Hoping the recent unseasonably cool, wet weather will soon break, the state's wild turkey management administrator is looking ahead to a hot hunting season next spring.
Problem is that right now the weather patterns throughout Ohio has stalled, stuck in a cycle that might be chilling out poult survivability, says Mike Reynolds.
Reynolds is paid to fret about such things, administering the Ohio Division of Wildlife's wild turkey management program, a hugely successful project that went from naught to 60 in only a couple of decades.
In wildlife management terms that time span is merely a blink of the eye.
“I've been watching the storms roll across the state over the past week with some trepidation,” Reynolds said. “Heavy rainfall events of an inch or more – especially when accompanied by below average temperatures – can negatively impact poult production.”
While Reynolds says at least some of the accompany temperatures associated with the rains are warmish that detail does break down in some locales.
In Cleveland, and as assembled by the National Weather Service, June's to-date daily temperature is two degrees below the long-term average.
Meanwhile, June's to-date amount of rainfall stands at 3.25 inches, or 1.73 inches above the month's long-term average.
Elsewhere in Ohio similar departures for their respective averages are being noted.
That being said, however, May was a generally average month for precipitation and which saw – again, generally – above average temperatures.
“Turkeys have been around a very long time and they have this ability to persevere,” Reynolds also said. “July and August will be the telling months because that will be when the poults are the most observable.”
In terms of the ups and downs of poult production and how weather plays a factor Reynolds noted that the poults-to-hen ratios was 3:3 in 2008, 2:0 in 2009, 2:3 in 2010; 1:9 in 2011; 2:6 in 2012.
Such figures must, of course, be used as comparison indicators in order to better understand trends.
Even so, the high poult production/survival year in 2008 had a harvest echo that began in 2009 and carried on a couple of more years.
The flip side of that record was the dismal production/survival year of 2011 which resulted in less than stellar hunting for jakes in 2012 and equally poor hunting of two-year-old birds this past spring, said Reynolds.
Fortunately for this year's spring wild turkey hunters the comfortable recruitment of poults in 2012 resulted in a jake kill this spring that constituted 27 percent of the total harvest, Reynolds says.
“That's pretty good,” Reynolds said. “And it also means the 2014 spring hunt should be good, too, because it is the two-year-old toms that do a lot of gobbling.”
Reynolds is looking even further down the road as a matter of fact.
The anticipation is that the next big 17-year locust hatch will arrive in the eastern portion of Ohio in 2016.
These protein-rich cyclic insects are high-valued commodities for growing poults which put on the pounds and helps ensure bird survivability, says Reynolds.
“We should have a good bunch of jakes to hunt in 2017 and another huge harvest of two-year-olds in 2018,” Reynolds said. “Maybe even enough for another record harvest.”
-Jeffrey L. Frischkorn