The Buckeye State's Top 10 Fall Turkey Hunts
October 05, 2010
A thriving turkey population plus a wealth of public land equals big opportunities for Ohio hunters this fall. And at least one of the best places to go in 2005 is near you!
Photo by Ralph Hensley
Although autumn is usually associated with the opening of the archery deer season, the abundance of wild turkeys across the Buckeye State has increased hunter participation in the fall turkey season.
According to Dave Swanson, Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist, fall turkey opportunities hinge upon the reproductive success of the current year. Weather conditions figure heavily into successful hatch rates, and with warm, dry conditions, turkey numbers often more than meet expectations for fall hunters.
During the 2004 fall season, over 2,000 turkeys were harvested in Ohio. Of these, 1,555 were taken by gun hunters (down 16 percent from 2003) and 464 were taken by archery hunters (an increase of 86 percent over 2003). Of course, archers have a full month of additional hunting at a time when the bow season for deer opens. This creates opportunities galore for bowhunters.
Opportunities abound statewide, but the following top 10 public hunting areas come highly recommended for fall turkey hunters:
SALT FORK WILDLIFE AREA
Guernsey County is a traditional hotspot for wild turkeys, and 12,000-acre Salt Fork Wildlife Area provides hunters with some prime habitat for a good hunt close to Salt Fork Lake.
The lay of the land is roughly one-third woodlands, one-third shrubs and small trees and one-third cropland. The terrain is often rugged, with elevations varying more than 200 feet in some parts of this wildlife area. Numerous streams flow into the lake.
Salt Fork WA features a lodge, cabins and camping areas in the state park section. Several miles of well-marked trails, including a portion of the Buckeye Trail, are available to hikers.
The main entrance road to this public hunting area is seven miles east of Cambridge, Ohio, on U. S. Route 22. Distances from major urban areas are 72 miles from Canton, 88 miles from Columbus and 69 miles from Marietta.
Information on lodging and camping may be obtained by contacting the Park Manager, Salt Fork State Park, Box 672, Cambridge, Ohio 43725; (740) 439-3521.
Maps and additional information on Salt Fork WA, as well as all the following public hunting areas, may be obtained by writing the Wildlife District Four office, 360 East State Street, Athens, Ohio 45701, or call (740) 589-9930.
POWELSON WILDLIFE AREA
Another top turkey-hunting county is Muskingum County in southeastern Ohio. This region harbors some of the best wild turkey habitat in the state. Powelson Wildlife Area ranks high for public land turkey hunting in the county. The 2,775-acre area is four miles north of Zanesville between state Route 60 and the Muskingum River.
Back in the late 1930s and early 1940s this was largely strip-mining country. The ODOW took control of many abandoned mines in the late 1950s, and wildlife management work has been ongoing since that time.
Turkey management strategies by the ODOW have created some prime turkey habitat that includes reverting fields and woodlots. Just over three-quarters of the wildlife area is covered by woodlands, of which 40 percent comprises mature stands of timber. Most of the remaining land is covered in brush and offers very little open land.
Several small parking lots are available at Powelson WA. The best access is provided by county Road 49, which runs east from state Route 60. This public hunting area is 27 miles from Coshocton, 60 miles from Columbus and 124 miles from Cleveland.
Additional information may be obtained from the Area Manager, Woodbury Wildlife Area, 23371 State Route 60 South, Warsaw, OH 43844.
SUNDAY CREEK WILDLIFE AREA
Just 18 miles northwest of Athens, 16,000-acre Sunday Creek Wildlife Area is in portions of Athens, Hocking and Perry counties, providing hunters with room to roam in the state's top turkey counties.
This area consists of 10 separate tracts that range from 20 to 14,000 acres. State Route 78 from Glouster and state Route 216 from Murray City provide direct access to the larger sections of this public hunting area. Combine this acreage with the surrounding Wayne National Forest lands, and you have a total of nearly 70,000 acres open to turkey hunters.
Steep slopes and narrow ravines dominate the landscape at Sunday Creek. Several old fields reverting to woodlands are intermixed with second- and third-growth woodlands. Poplar, beech and maple are prominent in the lowlands; hickory and oak dominate the ridges.
