Sunday, June 16, is Father’s Day and a great excuse to take a Dad fishing.

Turkey population efforts underway

By Dan Armitage, outdoor writer

Ohio’s wild turkey abundance peaked in the early 2000s and since then, statewide turkey populations and spring harvest have generally declined. My own gobbler-hunting experiences reflect that decline. That’s why I was glad to hear that the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) began an in-depth study of wild turkey nesting and movement in 2023 to better understand and manage the state’s changing turkey population. The study effort was expanded in 2024, when biologists affixed GPS transmitters to 49 hens and gathered information on their movement, survival, and nest activity timing. This year, staff are gathering data from 137 hens via GPS transmitters.

What’s more, each summer, the Division collects information on young wild turkeys, called poults. Brood surveys in 2021, 2022, and 2023 showed above average results that benefitted Ohio’s wild turkey population numbers this spring. The statewide average poults per hen observed was 2.8 in 2023, 3.0 in 2022, and 3.1 in 2021, with a long-term average of 2.7. The brood survey is largely based on public reports, and the Division encourages people to submit observations of wild turkeys during July and August at wildohio.gov.

Division of Wildlife staff are also conducting research on the gobbling frequency and timing of male wild turkeys. Biologists placed 32 recorders in northeast and southeast Ohio this spring to record wild turkey gobbles and learn more about factors that influence gobbling. Preliminary results from 2023 show that gobbling peaked in late April, with a smaller peak in the first half of May.

Information gathered from the brood surveys, multiyear nest study, and gobbling research will influence wild turkey management decisions in the coming years. That helps the Division of Wildlife structure science-based turkey hunting regulations, ensuring wild turkey success across Ohio for many more years.

The Division an extensive program in the 1950s to restore wild turkeys to the Buckeye State after they were extirpated in the early 1900s and the state’s first modern day wild turkey hunting 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. Turkey hunting was opened statewide in 2000. The highest Ohio wild turkey harvest was in 2001, when hunters checked 26,156 birds.

Speaking of turkey hunting…

Spring Turkey Hunting Season Results

Wild turkey hunters across Ohio checked 15,535 birds during the spring 2024 season which concluded on Sunday, May 26, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW). The total statewide harvest represents all turkeys checked from April 20 to May 26, and includes the 1,785 birds taken during the two-day youth season April 13-14.

During the 2023 season, the total number of turkeys checked was 15,673. The three-year average for the spring season (2021, 2022, and 2023) is 14,030. The top 10 counties for wild turkey taken in the 2024 season were Ashtabula (470), Belmont (454), Tuscarawas (449), Monroe (447), Washington (410), Gallia (400), Muskingum (397), Trumbull (396), Meigs (381), and Columbiana (377).

Adult male turkeys made up 82% of the final count with 12,778 birds taken. Following above-average brood production summers in 2021 and 2022, biologists expected a high proportion of adult birds in the total harvest this spring. Hunters checked 2,595 juvenile male turkeys in 2024, representing 17% of birds taken. Turkey hunters also checked 162 bearded female turkeys (hens) during the 2024 season. The Division issued 51,530 spring turkey permits for use during the spring hunting season. In 2023, the spring turkey bag limit was reduced from two to one in an effort to conserve Ohio’s population.

Ohio’s spring turkey season is split into two zones to align with the timing of turkey nesting in those regions. The northeast zone includes Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties. In 2024, 1,201 turkeys were checked in the northeast zone, while 14,334 birds were taken in the 83 counties that comprise the south zone.

A list of all wild turkeys checked by hunters in each county during the 2024 spring season is shown below. Results from the state include 30 days of hunting in the south zone, 30 days in the northeast zone, and the two-day statewide youth season. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2024, and the three-year average (2021 to 2023) is in parentheses. Numbers below are raw data and are subject to change.

