Ohio’s fall wild turkey hunters scored gains – and encountered deficits – largely based upon which county encountered an abundant emergence of 17-year cyclic cicadas.
In all, Ohio’s fall wild turkey hunters killed 2,168 birds. This figure is substantially greater than was the number for the 2015 fall wild turkey-hunting season: 1,535 birds.
Where the cicadas popped out of the ground in large numbers that led to fat and healthy poults and even adults, the fall turkey hunting season was exceptional. Where the emergence fizzled so did hunter success.
An example of the former case happening would include Coshocton County. Here, the 2016 Ohio fall turkey-hunting season saw a kill of 94 birds. In 2015 that figure was 43 birds.
The reverse was seen in such traditional fall turkey season leaders such as Ashtabula County where 66 birds were killed this year compared to 77 birds killed during the 2015 fall season.
Yet a decline here or there is relatively meaningless given the general opportunistic nature of many fall wild turkey hunters, says Mark Wiley, a wildlife research biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
To add meat to that argument, Wiley notes that for this fall season 37 percent of the turkeys were taken by archery tackle. That compared to just 2.4 percent during this past spring season, Wiley says.
“That suggests to me that far more likely it is that archery hunters are killing a bird while they’re deer hunting rather than seeking a turkey deliberately,” Wiley said. “So a fluctuation here or there really won’t be reflected (in a county’s) turkey population.”
An interesting point that caught biologists a little by surprise, says Wiley though, is that the make-up of the kill did not change much even though many counties encountered significant turkey population increases: again thanks to the massive emergence of high protein cicadas that were feasted upon by young and old birds alike.
Wiley said that for the 2015 fall wild turkey-hunting season some 45 percent of the birds taken were adult females. That is also the same number for this fall season, says Wiley.
And for this year’s crop of juvenile female turkeys the harvest make-up consisted of 18 percent; or only three percentage points more than during the 2015 fall season, Wiley says.
Parallel to near mirror comparisons are seen for the adult and juvenile male turkey kills, too. The 2015 fall season saw 28 percent of the harvest consisting of adult gobblers while for this year that figure was 25 percent.
And for jakes – male turkeys born this year – the figures for the 2015 and 2016 fall seasons were identical: 12 percent, Wiley says.
“Essentially while all of the categories saw identical or near identical percentages their respective overall numbers increased, largely as a result of more turkeys on the landscape,” Wiley says. “I would have thought more female and male juveniles as percentages would have been harvested but that wasn’t the case. This may have been a matter of hunters being more selective in choosing larger birds.”
One other item of some noteworthiness, says Wiley, is that the number of fall turkey licenses being issued has been slipping the past several years. In 2015 the Wildlife Division had issued 11,689 fall season wild turkey-hunting permits. For this just concluded season that number had fallen to 11,506 tags.
On the bright side, though, it did mean that the hunter success rate for the fall season increased for 2016; once more thanks to an abundant emergence of the Brood V 17-year cicada – an event that won’t repeat itself until the year 2033.Note: A list of all wild turkeys checked during the 2016 fall hunting season is shown below. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2016, and their respective 2015 numbers are in parentheses: Adams: 30 (44); Ashland: 25 (27); Ashtabula: 66 (73); Athens: 63 (31); Belmont: 47 (33); Brown: 20 (26); Butler: 13 (13); Carroll: 30 (21); Clermont: 28 (43); Columbiana: 31 (43); Coshocton: 94 (43); Cuyahoga: 9 (2); Defiance: 26 (18); Delaware: 10 (9); Fairfield: 24 (14); Franklin: 2 (1); Gallia: 57 (50); Geauga: 32 (45); Guernsey: 79 (35); Hamilton: 11 (10); Harrison: 68 (32); Highland: 34 (40); Hocking: 57 (52); Holmes: 74 (27); Huron: 13 (6); Jackson: 50 (43); Jefferson: 39 (30); Knox: 43 (34); Lake: 12 (11); Lawrence: 32 (31); Licking: 54 (36); Lorain: 19 (29); Mahoning: 27 (23); Medina: 28 (22); Meigs: 79 (33); Monroe: 86 (21); Morgan: 52 (13); Morrow: 8 (17); Muskingum: 64 (27); Noble: 74 (35); Perry: 62 (29); Pike: 39 (35); Portage: 31 (38); Richland: 31 (21); Ross: 25 (24); Scioto: 23 (27); Seneca: 11 (6); Stark: 41 (27); Summit: 16 (12); Trumbull: 42 (50); Tuscarawas: 92 (23); Vinton: 47 (35); Warren: 9 (9); Washington: 54 (23); Wayne: 10 (13); Williams: 25 (20); Total: 2,168 (1,535).