Ohio's 2008 Wild Turkey Forecast

Ohio's 2008 Wild Turkey Forecast

Our turkey population continues to grow as wildlife managers work to improve habitat and enhance opportunities for hunters. How are things shaping up for the 2008 spring season? (April 2008)

Photo by Rod Cochran.

Over the past 42 years, wild turkey hunting in Ohio has come a long way. In 1966, only nine counties were opened for gobbler hunting. During that first season, 12 birds were checked in. Today, when the weather cooperates, statewide spring harvests of over 20,000 gobblers are considered routine.

"We had gobblers harvested in all 88 counties last season," said Mike Reynolds, a wildlife biologist for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

"And because we had a good hatch and survival rate this past year, we expect to see as much as a 5 percent increase in harvest rates for the 2008 spring season as well."

From the first restocking efforts that took place in Athens, Hocking and Vinton counties in 1956, wild turkeys have gone on to reclaim the entire state as their homeland. Ohio's turkey population is now estimated to be between 260,000 and 300,000 birds. A game bird once completely eliminated in Ohio due to habitat destruction and unregulated hunting is now abundant once again.

During the spring 2007 season, the top five counties for gobblers ranged from the northeastern region to the extreme southern areas of the Buckeye State. Leading the pack, as usual, was Ashtabula County (952) with its large land mass and excellent turkey habitat. Next in order of county harvest were Tuscarawas (540), Muskingum (519), Adams (515) and Washington (502).

In rural areas across the state the sound of springtime gobbling is now common occurrence. Over the past half-century, Ohio's biologists have worked steadily to help reestablish the wild turkey within its original range statewide. Today, that work is nearly complete. Northwest Ohio continues to receive stocked birds in suitable corridors where water and forested land are plentiful.

Yet for most of the rest of the state where suitable habitat is available, the job is done.

This success story has resulted in superb opportunities for turkey hunters. The following is a region-by-region forecast on how the turkey woods are shaping up for the statewide opening day on April 21, 2008:

DISTRICT ONE
According to Gray Ludwig, wildlife management supervisor for the ODOW's Wildlife District One, the turkey-hunting opportunities in the counties surrounding the state's capital should be about the same as last year. He noted that Licking and Knox counties are the district's top producers. Yet finding land on which to hunt can sometimes be difficult.

"In central Ohio," said Ludwig, "we have very little public land on which to hunt. Hunters are advised to get out early in the year and obtain permission from landowners."

This management supervisor also recommended that hunters shouldn't rely on one particular place to hunt. Other hunters may have permission for the same place, or the birds just may not be in that location during the times available.

"It always pays to scout and obtain permission from several landowners to be assured of a good place to hunt turkeys," Ludwig noted.

As for public hunting areas that are open to turkey hunters, Kokosing Lake Wildlife Area and Delaware Wildlife Area offer limited opportunity for hunters.

KOKOSING LAKE WILDLIFE AREA
Kokosing Lake Wildlife Area offers 1,323 acres of turkey-hunting potential in Knox County. This wildlife area is relatively small, yet its good brushy habitat holds plenty of birds. The public hunting area receives a lot of pressure from hunters. But for those who take all the precautions and cooperate with other hunters, this region can be quite productive.

Kokosing Lake Wildlife Area lies southeast of Interstate Route 71 near Fredericktown. State routes 95 and 546 lead to the vicinity, and Waterford Road (county Road 6) leads to the wildlife area.

DELAWARE WILDLIFE AREA
Delaware Wildlife Area supplies 4,670 acres of public lands in portions of Delaware, Marion and Morrow counties. Nearly 40 percent of this wildlife area consists of second-growth hardwoods and brush in advanced stages of succession. Another 50 percent is in old-field habitat consisting of briers, mixed grasses and small shrubs.

Delaware Wildlife Area lies 10 miles south of Marion between U.S. routes 42 and 23. The wildlife area, adjacent to Delaware Reservoir and Delaware State Park, can be accessed from state routes 229 and county Road 220.

For additional information on the wild turkey management and hunting opportunities in the central Ohio region, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District One office, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215.

Or telephone (614) 644-3925.

DISTRICT TWO
"We're somewhat different from others districts around Ohio," said Scott Butterworth, wildlife management supervisor for the ODOW's District Two office. "We still have active turkey range that we are continuing to stock. In many of the areas throughout the district, we have a good population of wild turkeys."

Compared to other regions of Ohio, the northwestern region of the state has the least favorable habitat for turkey reestablishment. Yet state biologists have put the available habitats to good use, and the wild turkey population within this district is continuing to increase.

Public hunting areas for turkeys are limited. Scattered woodlots contain the most birds, so wild turkeys here are found on private land, for the most part.

For hunters in this region, gaining access to these turkey woodlots is important. "The key is to get permission to hunt from landowners," said Butterworth.

WILLARD MARSH WILDLIFE AREA
Willard Marsh Wildlife Area is a public-hunting area that Butterworth recommended for good spring turkey hunting. This 1,676-acre wildlife area lies in Huron County.

