Safety of utmost importance during wild turkey season


By Al Smith - Guest Columnist



Safety should always be the utmost of importance when hunting, but it is especially vital while hunting wild turkeys.

Sound, movement, appearance and awareness should all be key parts of preparation for wild turkey season.

Make sure not to shoot at sound or movement. Only shoot when you see a turkey’s beard and make sure to have a safe backstop. Wild turkey hunters are skilled at concealing themselves. As the season progresses and more leafy and green environment appears, it becomes more difficult to see your quarry.

If you shoot a turkey, transport it in a harvest bag that is hunter orange. Avoid carrying it over you shoulder. Someone might mistake it for a live bird and take a shot.

Here are some safety tips turkey hunters should follow:

• Plan to wear blaze orange when moving from one spot to another because you never know if someone else is out there, even on private land.

• Avoid wearing patriotic colors — red, white, blue. These same colors are found in a turkey’s head.

• Be aware that mushroom hunters will be moving through the timber in late April and May. Mushroom hunters are encouraged to wear hunter orange and avoid red, white and blue.

• Plan to add bug spray and drinking water to your field bag.

• A blind is good for concealment and when taking kids turkey hunting, but not for moving around. If you plan to be mobile, don’t bring the blind.

• If hunting private land, be sure you have permission and know the property boundaries.

• Even if hunting private property, the potential exists that someone else may be out there.

• Be extremely careful if planning to use decoys to hunt. Another hunter may mistake you for a turkey.

Ohio’s wild turkey season opens with the youth only weekend Saturday and Sunday (April 17-18). Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. The youth-only wild turkey season is for those with a valid youth hunting license and turkey permit. Youth hunters, 17 years old and younger, are required to be accompanied by a nonhunting adult, 18 years of age or older. No more than two turkeys may be checked by a youth hunter during the two-day season. If two turkeys are harvested during the youth season, no additional birds may be taken by the youth hunter for the remainder of the spring season.

The southern zone opens April 24 and runs through May 23. From April 24 through May 2, hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until 11:30 a.m. From May 3-23, hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. The northeast zone, which includes only six counties, is open from May 1-30.

Hunters are required to have a hunting license in addition to a spring wild turkey permit. Hunters may use shotguns or archery equipment to hunt wild turkeys. It is unlawful to hunt turkeys using bait, live decoys, or electronic calling devices, or to shoot a turkey while it is in a tree.

A turkey is required to be checked no later than 11:30 p.m. the day of harvest using the automated game-check system, which is available online at wildlife.ohiodnr.gov, by phone at 877-824-4864 or at a participating license agent.

Game check is also available through the free HuntFish OH mobile app, which provides convenient resources while out in the field. HuntFish OH is available for Android and iOS users through the app store. Wild turkey hunters can use the app to check a harvest even without a connection. When a hunter checks game without a clear signal, information is recorded and stored until the hunter moves to a location with better reception. Users can also purchase licenses and permits and view wildlife area maps through the app.

The bag limit is two bearded wild turkeys. Only one bearded wild turkey may be taken per day. Persons hunting a second wild turkey during the spring season must purchase a second spring turkey permit.

According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW), the total turkey harvest during Ohio’s combined spring hunting seasons was 17,894 in 2020, a decrease of 6.3% from 2019. The wildlife agency said the total spring harvest increased annually from 1980-1999, a period when both hunting opportunity and the turkey population were expanding. Spring turkey season opened statewide in 2000. Spring harvest peaked in 2001 and has been relatively stable since then. The DOW said fluctuation in spring harvest total is largely attributed to annual variation in reproduction and recruitment.

Wild turkeys were extirpated in Ohio by 1904. The DOW reintroduced the bird in the 1950s. Ohio’s first modern day turkey season opened in 1966 in nine counties, and hunters checked 12 birds. The turkey harvest topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. More than 20,000 turkeys were checked for the first time in 2000 when the spring season opened statewide.

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By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at flyfishman7@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at flyfishman7@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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