Given that groundhogs, wild hogs and coyotes are fair game throughout the year, legal hunting in Ohio never ends. Specified hunting seasons, on the other hand, come and go.
Gone as of last Sunday in central Ohio was the four-week spring wild turkey season, the last hurrah of the 2019-20 hunting year.
Ahead lies the 2020-21 season start for mourning doves, squirrels and sundry wetlands birds on Sept. 1, the initial opening date on the annual calendar approved by the Ohio Wildlife Council earlier this month.
The 2020 final turkey count totaled 15,718 bearded birds in the south zone, which comprises 83 of the state’s 88 counties. The season continues for another week in five northeastern counties.
The four-week total trails last year’s count of 17,619 at the same period, a decline of 10.8%. Because turkey season started in the northeast zone a week later this year, some of the year-to-year deficit likely will shrink. Still, spring totals likely will show a decline when the season concludes.
Belmont County ended the south zone season leading with 486 turkeys checked, down from 527 a year ago. Next was Monroe County (460), Guernsey (459), Tuscarawas (458) and Meigs (446).
Licking led central Ohio counties with 288, down from 339 in 2019, followed by Delaware (116), Fairfield (104), Union (43), Pickaway (27), Franklin (19) and Madison (11). Delaware, Pickaway and Madison topped last year’s totals; Fairfield, Union and Franklin lagged.
Approved for next year was a Saturday start for the 2021 spring turkey season, a departure from the traditional Monday opener. The four-week south zone season is scheduled to begin April 24 and the statewide youth season to run April 17-18.
Though predictions are dodgy, Ohio’s wild turkey numbers might take a hit this month. Newly hatched turkeys, known as poults, show lower survival rates during wet springs.
Deer hunters in the fall will face changes in county limits although the statewide limit remains six. Quail and ruffed grouse hunters will feel a squeeze imposed because of declining numbers of both birds resulting from habitat decline.
In another departure from past practice, small game and furbearer hunting will continue uninterrupted during deer gun season.
A bill introduced by state Rep. Don Jones (R-Freeport), whose district covers Carroll, Harrison, Noble and parts of Belmont and Washington counties, would effectively take the management of coyotes out of the realm of the Ohio Division of Wildlife and put it into the political realm of the Ohio General Assembly.
Active sportsmen’s groups oppose the legislation, preferring that animals hunted or trapped in the state remain subject to professional management provided by wildlife biologists. Jones’ bill would shift the coyotes’ designation under the Ohio Revised Code, removing them from game regulations.
The wildlife division touched off Jones’ response in January when it proposed that a furbearer’s permit for would be required to shoot coyotes, widely considered a pest to many Ohioans but whose pelts can fetch a relatively high price at fur auctions.
The Ohio Wildlife Council signaled the division that it was not going to approve the fur-taker’s permit requirement, forcing the division to withdraw its proposal. Subsequently, the division said it would reintroduce the proposal but after input from sportsmen’s groups declared the proposal permanently withdrawn.
Jones, a conservative said to be unhappy with aspects of the administration of Gov. Mike DeWine, introduced the legislation anyway. The legislation’s chance for passage is unknown, though it would require the governor’s signature to become law.