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Hunters may get earlier turkey season

An earlier spring wild turkey season in 2005 is in the offing for Ohio hunters, if proposed 2004-2005 hunting and trapping regulations are approved without major changes.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife is suggesting that the spring turkey opener be moved to the Monday closest to April 21, this as a result of many requests by hunters for an earlier start on the increasingly popular season. For 2005 that date would be April 18.

The 2004 spring wild turkey season, already set, will run April 26 through May 23 statewide, except on the Lake La Su An State Wildlife Area in Williams County. A special young season is set for April 24 and 25.

Data collected by wildlife biologists has established that an earlier opening date will have no biological effect on the state s wild turkey population.

“These are proposals,” stressed Dave Risley, the division s administrator of wildlife management and research. Part of the process, he noted, includes gathering feedback from the public and the Wildlife Council itself before fashioning a final plan.

On the turkey proposals, for example, the division received a good amount of feedback pro and con on the April 21 target date for spring turkey, which in effect will open the season between April 18 and 24 in various years.

Risley noted that, dates aside, poor hatches the last couple of years will result in a relative scarcity of younger gobblers this spring, with veteran birds being typically wary and hard to get. “The big influence is going to be the weather,” Risley said, adding that the best thing that can happen for the state s turkey population is beneficial weather at spring hatch.

The state s turkey population is stable at about 200,000, down from a high of 220,000 or more several years ago.

In other proposals, the opening of the fall hunting seasons again would be Sept. 1 for many species, including squirrel, dove, rail, moorhen and snipe. The special early Canada goose and teal seasons also would open Sept. 1.

Most of the hunting and trapping proposals were presented to the Ohio Wildlife Council, which is set to act on them April 7 after a series of district and statewide meetings to allow public review and comment.

Deer-hunting proposals for the 2004-2005 seasons will be presented to the council Feb. 11, after the close of the current archery-hunting season on Jan. 31. Biologists will need the extra time to fully assess the results of the 2003-2004 deer seasons before recommending any modifications for 2004-2005.

However, do not expect much change in deer proposals for west and northwest Ohio, said Mike Tonkovich, a deer specialist with the division. He added, however, that “nothing is eliminated” in terms of possibilities elsewhere in the state, including even the prospect of a three-deer bag in the southeast, as occurred in 2002.

Risley said that he prefers to maintain a two-deer maximum bag in the southeast in hopes of spreading the overall bag around to more hunters.

Open houses for all the 2004-2005 proposals are scheduled for March 7, noon to 3 p.m., in the five state wildlife district offices. The northwest meeting will be at District 2 headquarters, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay.

A statewide hearing on the proposals is set for March 11 at 9 a.m., at District 1 headquarters, 1500 Dublin Rd., Columbus.

Following are proposed season dates for 2004-2005:

  • Doves, ducks, geese, coots, mergansers: Seasons to be set within federal frameworks determined by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in late summer. Projected Sept. 1 opener for doves, early Canada goose and special teal.

  • Squirrel: Sept. 1 through Jan. 31.

  • Grouse: Oct. 9 through Feb. 28.

  • Young hunters upland season: Oct. 23-24 and 30-31 for rabbit, pheasant and other legal game in season.

  • Fall wild turkey: Oct. 9-24 for shotgun or archery tackle, and continuing through Nov. 28 for archery tackle only in 36 counties.

  • Rabbit: Nov. 5 through Feb. 28.

  • Pheasant: Nov. 5 through Jan. 2.

  • Quail: Nov. 5 through 28 in 16 southern counties.

  • Fox, opossum, skunk and weasel trapping: Nov. 10 through Jan. 31.

  • Fox hunting: Nov. 10 through Jan. 31.

  • Raccoon trapping: Nov. 10 through Jan. 31.

  • Raccoon and opossum hunting: Nov. 10 through Jan. 31.

  • Mink and muskrat trapping: Nov. 10 through Feb. 28, extended through March 15 only in Lucas County east of the Maumee River and Ottawa, Sandusky, and Erie counties.

  • Beaver trapping: North Zone, east of I-77 and north of I-76, Dec. 26-Feb. 28; South Zone, rest of state, Dec. 26 through March 15.

  • Spring wild turkey: April 18 through May 15, 2005, with special youth season April 16 and 17, 2005.

  • Crow: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday, June 11 through March 20.

  • Falconry: Sept. 1 through March 10 for all nonmigratory small game species.

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