A robust turkey hatch coupled with good spring weather and the cyclic 17-year emergence of cicadas probably is contributing to a marked improvement in Ohio’s fall wild turkey-hunting season kill.
For the first nine days of the fall season, Ohio turkey hunters killed 575 birds in the 55 counties opened to the activity. For the first nine days in 2015 that figure stood at 401 birds. The 575 figure represents about one-third the total number of turkeys killed during the entire 2015 fall season, too.
Also, for 2014 the tally was 297 birds, though a statistical caveat exists for that last number. This numerically necessary asterisk comes because in 2014 the fall turkey season was delayed by two days – until a Monday instead of opening on a Saturday – in order to accommodate the-then two-day early two-day/weekend muzzle-loader-only/antlerless-only deer hunting season.
Regardless, Ohio’s 2016 fall turkey hunting season is off and running. So far six Ohio counties have to-date kill numbers of at least 20 birds each. And in all of them the gains are truly eye-popping. All in spite of the fact that the sale of fall turkey tags is off five percent, says an Ohio Division of Wildlife official.
When the numbers are crunched, after the season’s first nine days the current list of county leaders (with their respective 2015 to-date figures in parentheses) are: Tuscarawas – 25 (6); Holmes – 24 (3); Perry – 22 (11); Jackson – 21 (11); Noble – 21 (7); and Monroe – 20 (6).
Other noteworthy advances (again with their respective 2015 to-date numbers in parentheses) include: Athens County – 14 (5); Guernsey County – 15 (6); Harrison County – 17 (8); Morgan County – 18 (5); Muskingum County – 19 (9); and Washington County – 18 (8).
Perennial leader Ashtabula County is not on top of the leader board – at least not yet – but still has posted a good to-date kill of 19 birds, which is the same to-date number that hunters there reported in 2015.
However, Ashtabula County is in company with five other counties that have recorded identical first nine-day fall turkey-hunting season kills for 2015 and 2016. Besides Ashtabula County these counties with their respective figures are Butler – 4; Defiance – 5; Lake – 3; Scioto – 5; and Stark – 9.
“This is nothing surprising, and is related to (the so-called) ‘Brood V’ cicadas hatch this past May and June,” said Mike Reynolds, The Ohio Division of Wildlife’s wildlife research administrator.
Cicadas do two things that benefit wild turkeys, says Reynolds.
“Poults have a ready source of high protein that helps them grow fast, and also cicada abundance improves young bird survivability since the birds didn’t have to move as much and which made them less vulnerable to predators,” Reynolds said.
A second component is that even small predators like skunks, raccoons, and possums that otherwise would have been scouting for wild turkey eggs and poults were themselves feasting on the cicadas, Reynolds said.
Interestingly, however, about the only place in eastern Ohio which did not see a large Brood V emergence was in Ashtabula and Trumbull counties; both of which did not see marked gains in their respective nine-day turkey kill.
Also, and based on the season’s first nine days, 15 counties have posted to-date fall turkey-hunting season declines. In alphabetical order (and with their respective 2015 to-date numbers in parentheses) these counties are: Adams – 6 (10); Belmont – 6 (9); Brown – 5 (11); Clermont – 6 (9); Columbiana – 8 (14); Delaware – 1 (4); Fairfield – 5 (7); Hamilton – zero (1) (Hamilton is also the only county opened to fall turkey hunting that has yet to record a bird killed to-date for 2016); Highland – 9 (13); Hocking – 14 (15); Morrow – 1 (4); Portage – 9 (11); Trumbull – 6 (16); Warren – 3 (4); and Wayne – 2 (3).
Reynolds said that a fall turkey hunt – especially this year with a bumper crop of birds is “a great opportunity for people who want to put a bird on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table.”
“I can see us easily harvesting 2,000 or more birds this year,” Reynolds said as well. “Those who are buying permits are enjoying better success. There are a lot of birds out there and the birds are moving around much more in part because the acorn crop isn’t very good this year.”
Of course, much time remains for these deficit-recording counties to dust themselves off and regroup. Ohio’s fall wild turkey-hunting season runs through November 27th. Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. Birds of either sex are legal game.
As far as other rules and regulations go in chasing fall wild turkeys, some of the highlights include that hunters must buy a separate fall tag as any unused spring tag is not valid, Reynolds notes.
In 2015, Ohio’s fall wild turkey hunters killed 1,535 birds. The top counties last year were Ashtabula - 73 birds; Hocking -52 birds; Gallia – 50 birds; Trumbull – also 50 birds; and Geauga – 45 birds.
The breakdown in the sex and age component of the 2015 fall turkey kill was 45 percent adult female, 28 percent adult male, 15 percent juvenile female, and 12 percent juvenile male.
Reynolds says that while some fall turkey hunters are dedicated their numbers are small. In fact, fall turkey tag sales are off five percent from what they were in 2015.
Last year the Ohio Division of Wildlife sold 8,027 fall wild turkey hunting permits. The largest number of Ohio fall wild turkey hunting permits ever sold was the 15,469 in 2002.
Ohio has had a fall wild turkey hunting season since 1996 when it was opened in just 22 counties.
- Jeffrey L. FrischkornJFrischk@Ameritech.net