As was the case last year, Buckeye gobbler hunters can expect a challenging season as 2012′s version of the annual spring turkey hunting unfolds. Last year’s wet, cold, dismal spring did nothing to help bolster turkey populations already on the decline due to poor nesting conditions in recent years. But for the hunter up to the test, there will be enough gobblers available to keep thing interesting.
“I expected to see at least a 10 percent decline in this year’s spring turkey harvest as a result of the poor hatch in 2009,” said Ohio DNR Wildlife Biologist Mike Reynolds, in response to the results of the 2010 spring season. “However, the wettest April on record in Ohio hampered turkey hunting and resulted in a lower-than-expected harvest this season.”
Last year’s spring harvest of 18,485 was 21 percent off the pace of that taken the previous year. The 2010 spring harvest of 23,421 gobblers, however, is a total that would have been hard to match: It was the second highest spring gobbler harvest on record.
“Record rainfall and regional flooding during the nesting season negatively affected wild turkey production this year,” noted Reynolds as last year’s fall turkey season was about to begin. “Some re-nesting may have helped to offset early nest failures, but hunters will likely find fewer turkeys. Brood production in two of the last three years (2009 and 2011) has been the lowest on record.”
Last fall Ohio hunters bagged 1,375 wild turkeys, compared to 1,425 the prior fall. Fall turkey hunting is only available in a portion of Ohio’s counties.
What follows is a district-by-district look at this spring’s better turkey hunting counties, fueled by historical harvest and wildlife biologist’s information.
Call District 1 the bull’s-eye of the Buckeye State. Situated smack dab in the middle of the state, the area is better known for state government and Big Ten football than it is for wild turkey hunting. But good opportunities are present for hunters from this part of the state.
District 1 has a history of a good turkey population, but the habitat is pretty broken up. This is central Ohio, centered around the capitol of Columbus. The habitat is primarily private land. Hunters are going to have to work harder to get permission to hunt. If they can get permission, though, they should find birds.
Last season three counties in District 1 had very good spring harvests. They included Knox with 513 toms, Licking with a take of 434, and Morrow County with 212 bird. Delaware County also produced 132 toms. Not surprisingly, the largest harvests took place in the eastern portion of the district. But even in Franklin County, the home of Columbus and its suburban sprawl, 23 wild turkeys where taken by spring hunters.
District 1 contains six state managed wildlife areas. They include: Big Island WA, Deer Creek WA, Delaware State Park and Wildlife Area, Dillon WA, Kokosing WA and Mohican River WA.
For additional information on District 1 contact the district office at 614-644-3925.
Much of the hunting attention in District 2 focuses on the abundant waterfowl options the district provides. Indeed, the marshlands associated with Lake Erie provide excellent sport. But the hunting isn’t limited to ducks and geese. There are expanding hunting opportunities for birds of a different feather: the wild turkey.
The counties in District 2, in northwestern Ohio, average only about 15 percent forested cover. But the turkey populations there are the most rapidly growing ones in the state. Understand, though, that rapidly growing might mean a county goes from a harvest of two birds to a harvest of six birds. Turkey abundance in District 2 is the lowest of the five districts of Ohio. But there are turkey-hunting opportunities in all of the counties in District 2, with the overall population getting larger in general. Where there is turkey habitat in the district, there are turkeys.
Hunters who want to stay home and hunt turkeys in District 2 should find birds. The key is to find woodlots, especially the larger ones that are interconnected with others, with forest or brushy cover. Then they need to get permission to hunt those areas. The top county is Williams County, which is the northwestern-most county in the state. It has had turkeys for a very long time, with a stable population. Just to the south, Defiance County is another good turkey county.
The spring 2011 harvest in Williams County was 250. Defiance County produced 228 spring birds last year.
Many of the wildlife areas in District 2 are marshlands. Some upland area is present, however. In Williams County consider the Beaver Creek Wildlife Area. Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area is Defiance County. But as was pointed out, the key to success in this district is to do your homework and get permission to hunt the forested private land areas.
Contact the District 2 office at 419-424-5000 for more information on the hunting in this area.
District 3, located in the northeast portion of the state, contains some of the stronger wild turkey populations in the entire state. This serves many hunters well, as the area also houses major population centers like Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown. These sportsmen don’t have to venture far to find excellent wild turkey hunting.
Hunters should have no problem finding turkeys in District 3. It is one of Ohio’s stronger districts. Turkeys have been there for a long time. You can move anywhere in District 3, from the northeast corner, in Ashtabula County, all the way down to Jefferson County and Harrison County and you are going to find good numbers of birds. Columbiana County is also a good one. District 3 has a good mix of both public-land hunting opportunities and private land.