With approximately two-thirds of the area covered by woodlands and much of the remainder in brushland, this area should produce a quality turkey hunt this season.

Willard Marsh lies four miles southeast of the city of Willard. Section Line Road provides access from U. S. Route 224.

Originally known as the "Huron bog," this area was drained long ago for agricultural purpose

s. Since 1942, the Ohio Division of Wildlife has managed the area for public hunting. The turkey population here is doing well.

RICHLAND COUNTY
Richland County is another wild turkey hotspot for District Two hunters. Much of the public hunting will be found in areas controlled by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy.

For information and guidelines for hunting these areas, contact the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District at 1319 Third Street NW, P.O. Box 349, New Philadelphia, OH 44663-0349.

DISTRICT TWO
"We're somewhat different from others districts around Ohio," said Scott Butterworth, wildlife management supervisor for the ODOW's District Two office. "We still have active turkey range that we are continuing to stock. In many of the areas throughout the district, we have a good population of wild turkeys."

Compared to other regions of Ohio, the northwestern region of the state has the least favorable habitat for turkey reestablishment. Yet state biologists have put the available habitats to good use, and the wild turkey population within this district is continuing to increase.

Public hunting areas for turkeys are limited. Scattered woodlots contain the most birds, so wild turkeys here are found on private land, for the most part.

For hunters in this region, gaining access to these turkey woodlots is important. "The key is to get permission to hunt from landowners," said Butterworth.

WILLARD MARSH WILDLIFE AREA
Willard Marsh Wildlife Area is a public-hunting area that Butterworth recommended for good spring turkey hunting. This 1,676-acre wildlife area lies in Huron County.

With approximately two-thirds of the area covered by woodlands and much of the remainder in brushland, this area should produce a quality turkey hunt this season.

Willard Marsh lies four miles southeast of the city of Willard. Section Line Road provides access from U. S. Route 224.

Originally known as the "Huron bog," this area was drained long ago for agricultural purposes. Since 1942, the Ohio Division of Wildlife has managed the area for public hunting. The turkey population here is doing well.

RICHLAND COUNTY
Richland County is another wild turkey hotspot for District Two hunters. Much of the public hunting will be found in areas controlled by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy.

For information and guidelines for hunting these areas, contact the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District at 1319 Third Street NW, P.O. Box 349, New Philadelphia, OH 44663-0349.

For more information on turkey-hunting opportunities in northwestern Ohio, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Two office, 952 Lima Avenue, Findlay, OH 45840; or call (419) 424-5000.

DISTRICT THREE
"It was good and dry this past year, which usually results in good turkey reproduction," said Damon Greer, and ODOW wildlife biologist for District Three. "Good survival rates translate into a good spring season. There should be plenty of jakes running around out there."

Greer likes the idea of having plenty of jakes in the woods. He believes it's easier to get the jakes gobbling, which in turn often gets the older toms talking.

And as the biologist noted, more jakes this season means more toms for upcoming seasons.

As for turkey management in District Three, Greer said most of their available habitat is stocked.

"We're still doing some relocating. We take small numbers of birds primarily into District Two."

Public hunting areas are abundant throughout District Three. Although Ashtabula County is the state's leader by far in annual harvests, available public hunting land is limited.

DORSET WILDLIFE AREAOne hunting area in Ashtabula County is Dorset Wildlife Area. This WA covers 1,100 acres in the east-central region of the county, north and east of the town of Dorset on state Route 93.

There are other excellent public turkey-hunting areas in northeastern Ohio.

GRAND RIVER WILDLIFE AREA
The Grand River Wildlife Area in Trumbull County has nearly 6,800 acres open to hunting. Trumbull County consistently produces large numbers of birds during the spring season, and this year's harvest looks to be as good or better than in years past. State Route 88 crosses the area in an east-west direction, and state Route 534 borders the wildlife area on the west.

SHENANGO WILDLIFE AREA
Shenango Wildlife Area is another Trumbull County public hunting area that covers 4,845 acres about 22 miles north of Youngstown. This area extends nearly to the Ashtabula County line. Shenango is premier wild turkey habitat, with approximately 60 percent of its land consisting of second-growth hardwoods.

HIGHLANDTOWN WILDLIFE AREA
Highlandtown Wildlife Area lies in Columbiana County and is yet another top county for turkey hunters. This wildlife area provides a scenic 2,105 acres of steeply rolling woodlands. Hardwoods and conifers interspersed with brushy cover and former crop fields provide excellent habitat for a healthy wild turkey population.

This wildlife area is eight miles south of Lisbon and three miles northeast of Salineville in southern Columbiana County. You can reach it via state Route 164 from Lisbon and via state Route 39 from Salineville and Wellsville.

BRUSH CREEK WILDLIFE AREA
Brush Creek Wildlife Area covers over 3,000 acres of turkey terrain in the southeastern section of District Three in Jefferson County. The best access is by taking state Route 164 to county Road 55. Several township roads provide direct access to Brush Creek, and parking lots are available throughout this area.

