Monday, May 16, 2016

UPDATED WITH NEW KILL DATA Ohio's 2016 spring turkey season kill mirrors 2015's; multi-county pockets of declines being seen

With a spring wild turkey-hunting season opening day that was much warmer than its last day four weeks later, Ohio’s hunters still managed to bag more birds than they did during the 2015 spring season.

But only by a ridiculously and statistically miniscule number: Just 180 more birds. Add the kill from the youth-only spring wild turkey-hunting season and the number shrinks even more – to a total 2016 all-spring seasons’ paltry gain of 155 birds.

In total the 2016 four-week spring season saw 16,229 birds taken. Couple that number with the April 16th and 17th youth-only season kill of 1,564 birds and the combined total comes to 17,793 wild turkeys. In 2015 the respective figures were 16,049 and 1,589 for a combined total of 17,638 birds.

A further look back shows that the total wild turkey kill was 23,421 birds in 2010 (the highest-ever record spring season turkey kill in Ohio); 18,162 birds in 2011; 17,657 birds in 2012; 18,409 birds in 2013; and 16,568 birds in 2014.

Mincing the 2016 figures some more, of Ohio’s 88 counties during the just-concluded spring turkey-hunting season, 52 of them showed gains; some by a lot but most counties by only a little bit. Among those counties seeing subjectively large kill increases were Athens (plus-40 birds); Clermont (plus-49 birds); Jefferson (plus-37 birds); Hocking (plus-41 birds); and Pike (plus-32 birds).

Meanwhile, 33 counties saw drops in their kill when their respective 2016 totals are stacked up against their 2015 totals with three counties – Auglaize, Perry, and Washington - posting respective identical 2015 and 2016 spring season kills.

In the decline ledger some of the more significant falloffs were seen in Coshocton County (down 40 birds); Guernsey County (down 56 birds); Holmes County (down 35 birds); Knox County (down 69 birds); and Licking County, which experienced an eye-popping decline of 89 birds.

Ohio Division of Wildlife research biologist Mark Wiley says that this pocket of counties is largely located east and south of Columbus. And at first blush this loosely defined cell of counties appears to be something of a harvest-decline anomaly; one that is worthy of at least some research effort, says Wiley.

 “It’s a pocket that we’re curious about,” Wiley said.

Another inexact pocket where turkey kill numbers have retreated - and which will come under more agency-led biological scrutiny - is in southwest Ohio. Here the matrix consists of Darke, Clinton, Montgomery, Greene and Butler counties, says Wiley.

“Of course the individual harvests in these counties are not as large as those found in the other pocket,” Wiley said. “I don’t have anything solid as to why we’re seeing these patchy pockets of increases and decreases, and I’ll be the first to admit that there won’t always be an answer.”

None of which means the Wildlife Division will avoid trying to uncover the developing mystery’s “why,” however, also says Wiley.

Such exploration will almost certainly focus on historical turkey reproduction data; poult recruitment and turkey kill numbers. Along with these data-heavy points the agency will also look at any potential changes in habitat, though this last potential component probably isn’t a factor in the heavily forested hill country of east-central Ohio, Wiley says.

Even so and without question, Ohio’s wildlife experts are crediting – blaming, really – much of this spring season’s lackluster turkey kill to the steady slide from really nice turkey hunting weather to conditions more in line with what one would expect to encounter during a late autumn deer-hunting campaign.

As an example, on April 18th , opening day, the daytime high temperature as recorded in Cleveland was 79 degrees. On the last day of the season, May 15th, - and also recorded at Cleveland - the day’s high temperature was just 50 degrees, and which also saw a snow shower that caught everyone by surprise; likely even the turkeys.

Downstate, the weather was every bit as bad and perhaps even worse. For the Columbus area precipitation was noted on 13 of the spring wild turkey-hunting season’s final 15 days, based upon data provided by the National Weather Service.

And in Cincinnati, precipitation fell on 11 of the spring season’s final 15 days.

