Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ohio’s 70,000 spring wild turkey hunters are being stalked by near-continuous poor weather.

Consequently, for the season’s first week - which ran April 18 to 24 - the harvest was 7,744 birds. That’s down from the 10,711 turkeys killed during the 2010 spring season’s first week.

The bottom line is that for the season’s initial round the turkey kill was off a staggering 27 percent.

“I am surprised; that’s actually better than I thought it would be,” said Mike Reynolds, the Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist in charge of Ohio’s wild turkey management program.

Reynolds says the significant drop is owed almost entirely to the poor weather that plagued the first week and is continuing through this, the season’s second week.

In almost every county the turkey harvest was down, with the exceptions being counties such as Cuyahoga where fewer than a handful of birds are typically shot anyway.

Some of the better turkey-hunting counties saw huge drops, too. In Ashtabula County - which usually leads the state in the number of turkeys killed - the first week harvest was off 43 percent, Reynolds says.

Meanwhile Gallia County’s first week harvest declined 52 percent, Adams County dropped by 42 percent, Meigs County by 39 percent, and Guernsey County by 18 percent.

Of concern to Reynolds and other biologists is the impact that the on-going wet, poor weather will have on turkey nesting success.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the first nesting and if there will be a second nesting attempt,” Reynolds says.

Part of the problem is that during humid, wet conditions a turkey’s scent will linger on a nest. This makes the eggs increasingly vulnerable to predation by skunks, raccoons, opossums and foxes, Reynolds says.

“We’re only about one week away from when the hens are sitting on their nest, and it will be just as interesting to see if the gobblers will remain active or if hunters will be in competition with hens still needing to be bred,” Reynolds says.

Ohio’s 2011 spring wild turkey hunting season extends through May 15. Beginning May 2 hunters will have the opportunity to hunt from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. Until then the daily hunt must conclude at noon.

Reynolds did say that he would not be at all surprised that if the weather continues to drip with rain and a goodly number of hunters have unfilled tags, that many of these sports will engage in late afternoon hunts.

Here are the official 2011 spring wild turkey season first week harvests for select county with their respective 2010 first-week kills in parentheses are: Ashtabula - 241 (430), Cuyahoga - 1 (4); Coshocton - 210 (258); Geauga - 119 (182); Guernsey - 247 (303); Huron - 72 (85); Lake - 27 (51); Lorain - 74 (88); Medina - 52 (67); Meigs - 169 (279); Muskingum - 207 (285); Sandusky - (12 (11); Trumbull - 150 (246); Tuscarawas - 259 (290); Vinton - 101 (165); Washington - 174 (216).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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