For more information on northeast Ohio's turkey-hunting opportunities, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Three office, 912 Portage Drive, Akron, OH 44319.

Or call (330) 644-2293.

DISTRICT FOUR
For turkey hunters, the 19 counties that make up Wildlife District Four offer numerous public hunting grounds with a plentiful supply of turkeys. In Vinton County, Zaleski State Forest offers over 27,000 acres of turkey woodlands.

In Hocking County, Hocking State Forest contains over 9,000 acres of public hunting grounds. In the far southwestern end of the district, there are 63,000 acres of prime wild turkey habitat in Shawnee State Forest.

These are just a few of the places where hunters can see large numbers of turkeys, with plenty of room to hunt them.

According to Mike Reynolds, wildlife biologist i

n the ODOW's District Four, the reproduction and survival rates from the 2007 hatch were good. Reynolds noted a 5 percent increase in the hatch rate of birds in this region over the previous year.

Given that the turkey population was already in excellent condition, even more birds will be responding to hunter calls come opening morning of this spring season.

As already noted, turkeys and public hunting lands are numerous in southeastern Ohio. The following public areas come highly recommended for a quality hunt in the kingdom of Ohio wild turkeys.

POWELSON WILDLIFE AREA
Powelson Wildlife Area contains 2,775 acres in Muskingum County. This county holds one of the best wild turkey populations in the state.

With its ideal habitat harboring large numbers of birds, Powelson Wildlife Area is an odds-on favorite for hunters. This wildlife area lies four miles north of Zanesville, between state Route 60 and the Muskingum River.

Woodlands cover approximately 76 percent of the area with 40 percent of the property in large timber. Most of the remaining land is in brush with little open land to be found.

SALT FORK WILDLIFE AREA
Salt Fork Wildlife Area in Guernsey County boasts over 12,000 acres of public hunting ground. Numerous streams cross this wildlife area, with woodlands, shrubs and small trees making up the landscape.

Many sections of Salt Fork are extremely rugged, and hunters are advised to scout this area thoroughly before the opening of turkey season.

The main entrance road to Salt Fork Wildlife Area lies seven miles east of Cambridge on U.S. Route 22. This is a good public hunting area for turkey hunters in surrounding urban areas. Salt Fork is 72 miles from Canton, 88 miles from Columbus and 69 miles from Marietta.

SHAWNEE STATE FOREST
Shawnee State Forest has a sprawling 63,000 acres of rugged, heavily forested hunting lands in Scioto and Adams counties. Rental cabins, camping areas and a 50-room lodge are available at Shawnee State Park, which is in the heart of the forest off state Route 125.

Shawnee State Forest lies a few miles west of Portsmouth overlooking the Ohio River along U.S. Route 52.

For additional information on the enormous turkey-hunting opportunities in this region of the Buckeye State, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Four office, 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701.

Or call (740) 589-9930.

DISTRICT FIVE
"The turkey population is doing well in this region," said Rick Jasper, assistant wildlife management supervisor for the ODOW's District Five.

"Hunting should be good due to the dryer spring conditions we had last year."

Wild turkeys are indeed thriving in this southwestern Ohio region. Heavily forested areas bordering the Ohio River have provided turkeys with quality habitat, including waterways and an abundant food supply. The public hunting areas that are available have a large number of wild turkeys within their confines.

TRANQUILITY WILDLIFE AREA
Tranquility Wildlife Area in Adams County is in one of the state's top turkey-hunting counties. With over 4,000 acres of public land available and a large turkey population, this wildlife area is a good one to scout for the upcoming season.

Just 67 miles east of Cincinnati, Tranquility Wildlife Area offers great gobbler hunting within an easy drive of this major urban area.

This wildlife area is 16 miles south of Hillsboro on state route 770. County Road 100 runs along the southern boundary. About 40 percent of this area consists of native woodlands, with oak and hickory on the upper slopes. Beech, maple and elm cover most of the lower slopes of Tranquility Wildlife Area.

Other public lands to scout in District Five include Indian Creek Wildlife Area in Brown County with 1,800 acres east of Fayetteville and Fallsville Wildlife Area with 1,382 acres of public land in Highland County.

Fallsville Wildlife Area lies approximately seven miles north of Hillsboro on state Route 73.

For more information on the hunting opportunities in southwestern Ohio, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Five office, 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45385.

Or call (937) 372-9261.

For additional information on wild turkey management in Ohio, contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife headquarters, 2045 Morse Road, Building G, Columbus, OH 43229-6693,

Or phone (614) 265-6300, or 1-800-WILDLIFE.

For information on accommodations around the state, contact the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism at P.O. Box 1001, Columbus, OH 43216-1001. Their e-mail address is www.discoverohio.com

Or phone 1-800-BUCKEYE.

Find more about Ohio fishing and hunting at OhioGameandFish.com

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