Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall turkey hunting a hit or miss proposition

Ohio’s fall wild turkey hunters should find more than enough elbow room when the season starts Oct. 8.

Ohio has an estimate of 180,000 and 200,000 wild turkeys, which represent a slight decline from previous years. There are about 15,000 fall turkey hunters compared to around 75,000 spring turkey hunters.

“I suspect that there isn’t much of an interest in hunting turkeys in the fall; we’ve just not seen a tradition build up like you see in Pennsylvania and Virginia,” said Mike Reynolds, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s biologist in charge of the state’s wild turkey management program.

It seems that our hunters would rather be in a tree stand, looking for a deer.”

Thus, the sale of fall turkey tags have continued to decline over the past several years. Last year, only 6,802 fall turkey permits were sold; a 11-percent drop from the previous year, Reynolds says.

“Fall turkey hunting really has to be something you enjoy,” Reynolds said. “Though, that being said we do have seven weeks of hunting opportunity.”

Discouraging was poor reproduction; tied for the lowest on record or 1.9 poults per hen, Reynolds said.

“However, in Northeast Ohio it was little better with 2.3 poults per hen,” Reynolds said.

And while the Wildlife Division observed a lot of poor nesting early on it does appear there was good renesting success, Reynolds said also.

Tthose birds will have a decent chance of surviving. That’s a good thing,” he said.

The bottom line, says Reynolds, is that hunters will have to spend some time “doing their homework and finding flocks of birds.”

Likewise, food sources will prove important for a prospective fall turkey hunter as well. While the state’s survey of the acorn crop has not been completed it is believed that the white oak production was poor though it appears to be good for red oak and black oak, Reynolds says.

“If you can’t find a grove with good acorn production then you’ll have to look for agricultural fields where the birds will feed. That actually may aid in locating turkeys,” Reynolds.

Reynolds reminds hunters that only one turkey per fall season can be killed but that the birds can be of either sex. During the spring season only bearded turkeys - almost always males - can be shot.

Similarly, hunters cannot kill birds over bait and they are required to buy a $24 fall wild turkey hunting permit in addition to a general hunting license. Spring permits are not valid during the fall season.

Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset and birds must be checked by 11:30 p.m., day of harvest. Dogs are legal to use during the fall season only.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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