Spring turkey hunting season
Spring turkey hunting season is open until Sunday in the South Zone of Ohio and, so far, numbers in Washington and surrounding counties are already outpacing last year.
With only a few days left, the number of turkeys bagged in Washington County from opening day April 23 through May 14 was 564 , according to information provided by John Windau, wildlife communications manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. By the end of the spring turkey season on May 15, 2017, a total of 427 turkeys were checked. Across the state, the numbers are already 18,269, beating last year’s season total of 16,950.
“Although the 2018 statewide total is ahead of 2017, not all areas of the state have seen a positive change in harvest,” said Mark Wiley, wildlife biologist with ODNR. “Harvest is down in most western and northeastern counties where reproductive indices have been low in recent years. These harvest declines have been offset by notable increases in harvest throughout east central and southeastern Ohio.”
The state requires that the bag limit is two bearded turkeys, with only one bearded turkey taken per day. The Northeast Zone is Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties and the South Zone is the remainder of the state. South Zone wild turkey hunting hours are from May 7 to 20, 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. A harvested turkey must be checked by 11:30 p.m. on the day of kill.
Bruce Lane owns Hickory Ridge Trophy Hunts in Marietta, an operation he has had for the past eight years that allows hunters to go out in groups looking for deer mostly but turkeys, too, this time of year. Lane himself has more than 40 years experience hunting in southeast Ohio, as well as the Rocky Mountain states, Alaska and British Columbia. He serves as a guide for the hunts.
“We sell turkey hunts on private land that I either own or lease. This year we’ve taken out about six hunters and everyone got a bird — some even got two. It’s been a really good turkey season,” he said.
Lane said he was part of the National Wild Turkey Federation local chapter and the group was responsible for trapping and relocating wild turkeys to the area a few decades ago. There isn’t an overpopulation problem with turkeys as there is with deer, he explained, because the birds have a lot of predators, including coyotes, bobcats and even people’s pet dogs.
“To hunt turkeys in Ohio, you have to have a hunting license and a turkey permit. You can hunt with a shotgun or archery but most choose shotguns, just out of personal preference,” Lane said, adding that turkeys that are hunted now are typically eaten now. The average size for a good kill is 19 to 21 pounds.
“Anything over 22 pounds is getting too big,” he said.
Sandyville, W.Va. resident Jonathan Caltrider, 34, has been hunting in West Virginia and Ohio for the better part of 20 years and recently got a 3-or 4-year-old male turkey while hunting in Cutler.
“I go hunting in this particular area a lot and there are more birds there now than I ever remember being there,” he said. “It’s been a pretty exceptional year as far as the number of people I know who go out hunting who have gotten birds.”
Caltrider said he prefers to hunt turkeys in the spring, and prefers mornings to hotter times later in the day.
“I just love being in the woods when the sun comes up and nature comes alive,” he said.
Licenses and permits can be acquired through the ODNR. Money raised helps to fund grant programs for wildlife education, promotion of outdoor activities, wetland restoration projects and more.
At a glance
Spring turkey season
¯ A valid Ohio hunting license and spring turkey permit are required, unless exempted.
¯ The bag limit is two bearded turkeys.
¯ Only one bearded turkey may be taken per day. Those wishing to take a second wild turkey during the spring season must purchase a second spring turkey permit.
¯ The Northeast Zone is Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties. The South Zone is the remainder of the state.
¯ South Zone wild turkey hunting hours from May 7 – 20, 2018 are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.
¯ A harvested turkey must be checked by 11:30 p.m. on the day of kill.
¯ It is legal to use a leashed dog to recover wounded turkeys in the spring turkey season.
Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Current spring turkey totals (as of May 14)
County 2018 2017
Meigs 583 455
Monroe 654 461
Morgan 467 356
Noble 466 381
Vinton 386 300
Washington 564 427
Source: ODNR Division of Wildlife.