Given that coyotes, groundhogs and feral hogs can be dispatched most any day or night, hunting opportunities in Ohio are pretty much continuous.
Still, some weeks and months offer an enhanced menu including deer, rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, dove, waterfowl or a combination thereof. Spring brings the statewide wild turkey hunt starting with next weekend’s two-day youth season.
Hunting hours Saturday and next Sunday run from 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. Any bird taken during the youth hunt counts toward the regular spring season. Youngsters must be accompanied by a licensed hunter at least 18 years old.
The four-week turkey season for all ages begins April 23 in most of Ohio, including central, southern and southeastern counties, and continues through May 20. The season is a week later, April 30 through May 27, in five northeastern Ohio counties — Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull.
Two bearded turkeys, though not more than one a day, may be taken during the spring with the necessary permits.
Permit sales have held between 65,000 and 69,000 during the past four years, although last year’s total of 65,486 was the fewest issued in that span despite a spike in turkey numbers in the state resulting from the 17-year cicada hatch in 2016.
Spring permit sales peaked in 2003, when almost 95,000 were issued.
Hunters killed 21,097 wild turkeys in the spring a year ago, one of the most productive seasons ever and some 18 percent better than in 2016. A record 26,156 birds were tagged in 2001 in the wake of the 1999 cicada hatch, followed the next year by a harvest of 22,190 birds.
Weather permitting, the 2018 hunt should rival the state’s best since a legal hunt was re-established in 1966 in nine counties. The statewide spring hunt wasn’t opened until 2000.
Mark Wiley, the Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist who tracks turkey comings and goings, said gobbler abundance remains high in the state’s eastern counties while the “remainder of the state should be on par with recent years.”
The male birds hatched during 2016’s cicada outbreak are now mature, suggesting they’ll be susceptible to conjugal calls, real or imagined. The most productive turkey hunting occurs in timber-heavy areas such as eastern and southern counties.
Counties near Columbus aren’t among those that give up the most turkeys during the spring. Whereas 14 counties surrendered more than 400 turkeys last year — and two of them, Ashtabula and Monroe, more than 500 — Licking produced 281, Delaware 111 and Fairfield 102.
Union, Franklin and Pickaway counties totaled 95 turkeys among them. Madison’s 13 turkeys reported last spring were the second-fewest among the 88 counties, topping only Ottawa County’s single.
From April 23 through May 6, hunting hours run from one-half hour before sunrise to noon in the South Zone. From May 7 through May 20, hunting hours run from one-half before sunrise to sunset. All that action is delayed one week in the five North Zone counties.
Tagged birds must be reported through the automated game-check system no later than 11:30 p.m. on the day of the kill. Information about licenses, permits and regulations can be found at wildohio.gov.
Hunters are advised to wear hunter orange clothing when moving about the woods before and during the hunting day. Shotguns and archery equipment can be used to take a turkey. About one out of 50 wild turkeys tagged during the season is taken with a bow.