No surprise wild turkey harvest is down

Al Smith - Guest Columnist

The fact the wild turkey harvest in the Limaland area dropped from a year ago was not surprising.

Biologists actually expected it since reproduction has been down in recent years in much of this part of the state, according Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) turkey biologist Mark Wiley.

The numbers prove it.

The harvest in the 9-county area in 2018 was 492 compared to 581 in 2017. Only Van Wert County showed an increase in turkeys checked with 23 checked this spring compared to 22 during the same period a year ago. The remaining eight counties showed a decrease with some dropping as many as 20 below last year’s harvest.

A list of all wild turkeys checked in the other eight Limaland counties during the 2018 combined spring turkey seasons with numbers for 2017 in parenthesis is: Allen 71 (91), Auglaize 42 (60), Hancock 38 (52), Hardin 86 (87), Logan 118 (137), Mercer 19 (20), Putnam 57 (66) and Shelby 38 (46).

Statewide, the harvest was 22,571 compared to 21,042 in 2017. These state numbers are combined for the 2018 spring wild turkey south zone hunting season, northeast zone hunting season and youth wild turkey hunting season. This was the third highest spring turkey harvest on record. Breaking down the numbers showed hunters checked 20,689 birds during the 2018 wild turkey south zone and northeast zone hunting seasons compared to 19,147 birds in 2017. Youth hunters checked 1,882 birds during the 2018 youth season compared to 1,895 in 2017.

“Although the 2018 statewide total is ahead of 2017, not all areas of the state have seen a positive change in harvest. Harvest is down in most western and northeastern counties, where reproductive indices (poults/hen) have been low in recent years,” Wiley said. “These harvest declines have been offset by notable increases in harvest throughout east-central and southeastern Ohio. The reproductive index in this region was very high in 2016, during the emergence of the Brood V periodical cicadas.”

He added, “In short, we had two fairly poor reproductive years in 2016 and 2017, except for the areas experiencing the periodical cicada emergence in 2016. The bumper-crop of poults produced in that region during that event likely contributed to the high harvest numbers in east-central and southeast counties. Meanwhile, the rest of the state may have encountered average, to slightly below average turkey numbers this spring.

“Given that we are looking at harvest numbers, it is important to mention that hunter activity plays a role. If hunters learned that turkey number in east-central and southeast counties were high this year, it is possible they chose to hunt in those counties more often than they normally would. This sort of shift in hunter activity would inflate harvest in the east-central and southeast regions, while decreasing harvest in other areas of the state.”

Ohio’s 2018 spring wild turkey season was open from April 23-May 20, in the south zone and from April 30-May 27, in the northeast zone. Youth season was April 21-22.

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There are a few significant changes in hunting regulations and seasons for 2018-19 following approval recent by the Oho Wildlife Council.

One specifically involves the Limaland area. Hancock County is among three northwest Oh counties added for the fall wild turkey hunting season.

The DOW said harvest records and research indicates wild turkey populations have increased in these areas to a point where a fall harvest will not impact the overall numbers. Fall wild turkey hunting is Oct. 13–Nov. 25, 2018. The fall season is open in 70 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

A significant change was made in deer hunting regulations.

These include modifications to antlerless harvest on public lands. This includes only antlered deer may be taken from public hunting areas following the weeklong deer gun season (beginning Dec. 3). In addition, no more than one antlerless deer may be taken from public hunting areas per license year, except from a DOW authorized control hunt.

Overview of deer hunting seasons for 2018-2019:

• Deer archery: Sept. 29, 2018-Feb. 3, 2019

• Youth deer gun: Nov. 17-18, 2018

• Deer gun: Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2018; Dec. 15-16, 2018

• Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 5-8, 2019

In another rule change, waterfowl hunters will be allowed to keep two hen mallards as well as two pintail and black ducks dailly. bag limits also increased to two per day. The waterfowl bag limit for ducks and geese is consistent statewide and does not change by zone. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) oversees all migratory bird regulations, including Ohio’s hunting seasons.

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Have you caught a big fish and would like recognition for doing so? Then check out the Fish Ohio program recognizes anglers for noteworthy catches of Ohio’s fish.

There are qualifying fish for this program and those who catch one, can receive a collectible Fish Ohio lapel pin. The pin has a different species of fish on it every year. A Master Angler category also is available. Anglers who catch four different Fish Ohio-qualifying species in a single year qualify for the Master Angler pin.

The Master Angler pin is the same as the Fish Ohio pin except it is gold in color: You can check out the qualifying species and sizes, and challenge and submit your catch at

Since 1976, more than 400,000 anglers have been recognized for their catches.

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People can take advantage of three free opportunities offered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Saturday and Sunday June 9-10. In addition toe Michigan residents, out-of-state visitors can enjoy free fishing weekend, free ORV weekend and free entry into state parks.

All fishing license, ORV license, trail permit and Recreation Passport fees are waived those two days, though all other regulations still apply.

Many states offer such free opportunities to their residents, but Michigan is one of the few states who offer these opportunities to out-of-staters.

Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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