A free permit is required to hunt in Sunday Creek WA. Permits may be obtained by writing to the ODOW's District Four office in Athens or by writing the Sunday Creek Coal Company, 68 West Columbus St., Nelsonville, OH 45764.
ZALESKI STATE FOREST
An amazing 9,500-plus turkeys have been harvested from Vinton County since the beginning of modern wild turkey hunting in 1966. This makes Vinton County the overall frontrunner in wild turkey hunts down through the years. And 27,000-acre Zaleski State Forest provides some of the best opportunities in this county for increasing those numbers.
Ideal habitat is the primary reason behind these statistics. Approximately 73 percent of Vinton County is covered in woodlands, making this southern-Ohio county the most heavily forested in the state. Another plus for wildlife, especially turkeys, is the fact that Vinton County also has very few human inhabitants compared to the rest of the state.
Last fall, a large percentage of the turkeys taken in Vinton County came from Zaleski SF in the northeastern portion of Vinton County and neighboring Athens County to the east. With the exception of Lake Hope State Park, all of the state forestlands are open to turkey hunters.
The best access to Zaleski is from U.S. Route 50 to state Route 278 near Prattsville. Turn north through the heart of Zaleski SF to access some premier wild turkey habitat. Specific locations to target include Irish Ridge, Big Four Hollow and King Hollow Roads. The Horseman's Camp area near Turner Ridge Road has also elicited reports of good concentrations of birds.
Lodging, rental cabins and camping accommodations are available at Lake Hope State Park. For reservations and additional information on the park, write the Lake Hope State Park office, Division of Parks and Recreation, Zaleski, OH 45698, o
r call (740) 596-5253.
For maps and additional information on the state forest, write the Zaleski State Forest office, Division of Forestry, Zaleski, OH 45698, or call (740) 596-5781.
WELLSTON WILDLIFE AREA
Also in Vinton County is 1,298-acre Wellston Wildlife Area. In Clinton and Richland townships, this public hunting area borders Lake Rupert about a mile north of Hamden along state Route 683 a half mile north of state Route 93.
Woods cover roughly 45 percent of the land; the rest of the area is approximately 25 percent brush and 30 percent open area. The ODOW has improved habitat for a variety of wildlife including turkeys, primarily by the selective cutting of brush and shrub plantings.
Two parking lots are available on the west side of Lake Rupert off state Route 683. Additional parking lots are available on county Road 43 and township Road 4 on the east side of the lake.
For additional information on the hunting opportunities available at Wellston WA, write the Cooper Hollow Area Manager, 5403 C.H.&D Road, Oak Hill, OH 45656, or call (740) 682-7524.
HOCKING STATE FOREST
Hocking County ranks with Vinton County in total turkey harvests in Ohio since modern turkey season began in 1966, and 9,200-acre Hocking State Forest has supplied a fair share of birds throughout the years.
This forest near Laurelville is managed by the ODOW on the basis of a multiple-use concept, with special emphasis on maintaining forest cover. This approach has helped create excellent wild turkey habitat, and as a result, its turkey population is thriving.
When hunting Hocking SF, hunters are cautioned to watch for private inholdings scattered throughout the public lands. Yellow paint marks the boundaries between state and private lands. Also, three designated nature preserves within Hocking SF -- Conkles Hollow, Sheick Hollow and Little Rocky Hollow -- are off limits to hunting. The boundaries of these areas are marked with white and/or red paint spots.
The best access to the state forest is by traveling U.S. Route 33 to Rockbridge. From Rockbridge, follow state Route 180 to the perimeter of the forestlands.
Camping and lodging are available at Hocking Hills State Park. Reservations and additional information may be obtained by writing the park office at 20160 State Route 664, Logan, OH 43138-9537, or by calling (740) 385-6841.
Maps and additional information on the forest may be obtained by writing the Hocking State Forest office, 19275 State Route 374, Rockbridge, OH 43149-9749, or call (740) 385-4402.
SHAWNEE STATE FOREST
Over 63,000 acres of high-quality wild turkey habitat is available to hunters visiting Shawnee State Forest. This rugged southern Ohio state forest has ample room to hunt. Several sections of Shawnee provide hunters with a true wilderness escape.
Shawnee SF contains a designated Wilderness Area that contains 8,000 acres of land from which motorized travel is banned, providing solitude for those seeking to exploit the abundance of wild turkey habitat here.
In other regions of the forest, clearcutting has taken place, providing turkeys with good feeding and cover areas. Owing to the steep character of much of Shawnee's terrain, hunters should expect to work a little harder to access the prime turkey locations. But those willing to put in the effort will find that the odds favor the hunter.
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. The forest is a few miles west of Portsmouth north of U.S. Route 52.
For additional information on the forest, contact the Shawnee SF office, 13291 U.S. Highway 52, West Portsmouth, OH 45663-8906, or call (740) 858-6685.
For information on the park facilities, write the Shawnee State Park office, 4404 State Route 125, West Portsmouth, OH 45663-9003, or call (740) 858-6652.
TAR HOLLOW STATE FOREST
Ross County in south-central Ohio contains 16,000-acre Tar Hollow State Forest. Just outside Chillicothe in eastern Ross County, this forest features steep, wooded terrain that hosts some excellent turkey hunting.
Less than an hour's drive south of Columbus, Tar Hollow is Ohio's third-largest state forest. The forest offers the diversity that wild turkeys and hunters thrive on. Access to all sections of the forest is fairly easy due to the numerous connecting roads that dissect the woodlands.
Recommended areas to scout for fall turkeys include the Lyons Hollow, Church Hollow and Bobcat Hollow areas in the southern section of the forest. On the northern end, the woods near North Ridge Road and Slickaway Hollow hold a decent turkey population.
Tar Hollow SF is best accessed by following U. S. Route 23 to Chillicothe from either the north or south; then, turn east on U.S. Route 50 to Londonderry. Take Route 327 to the forest where numerous county roads lead directly to Tar Hollow.
Camping is available at Tar Hollow State Park. Campground information may be acquired by calling (740) 887-4818. Additional lodging may be found in nearby Chillicothe.
Maps and additional information may be obtained by writing the Tar Hollow State Forest office, Route 1 Box 387, Londonderry, OH 45647-9632, or call (740) 887-3879.
NEW LYME WILDLIFE AREA
This 690-acre public hunting area is in top-producing Ashtabula County. The topography here is mostly flat; 70 percent of the WA is covered in woodlands.
In central Ashtabula County two miles east of South New Lyme, this public hunting area is 40 miles from Youngstown and 53 miles from Cleveland. It is best reached from the north and south by following state Route 46 to either Brownville Road or Dodgeville Road.
For maps and additional information, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Three office, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319, or call (330) 644-2293.
BRUSH CREEK WILDLIFE AREA
The 3,065 acres of Brush Creek WA lie in Jefferson County. This rugged public hunting area has been specifically managed for the stocking of forest game species, which has resulted in excellent turkey habitat.
Turkey hunting is a major recreational use of this WA, so a 519-acre tract was purchased in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation to provide Ohio hunters with additional turkey opportunities.
The elevation here varies from 760 to 1,360 feet above sea level, which means that hunters can expect some steep hunting terrain. Second-growth hardwoods occupy over 80 percent of this area, with oak and hickory dominating the upper slopes.
Just 35 miles from Steubenville and 66 miles from Akron, Brush Creek Wildlife Area lies six miles southeast of Salineville in northern Jefferson County. Access is provided by county Road 55, which may be reached from state Route 164 at Monroeville. Township roads provide good access to most of the wildlife area.
Additional information may be obtained from the Area Manager, Brush Creek Wildlife Area, 16760 Spring Valley Road, Salineville, OH 43945, or call (330) 679-2201.
Additional information on the region's wild turkey management and hunting regulations may be obtained from the ODOW's Wildlife District Three office in Akron.
Hunting hours for Ohio's fall turkey season are from a half-hour before sunrise until sunset. Turkeys of either sex may be hunted in the counties designated for fall hunting. Only shotguns using shot, crossbows and longbows are permitted.
Keep in mind that it is unlawful to hunt turkeys over bait or to use a live decoy while hunting; electronic calls too are forbidden. No turkeys may be taken while they are roosted in a tree.
For additional information on wild turkey management strategies in Ohio, contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife Headquarters, 1840 Belcher Drive, Columbus, OH 43224, call (614) 265-6300, or go to the division's Web site at
For lodging and tourism information, call 1-800-BUCKEYE.