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Published: Sunday, 4/10/2011

Wild turkeys that escaped last season become wiser

BY STEVE POLLICK
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

The month-long spring wild turkey hunting season opens April 18 in all 88 Ohio counties and some 70,000 licensed hunters are busy planning and scouting territories for what promises to be a challenging season.

"Last year we harvested [23,421] the second highest number of birds on record because of the strength of the 2008 hatch," said Mike Reynolds, wild turkey biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

"That made for a lot of two-year-old-gobblers, and they like to gobble," the biologist added. In turn, more active gobbling made for more productive hunting and bagging of bearded birds.

This time around, the good remaining numbers of 2008 birds will be three-year-olds and that much smarter, more elusive, and less susceptible to hunter calls. The older males — alternatively called gobblers, toms, or longbeards — indeed will have longer beards and long heel spurs with another year's maturity.

"Overall, turkey numbers should be good across the state, but the harvest will likely not top last year's kill," said Reynolds. He noted the 2009 and 2010 hatches were not as productive as that of 2008, so it will be no surprise to see a dip in the bag from last year. "Still I expect to see a kill of 20,000 or more."

With the more than 23,000 wild turkeys taken during last year's youth and spring seasons, Reynolds said Ohio's population is around 200,000.

He remarked that weather will be the trump card. An extended forecast for wet weather is not helping wildlife field crews with the annual spring turkey gobbling and ruffed grouse drumming surveys under way. "And there's a limit to how wet turkey hunters are willing to be." Calm and dry make for optimal conditions.

A special youth-only turkey hunt for those possessing a valid youth hunting license and youth turkey permit will be held on Saturday and Sunday [April 16-17]. Young hunters must be accompanied by a nonhunting adult, 18 years of age or older.

The young hunter's turkey season is open statewide with the exception of the Lake La Su An State Wildlife Area in Williams County, which requires a special hunting permit. Legal hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to sunset each day during the two-day youth season.

The statewide all-hunters season continues through May 15.

All hunters must still report their harvest of turkeys, but they are no longer required to take their turkey to a check station for physical inspection under the new electronic licensing system. Hunters will have three options to complete the automated game check:

  • By telephone at 1-877-TAG-ITOH (1-877-824-4864).
  • At all license agents.

Game-check transactions will be available online and by telephone seven days a week and during holidays.

Landowner hunters who are not required to purchase a spring turkey permit must use the Internet or any license agent to check a turkey. Hunters who tag a turkey as a landowner harvest cannot use the phone-in method.

All authorized license sales agents will also check in your game. A list of these agents can be found at www.ohiodnr.com/wildlife/dow/regulations/vendor.aspx.

Legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until noon from April 18 to May 1. Hunting hours from May 2 through 15 will be a half-hour before sunrise to sunset. Hunters are required to have a hunting license and a spring turkey-hunting permit and can take one bearded turkey per day. A second spring turkey permit can be purchased allowing hunters to take a limit of two bearded wild turkeys for the season.

Shotguns using shot, longbows, and crossbows may be used to hunt wild turkeys. It is unlawful to hunt turkeys over bait, to use a live decoy or electronic calling device, or to shoot a wild turkey while it is in a tree.

The wildlife division encourages turkey hunters to wear hunter orange clothing when entering, leaving, or moving through hunting areas in order to remain visible to others.

A couple more tips: Be sure to secure written permission on any private land you will be hunting, and pattern your shotgun. The latter pre-season effort, fired at a turkey head-neck silhouette, might prove enlightening about where your favorite field-piece actually prints its loads. It could mean the difference between a fine bird in the bag or a weak excuse back at camp.

-- In related news, the Bad Creek Longbeards Chapter, National Wild Turkey Federation, has set its seventh annual fund-raising dinner for Friday at the Fulton County Sportsmen Club, 7700 County Road 14, Wauseon. Doors open at 5 p.m. Call Todd Bingham, 419-335-1394.

Contact Steve Pollick at: spollick@theblade.com or 419-724-6068



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