It comes as no surprise that the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) biologists have recommended a reduction in the fall wild turkey hunting season. The proposal of trimming the season by three weeks will go before the Ohio Wildlife Council on March 24 for approval.
Under the proposal, the fall wild turkey season would begin Saturday, Oct. 15 and conclude Sunday, Nov. 13, a reduction of three weeks when compared to the 2021 fall season.
This proposal comes on the heels of the eight-member council approving the reduction in the 2022 spring wild turkey season limit to one bird.
During recent years, below average reproduction has led to declining wild turkey populations in several areas around the state. Hence, the change in harvest from two-bearded wild turkeys, which has been in effect since 1993, to one next spring.
Ohio hunters harvested 695 wild turkeys during the 2021 fall season that was open in 70 of 88 counties. The average harvest during the three previous years (2018-20) was 1,079 birds. In the Lima area, Allen, Hancock, Hardin, Logan and Putnam counties are among the 70 counties statewide open for fall turkey hunting.
The spring turkey season bag limit will be re-evaluated following the 2022 season, according to the DOW.
There is some positive news about the wild turkey population. This summer, the statewide wild turkey reproductive index was 3.1 poults per hen, which is above the 10-year average of 2.7 poults per hen.
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An area hunter discovered that spotlighting for deer can be costly in more than a monetary way.
The hunter was found guilty and not only had to pay $349 in fines and court costs in Celina Municipal Court for jacklighting from the motor vehicle, but he also drew a one-year hunting license revocation and had his rifle and spotlight forfeited to the state.
The perpetrator was charged following an investigation by Mercer County Wildlife Officer Brad Buening. Buening received several calls pertaining to late night shooting and spotlighting along the St. Marys River.
The wildlife officer observed a slow-moving vehicle shining a spotlight from the passenger window while he worked the area one evening. The passenger in the vehicle was charged with jacklighting from a motor vehicle when Buening discovered a loaded rifle in the vehicle.
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A recent trip to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge once again asserted how different winter birding can be. During winter, the refuge, located between Port Clinton and Oak Harbor off of Ohio 2, is open three weekends for its seven-mile drive through.
Most of the birds one sees during winter in the area that normally is closed to the public are easy to spot since they are large.
Winter is a perfect time to see bald eagles and there are a plethora along Lake Erie. My wife, Faith, daughter Kristina and I saw several of the raptors including some immature ones. It’s not unusual to see an eagle sitting on a tree limb. Seeing a pair sitting together is not uncommon. With their distinctive white head and tail, bald eagles are easily recognizable in the barren landscape. Eagles may be seen actively building nests in the winter and incubating eggs by late February.
The swans we saw were in a few flying flocks and quite likely included tundra swan along with trumpeter swans. Tundra swans are highly migratory. They spend much of the year in the extreme northern reaches of North America. Tundra swans migrate to Ohio in the fall and are found in open marshes, lakes and flooded fields, where they are often in mixed flocks with trumpeter swans. Birders face a challenge when trying to differentiate between the two swans. Tundra swans are smaller than trumpeter swans. A tundra swan features a yellow spot on the base of a black bill.
Another visitor to Ohio is the northern harrier, which is a fairly large hawk with a 42-inch wingspan and is quite colorful. We saw three of these hawks, which like to glide low and hover only a few feet above their prey.
We also observed a red-tailed hawk and the smallest falcon in the American kestrel. It is only 9 to 12 inches tall. And there were plenty of Canada geese in the refuge.
One northern visitor we have longed to see the past few years is the snowy owl. Unfortunately, we have not see one in the wild, but they have been spotted along areas of Lake Erie.
One of the few owls that are active partially during the day, short-eared owls are primarily winter visitors from the north. Numbers vary from year to year, but in areas where there has been a boom in small mammal populations, these owls occur in large numbers.
The next drive through is scheduled for Feb. 19-20. Another is slated for March 19-20. In April, drive throughs are set for April 16-17 and 29-30. The drive is open May 1-15 as part of birding week and again on May 21-22 and 28-30. Drive throughs are scheduled for every weekend in June, July and August. One is set for Labor Day week with any further dates to be determined in July after hunting dates are set. Admission to the drive through is free.
The refuge opens at 8 a.m. and the entrance gate closes at 4 p.m. The wildlife drive entrance is off the visitor center parking lot. Visitors may pick up a printed guide at the entrance for information on refuge management and recent sightings.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL