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The turkey harvest continues to trend downwards

Ohio’s wild turkey hunters have taken 11,770 birds as of Sunday, May 22, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

The statewide total harvest includes 23 hunting days in the five Northeast counties (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull), 30 days in the remaining counties, and includes the 1,103 wild turkeys caught during the April 9-10 juvenile season.

The three-year average (2019, 2020, and 2021) using the same data is 17,060 wild turkeys. In the 2021 season, the verified number was 14,450.

The spring wild turkey hunting season ended on May 22 in most Ohio counties. Hunting in the Northeast Zone remained open through Sunday, May 29th.

The top 11 counties for wild turkey harvesting for the 2022 season so far: Tuscarawas (338), Ashtabula (318), Belmont (314), Guernsey (312), Columbiana (309), Harrison (298), Muskingum (294), Jefferson (292), Gallia (280), Adams (278) and Brown (278).

Since 2001, when Ohio’s harvest peaked, declining wild turkey harvests, likely a result of fewer wild turkey numbers and less hunter involvement, have been a long-term trend. Several factors play a role in fluctuating turkey populations, including weather events, predation, disease and breeding productivity. The Department of Wildlife is taking protective measures to reduce wild turkey harvests as ongoing research closely scrutinizes Ohio’s population.

Each summer, the Wildlife Department conducts a turkey brood survey to estimate population changes. Poor broods from 2017-2019 have resulted in a temporary drop in turkey numbers. The Department of Wildlife remains vigilant in monitoring Ohio’s wild turkeys. Biologists believe the population decline will be temporary as the 2021 brood survey showed encouraging results. Young turkeys will be followed closely for years to come. The brood survey is largely based on public reports. Submit observations of young turkeys to wildohio.gov in July and August.

• Observers found 371 sandhill cranes in Ohio during the April 2022 one-day Midwest Crane Census, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The census was coordinated by the Division of Wildlife, the International Crane Foundation and the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative.

The survey was conducted in 24 preselected counties during the crane nesting season. Counties were selected based on the availability of wetlands used by cranes for nesting. The seven boroughs with the most sightings were Wayne (84), Lucas (60), Geauga (56), Trumbull (47), Holmes (18), Ottawa (17), and Wyandot (17). Volunteers searched the cranes’ habitat within a 10-square-mile survey block.

The census was the second of what will be held annually to track the status of sandhill cranes in Buckeye State. The 2021 census found 160 sandhill cranes in five counties. Sandhills can be mysterious during the breeding season, and the survey is an attempt to better understand Ohio’s breeding population.

A sandhill crane is a large wading bird characterized by a long neck and beak. It is mostly gray in plumage with a red patch on its forehead. It is often recognized by its rolling horn call. Sandhills are migratory, breeding in wetlands in northern United States and Canada and wintering further south in North America.

These royal birds were once exterminated in Ohio. They returned to Wayne County to breed in 1987 and have been slowly expanding ever since. They are still listed as a threatened species in Ohio.

• The post farmer is here and that means the fishing can be the best of the year. Most species of fish have finished spawning, which causes them to lose a lot of weight, so they eat constantly to restore their physical condition. This can be an excellent time for catching lots of fish in a short amount of time, especially for species like walleye and perch.

The fishing on Lake Erie has been tremendous for just about any species you might want to track, but the walleye fishing is as good as it gets at the moment. Many anglers narrow down within minutes of finding an active pod of feeding fish. Crankbaits, spoons and nightcrawler gear are currently catching zander.

Until next time, happy hunting and happy fishing!

Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Sciences teacher at Northmor High School.

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