For many hunters, spring brings the unmistakable sound of gobbling wild turkeys as Ohio’s annual hunt of this popular game bird begins.
The 2016 Ohio spring hunting season opens on Monday, April 18, and the youth wild turkey season is Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The ODNR Division of Wildlife anticipates approximately 65,000 licensed hunters, not counting exempt landowners hunting on their own property, will enjoy Ohio’s popular spring wild turkey season before it ends on Sunday, May 15. The spring and youth turkey seasons are open statewide with the exception of Lake La Su An Wildlife Area in Williams County, which requires a special hunting permit.
Hunters are required to have a hunting license and a spring turkey hunting permit. The spring season bag limit is two bearded turkeys. Hunters can harvest one bearded turkey per day, and a second spring turkey permit can be purchased at any time throughout the spring turkey season. Turkeys must be checked no later than 11:30 p.m. the day of harvest.
All hunters must report their turkey harvest using the automated game-check system. Game-check is available online, by phone or at a license agent. A complete list of participating license agents can be found at wildohio.gov. Visit the Turkey Hunting Resources page at wildohio.gov, or call 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543) for more information about the game-check process.
The youth-only turkey season is April 16-17 for youth possessing a valid youth hunting license and a turkey permit. Youth hunters must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult, 18 years of age or older. Only two wild turkeys may be checked by a youth hunter during the two-day season. Additionally, if two turkeys are harvested in the youth season, no additional birds may be taken by the youth hunter for the duration of the spring turkey season.
Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until noon from April 18-May 1. Hunting hours from May 2-15 will be 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset during the two-day youth season.
Hunters may use shotguns or archery equipment to hunt wild turkeys. 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 ODNR Division of Wildlife advises turkey hunters wear hunter orange clothing when entering, leaving or moving through hunting areas in order to remain visible to others.
Wild turkey breeding activity is primarily controlled by the increasing amount of daylight. Hens typically start incubating eggs around May 1 in Ohio. Ohio’s current wild turkey population is approximately 175,000.
Wild turkeys were extirpated in Ohio by 1904 and were reintroduced in the 1950s by the ODNR Division of Wildlife. Ohio’s first modern day wild turkey season opened in 1966 in nine counties, and hunters checked 12 birds. The wild 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 wild turkeys for the first time that year.
Now is the time to start scouting for that opening day spot. During the warm stretch of weather we had in late March, many of the larger flocks started breaking off and moving to their breeding areas. The cold weather we are currently having may put a damper on breeding for a little bit but expect things to heat back up when the weather returns to a warmer pattern. With the mild winter we had and the good hatch we had last spring, it has the potential to be a good spring turkey season.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.