It’s an early spring morning. The dew sparkles on the grass and, in the distance, the sound of gobbling turkeys in the roost fills the air.
This scenario will play out for hunters for the next month as Ohio’s wild turkey season opens Monday across the state’s south zone.
So break out the decoys and calls and get ready for what many expect to be a very good year for those looking to harvest a bearded bird.
The best turkey habitat is generally “openings adjacent to mature forests,” said Ohio Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Mark Wiley. “When turkeys come out of the roost at daybreak, they move to the fields searching for food.”
Over the last few years there has been a positive trend in spring harvest numbers along with the turkey population as a whole. Much of the trend Wiley attributes to the 2016 cicada emergence.
“The harvest has been tremendous since then,” Wiley said. “The cicadas emerge in spring at the same time turkey nests are on the ground. There should still be some of those 2016 birds around, too.”
As far as hot spots within the state?
“Eastern Ohio has been better,” Wiley said. “The hot spot can move north and south from there, but East-Central Ohio has topped the spring harvest for some time now.”
Last year there were 22,612 wild turkeys taken during the spring season. The harvest numbers have increased statewide every year since 2014.
Tuscarawas, Muskingum and Coshocton counties have been some of the leaders in spring turkey harvest numbers.
Locally, Lorain County hunters took 145 birds last spring, with adjoining Medina County slightly higher but in the same range of under 200 total birds harvested.
Spring wild turkey season opens in the south zone Monday. Lorain County is in that zone.
The northeast zone consists of Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula and Trumbull counties. Their season opens April 29 and runs a week later. The rest of the state is considered “south” for the purpose of spring turkey season.
Last weekend was the youth season and with a rainy Sunday, harvest numbers were down a bit. Nonetheless, a good season should still be in store for hunters.
For gear, hunters can use a 10-gauge or smaller shotgun with shot. This applies for muzzleloading shotguns, too. Archery is also permissible with longbow, bow or crossbow.
While weapons remain constant throughout the season, times do not. During the opening week (April 22-28), hunters can hunt until noon. From April 29-May 19 in the south zone, you can hunt all day with legal shooting light ending at sunset.
Once you’ve found your spot to settle in, it’s important to be in the woods early and be patient. Obviously in the first week, you can only hunt until noon but Wiley says afternoons are good, too.
“We get a good number of folks who get afternoon birds,” he said.
It’s also important to remember late-season birds are harvested in the afternoon.
“Knowing your area and scouting the woods before hunting” can help your success rate if heading out this spring, too, Wiley said.