Adams: 351 (338); Allen: 80 (64); Ashland: 191 (154); Ashtabula: 470 (401); Athens: 304 (282); Auglaize: 51 (33); Belmont: 454 (385); Brown: 284 (305); Butler: 191 (185); Carroll: 344 (299); Champaign: 67 (74); Clark: 23 (20); Clermont: 252 (247); Clinton: 73 (56); Columbiana: 377 (375); Coshocton: 343 (328); Crawford: 64 (49); Cuyahoga: 14 (7); Darke: 70 (56); Defiance: 191 (170); Delaware: 78 (86); Erie: 37 (38); Fairfield: 91 (89); Fayette: 11 (7); Franklin: 17 (17); Fulton: 177 (107); Gallia: 400 (356); Geauga: 266 (184); Greene: 29 (22); Guernsey: 376 (351); Hamilton: 103 (96); Hancock: 38 (35); Hardin: 87 (91); Harrison: 357 (333); Henry: 74 (47); Highland: 310 (304); Hocking: 222 (212); Holmes: 214 (180); Huron: 93 (81); Jackson: 247 (246); Jefferson: 373 (358); Knox: 202 (238); Lake: 55 (56); Lawrence: 214 (191); Licking: 255 (259); Logan: 124 (117); Lorain: 109 (105); Lucas: 85 (51); Madison: 4 (6); Mahoning: 201 (172); Marion: 44 (32); Medina: 119 (95); Meigs: 381 (354); Mercer: 23 (20); Miami: 34 (26); Monroe: 447 (365); Montgomery: 30 (31); Morgan: 232 (239); Morrow: 127 (126); Muskingum: 397 (364); Noble: 341 (312); Ottawa: 1 (1); Paulding: 83 (68); Perry: 252 (247); Pickaway: 14 (17); Pike: 188 (191); Portage: 232 (187); Preble: 107 (116); Putnam: 41 (34); Richland: 239 (203); Ross: 267 (253); Sandusky: 33 (24); Scioto: 283 (208); Seneca: 123 (113); Shelby: 35 (40); Stark: 280 (238); Summit: 57 (59); Trumbull: 396 (314); Tuscarawas: 449 (388); Union: 44 (45); Van Wert: 20 (14); Vinton: 209 (214); Warren: 79 (71); Washington: 410 (348); Wayne: 95 (101); Williams: 235 (196); Wood: 31 (24); Wyandot: 114 (89). 2024 total: 15,535; 3-year average total: 14,030

 CWD Update

The ODOW confirmed 27 white-tailed deer in Allen, Hardin, Marion, and Wyandot counties have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) since the start of the 2023-24 deer hunting season.

The Division tested 2,734 deer during the 2023-24 season, when positive samples were found in Allen (one), Hardin (one), Marion (four), and Wyandot (21) counties. Testing was performed on deer harvested by hunters during the 2023-24 season, as well as on deer taken through targeted removal efforts in February and March. Postseason deer removal is meant to slow the spread of CWD by reducing deer numbers in areas where the disease has been detected.

Since the fall of 2020, 49 wild deer in Ohio have tested positive for CWD, all in Allen, Hardin, Marion, and Wyandot counties (one in Allen, one in Hardin, 10 in Marion, 37 in Wyandot). Allen County’s first case of CWD was confirmed in November 2023.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer and other similar species, including mule deer, elk, and moose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no strong evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans. Find more information about CWD, including a map of known locations, at ohiodnr.gov/cwd.

Sampling for CWD will continue in the 2024-25 deer hunting season. A disease surveillance area was established in 2021 to monitor the spread of CWD. Additional hunting opportunities and special regulations are in effect in the disease surveillance area, which includes all of Hardin, Marion, and Wyandot counties as well as Auglaize and Jackson townships in Allen County. The Ohio Wildlife Council approved the inclusion of Auglaize and Jackson townships of Allen County in the disease surveillance area for the 2024-25 hunting season.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife has extensively monitored and tested deer in the disease surveillance area since CWD was discovered in the wild in 2020, and has conducted routine surveillance for CWD since 2002, with approximately 39,000 deer tested. CWD has been detected in 30 states and four Canadian provinces. The disease was first discovered in the 1960s in the western U.S. More information about the disease is available at cwd-info.org.

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