In its annual sleight of hand the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife is chirping that Ohio’s spring wild turkey-hunting season experienced a kill of 17,638 birds.
That 17,638 figure is up from the 16,556 birds shot during the 2014 spring wild turkey-hunting season. Yet this year’s combined spring season total kill is still well below the comparable 2013 spring turkey kill of 18,391birds.
Even so and almost certainly - and by what any numbers are being used – Ashtabula County’s turkey harvest downward spiral over the past three spring seasons is reason enough for some hunters to sit up and take notice.
For comparison sake Ohio’s largest-ever spring turkey harvest was the 23,421 birds shot in 2010. Since then the kill has never even approached the 19,000 bird mark and has exceeded 18,000 birds only twice since 2010.
What is likewise known is that for last year’s (2014) two-day youth-only season 1,480 birds were taken with a combined both-seasons’ total of 16,556 bearded wild turkeys. That leaves a 2014 general four-week season total kill of 15,076 birds.
An extrapolation of this year’s (2015) numbers points to a youth season take of 1,589 birds. Using the combined both-seasons’ kill of 17,638 turkeys a figure of 16,049 turkeys were shot during the just-concluded four-week-long general wild turkey-hunting season.
Consequently, the preliminary numbers point to a roughly 1,000 bird increase for the combined two seasons.
Still, those final figures themselves may be misleading without further examination. What the numbers crunching may be pointing to is a redistribution of the turkey kill from long-time “have” counties to one-time “have not counties.”
Among those counties where significant harvest declines are being found is Ashtabula County. Long thought of as being the Number One go-to place to kill a spring turkey, Ashtabula County’s reputation is losing its luster.
When employing the combined numbers for both the youth-only and general seasons - and for at least the past three years - Ashtabula County’s all-encompassing spring turkey kill has eroded from 766 birds total in 2013 to 615 birds total in 2014 to 557 birds total this year.
Thus, Ashtabula County’s total combined both-seasons spring turkey harvest has plummeted by more than 200 birds within the past three years alone.
But Ashtabula County is not alone in seeing no - or else, slow - growth of its combined both-seasons’ spring turkey season kill.
At least not in Northeast Ohio where the region’s Snow Belt status earned its stripes this past winter. Extreme and prolonged cold coupled with an extensively thick carpet of snow may have done a goodly size pot of wild turkeys, more than a few local hunters are saying.
Even so, noteworthy gains were seen in several other sections of Ohio. Southeast Ohio’s Harrison County, for instance, saw a rise in its combined both-seasons’ spring turkey kill from 392 birds in 2014 to 430 birds this year. This, after Harrison County experienced a significant drop in 2014 from its 2013 both-seasons’ total kill of 479 birds.
Recovering from the shock of declines also was Adams County. Here, the 2015’s both-seasons’ total of 413 birds was up from its 2014 spring total kill of 381 birds, but which was down from the county’s 2013 reported take of 418 birds. Yes, the 2015 figure is just five birds more than 2013’s both-seasons’ total.
What happens now is that all the numbers will be crunched and studied by both Wildlife Division biologists and administrators. So too will the statistics become fodder for turkey hunters.
That close examination perhaps will occur nowhere more so than for Ashtabula County. Even though Ashtabula has maintained its reputation as Ohio’s top spring turkey producer, a decline of more than 200 birds over the past three combined spring seasons alone should give anyone pause to reflect on season lengths, spring season bag limits and the appropriateness of a fall either-sex wild turkey-hunting season.Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.