Ohio hunters checked 15,535 turkeys during the 2024 spring hunting season. (Courtesy Ohio Division of Wildlife)

Ohio hunters bag 15,535 turkeys in spring 2024 season

Hunters throughout the Buckeye State checked 15,535 wild turkeys during the spring 2024 season, with Ashtabula County hunters leading the pack.

The total statewide harvest, which concluded May 26, represents all turkeys checked from April 20 to May 26 and includes the 1,785 birds taken during the two-day youth season April 13-14, according to a May 28 news release from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

During the 2023 season, the total number was 15,673. The three-year average for the spring season (2021, 2022, and 2023) is 14,030, according to the release.

Turkey hunters are required to record their harvest using Ohio’s game-check system.

The top 10 counties for wild turkey taken in the 2024 season, according to DOW, were Ashtabula (470), Belmont (454), Tuscarawas (449), Monroe (447), Washington (410), Gallia (400), Muskingum (397), Trumbull (396), Meigs (381), and Columbiana (377).

Adult male turkeys made up 82% of the final count, with 12,778 taken. Hunters checked 2,595 juvenile male turkeys, representing 17% of birds taken. Turkey hunters also checked 162 bearded female turkeys (hens).

DOW issued 51,530 spring turkey permits for use during the spring hunting season. In 2023, the bag limit was reduced from two to one in an effort to conserve Ohio’s population, according to the release.

Ohio’s spring turkey season is split into two zones to align with the timing of turkey nesting in those regions. The northeast zone includes Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties. In 2024, 1,201 turkeys were checked in the northeast zone, and 14,334 birds were taken in the 83 counties that comprise the south zone.

Wild turkey research

Ohio’s wild turkey abundance peaked in the early 2000s. Since then, statewide turkey populations and spring harvest have generally declined, according to DOW, which began an in-depth study of wild turkey nesting and movement in 2023 to better understand and manage the state’s changing turkey population and expanded that study in 2024.

Last year, biologists affixed GPS transmitters to 49 hens and gathered information on their movement, survival, and nest activity timing. This year, staff are gathering data from 137 hens via GPS transmitters.

Each summer, DOW collects information on young wild turkeys, called poults. Brood surveys in 2021, 2022, and 2023 showed above-average results that benefited Ohio’s wild turkey population numbers this spring, according to the release. The statewide average poults per hen observed was 2.8 in 2023, 3.0 in 2022, and 3.1 in 2021, with a long-term average of 2.7. The brood survey is largely based on public reports. DOW encourages people to submit observations of wild turkeys during July and August at wildohio.gov.

DOW staff are also conducting research on the gobbling frequency and timing of male wild turkeys. Biologists placed 32 recorders in northeast and southeast Ohio this spring to record wild turkey gobbles and learn more about factors that influence gobbling. Preliminary results from 2023 show that gobbling peaked in late April, with a smaller peak in the first half of May.

Information gathered from the brood surveys, multiyear nest study, and gobbling research will influence wild turkey management decisions in the coming years, according to DOW. This helps the division structure science-based turkey hunting regulations, ensuring wild turkey success across Ohio for many more years.

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DOW began an extensive program in the 1950s to restore wild turkeys to the Buckeye State after they were extirpated in the early 1900s. Ohio’s first modern-day wild turkey hunting season opened in 1966 in nine counties, and hunters checked 12 birds. The total number of harvested turkeys topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. Turkey hunting was opened statewide in 2000. The highest Ohio wild turkey harvest was in 2001, when hunters checked 26,156 birds.

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