No wonder then that the 18,000-bird harvest the Wildlife Division believed was possible after the season’s first week was scuttled by a weather pattern largely built on cool temperatures, often unforgiving breezes and the steady drip-drip-drip of rain showers and even in Northeast Ohio on the final day, snow showers.

“At the end of the first week of the season the turkey harvest was up five percent but after that it just kept going down, down, down,” said John Windau, the Wildlife Division’s chief spokesman.

Other data provided by the Wildlife Division points toward a harvest that was heavily tilted toward a kill of two-year old or older mature gobblers.

In terms of the breakdown of what Ohio’s turkey hunters killed this spring, adult gobblers comprised 75.4 percent of the total while jakes made up 23.5 percent. Bearded hens accounted for just 1.1 percent of the total, Wiley said.

By comparison, for the 2015 spring season, 77.8 percent of the turkeys killed were adult males, 21.1 percent were jakes and an identical year-to-year 1.1 percent were bearded hens.

As for the number of turkey tags sold, 66,436 permits were issued this year compared to 65,883 such licenses for the 2015 spring season, Wiley said also.
A slight dip in the number of second birds shot by hunters was noted this year. Based on data supplied by the Wildlife Division, 17.8 percent of Ohio’s spring wild turkey hunters registered killing two birds. That figure is an ever-so-small reduction from the 2015’s spring season figure of 18.4 percent. 
Here is the preliminary list of all wild turkeys checked during the 2016 combined spring turkey hunting. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2016, and the 2015 numbers are in parentheses.

Adams: 432 (413); Allen: 89 (78); Ashland: 202 (208); Ashtabula: 569 (557); Athens: 363 (323); Auglaize: 50 (50); Belmont: 491 (520); Brown: 347 (327); Butler: 166 (200); Carroll: 322 (330); Champaign: 95 (102); Clark: 15 (19); Clermont: 396 (347); Clinton: 40 (60); Columbiana: 361 (385); Coshocton: 418 (458); Crawford: 74 (63); Cuyahoga: 12 (10); Darke: 40 (55); Defiance: 324 (298); Delaware: 111 (107); Erie: 55 (49); Fairfield: 102 (108); Fayette: 26 (14); Franklin: 21 (11); Fulton: 120 (117); Gallia: 418 (393); Geauga: 264 (269); Greene: 16 (23); Guernsey: 428 (484); Hamilton: 117 (116); Hancock: 53 (60); Hardin: 87 (101); Harrison: 425 (430); Henry: 72 (58); Highland: 387 (357); Hocking: 309 (268); Holmes: 217 (252); Huron: 113 (155); Jackson: 347 (320); Jefferson: 410 (373); Knox: 285 (354); Lake: 54 (68); Lawrence: 274 (222); Licking: 281 (370); Logan: 141 (117); Lorain: 141 (139); Lucas: 60 (45); Madison: 13 (6); Mahoning: 228 (213); Marion: 35 (31); Medina: 138 (145); Meigs: 419 (450); Mercer: 21 (23); Miami: 20 (17); Monroe: 508 (481); Montgomery: 18 (25); Morgan: 308 (325); Morrow: 174 (170); Muskingum: 462 (478); Noble: 349 (335); Ottawa: 3 (0); Paulding: 126 (145); Perry: 260 (260); Pickaway: 26 (24); Pike: 278 (246); Portage: 205 (236); Preble: 114 (108); Putnam: 87 (89); Richland: 280 (277); Ross: 350 (330); Sandusky: 25 (22); Scioto: 270 (236); Seneca: 141 (162); Shelby: 50 (42); Stark: 281 (223); Summit: 65 (54); Trumbull: 464 (435); Tuscarawas: 429 (426); Union: 48 (32); Van Wert: 27 (17); Vinton: 306 (329); Warren: 101 (67); Washington: 466 (466); Wayne: 106 (100); Williams: 313 (296); Wood: 36 (30); Wyandot: 103 (104). Totals: 17,793 (17,638).


By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff was the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. Jeff is 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.

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