring turkey hunting was opened statewide in 2000. The record Ohio wild turkey harvest was in 2001, when hunters checked 26,156 birds. The 2021 spring harvest was 14,541 birds.
Comments about the proposed wild turkey season limit change will be accepted at wildohio.gov. The Ohio Wildlife Council is an eight-member board that approves all Division of Wildlife proposed rules and regulations. Council meetings are open to the public. Individuals interested in providing comments are asked to call 614-265-6304 at least two days prior to the meeting to register. All comments are required to be three minutes or less.
Unfortunately, I am in total agreement with this proposal. We just haven’t been seeing the number of gobblers we are used to seeing during the spring season the last few years. Total harvest numbers for the area counties reflect what I am seeing as well. Neighboring Knox county used to always be in the top ten for harvest totals in the state and they haven’t been there the last few years. Whether it’s been the cool and wet spring weather we’ve had the last few nesting seasons or it’s the increase in predators, or a combination of the two, the numbers are definitely way down.
I would like to see the Division of Wildlife invest some time and effort to determine what exactly is causing the down turn in turkey numbers. I have a sneaking suspicion that the number one cause is the increase in ground nesting predators in the Buckeye state. The number of trappers and fur bearing hunters have dropped tremendously for various reasons and because of that, the raccoon population has exploded. With fur prices being too low and difficulty getting access to private land for running coon dogs, there is very little incentive to chase after the fur bearing animals.
When I was a teenager, you used to be able to make some good money running a trap line but that just isn’t happening much any more. Add into the mix an increase in population of other predators like coyotes and raptors, it sure makes it tough for a hen turkey to successfully raise a brood.
Hopefully reducing the limit next spring will give the birds a chance to rebound a little or at least buy the Division of Wildlife a little more time to figure out what is causing the population decline. Until next time, Good Fishing and Good Hunting!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.