Lima area wild turkey hunters fared much better than their counterparts in other areas of the state during the first week of the annual spring season.
Locally, hunters checked in 267 wild turkeys compared to 231 checked during the opening week of the 2019 season. Statewide hunters checked in 7,873 wild turkeys through last Sunday while hunters harvested 8,908 wild turkeys during the same time frame in 2019.
Seven of the nine local counties showed an increase over a year ago.
Allen County showed the largest increase with 41 checked this year compared to 31 checked last year. The other six counties had an increase of at least four turkeys harvested compared to a year ago. Auglaize had 23 harvested compared to 17 in 2019. Hancock had 22 turkeys checked compared to 16 last year. Hardin showed 49 turkeys checked this year compared to 44 checked in 2019. Logan had the most turkeys taken with 59. A total of 53 were harvested in that county last year. Van Wert had 10 turkeys checked this year compared to 6 last year.
On the down side, 25 turkeys were checked in Putnam County compared to 30 a year ago. A total of 22 were checked in Shelby compared to 23 in 2019.
There are a number of variables concerning harvest numbers.
Hunter participation is among the most important factors influencing spring harvest numbers. According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Meredith Gilbert, “At this point it is unclear how hunter participation in 2020 might differ from previous years and affect the harvest numbers. We use post-season hunter surveys to track trends in hunter participation.”
Weather also is a factor in any hunting season. According to Gilbert one of the main reasons Ohio has a long four-week turkey hunting season is the unpredictable spring weather plays a factor in hunter success.
Cold, wet weather across many parts of the state during the opening week likely affected turkey activity in many areas thus influencing hunter harvest.
Harvest numbers increased in some counties, remained about the same in others and decreased in those areas that suffered some lousy weather.
Gilbert also noted Ohio’s turkey reproductive index (poults per hen) has been below average since 2018 and spring harvest generally follows the trend of the poult index.
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The inability to access some outstanding areas certainly is disappointing to many birders, but those who enjoy this recreation still can find some good spots to bird basically in their backyard.
Migration has not hit its peak by any means since cooler weather and north winds have slowed migration. With warmer temperatures and southerly winds, more birds (especially warblers) and peak migration likely will take place during the first two full weeks of May.
You aren’t going to find a place like the boardwalk in Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, but there are places where you can see migrators. Patience and persistence are key attributes in lesser known areas.
My wife and I have been finding birds at Oxbow Wildlife Area and along the Miami-Erie-Wabash Canal in Independence Dam State Park. We’ve seen early warbler arrivals like the yellow-rumped and palm. Warblers are easily distinguished. The yellow-rumped has yellow down both sides of its breast and a yellow splotch on its rump. It has earned the moniker “butter butt.” The palm has a maroon crown and pumps its tail.
A pair of other warblers we’ve seen include the black-throated green and the yellow. The black-throated green has a yellow face with green on the head and back and is black in the throat area. The yellow is what it says and has red stripes in the front.
Other species we’ve seen are an Eastern phoebe, ruby-crowned kinglet, rose-breasted grosbeak (female), white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee and male and female cow birds.
These birds often flitter around quickly, so you have to be fast with your binoculars to keep an eye on them.
Our best sighting came at dusk one evening when we saw a barred owl sitting on a long in a shallow creek. This large round-head owl is 20 inches tall and has a wingspan of 3 feet, 8 inches. It flew from the log into a smaller sapling and just sat there, likely eyeing some prey.
In addition to having bird books or pamphlets, it’s also a good idea to download a bird ID app on your cell phone. There are some excellent free ones available.
To find some birding hotspots in your county, check out birding-in-Ohio.com. It lists every county in the state. Click on your county or a county you would like to bird and suggested areas are listed.
For example, in Allen County 18 hot spots are listed. They are: Agerter Road River Access, Bluffton University Nature Preserve, Bresler Reservoir, Buckeye Lake, Bluffton, Cobb Lake, Ferguson and Metzger Reservoirs, Heritage Park, Fort Shawnee Hermon Woodlands, Kendrick Woods State Nature Preserve, Kendrick Woods–Kiracofe Prairie, Lippincott Bird Sanctuary, Lost Creek Reservoir, Motter Metro Park, Ottawa Metro Park and Lima Reservoir, Ridge Road, Delphos, Schoonover Park, Tecumseh Nature Preserve and Williams Reservoir.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL