COLUMBUS, Ohio – The challenge and pursuit of calling in a wild turkey gobbler is unlike any other hunting experience. This spring, Ohio offers multiple opportunities for wild turkey hunters to enjoy a close encounter with this popular game bird, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
Ohio’s 2021 youth wild turkey hunting season is Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18. Following the youth season, Ohio is divided into two zones for the remainder of spring hunting: a south zone, which opens to hunters on Saturday, April 24, and a northeast zone, which opens to hunters on Saturday, May 1.
“The spring wild turkey hunting season is one of Ohio’s most highly-anticipated events for those who appreciate the outdoors,” said Kendra Wecker, Division of Wildlife Chief. “We have waited for the weather to warm up and turkeys to start gobbling, and now we are excited for another great hunting season.”
Wild turkeys were extirpated in Ohio by 1904 and were reintroduced in the 1950s by the Division of Wildlife. 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. Spring turkey hunting opened statewide in 2000, and Ohio hunters checked more than 20,000 turkeys for the first time that year.
The Division of Wildlife anticipates approximately 50,000 licensed hunters will enjoy Ohio’s spring wild turkey season before it ends on Sunday, May 23, in the south zone, and Sunday, May 30, in the northeast zone. The spring and youth seasons are open statewide, except for Lake La Su An Wildlife Area in Williams County, which requires a special hunting permit.
Ohio hunters harvested 17,894 wild turkeys during the 2020 spring season. Eastern and southern counties typically record the highest number of harvested birds. The top 10 counties in 2020 were: Belmont (533), Monroe (532), Tuscarawas (528), Guernsey (508), Meigs (503), Muskingum (499), Washington (484), Harrison (458), Coshocton (450), and Ashtabula (449).
Hunters are required to have a hunting license in addition to a spring wild turkey permit. Hunters can view the 2021 spring season zone map in the 2020-2021 Hunting Regulations Digest.
The spring hunting season limit is two bearded wild turkeys. Hunters can harvest one bearded turkey per day, and a second permit can be purchased at any time throughout the spring season. 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, by phone at 877-TAG-IT-OH (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 youth-only wild turkey season is for those with a valid youth hunting license and turkey permit. Youth hunters 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. Hunting hours during the two-day youth season are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.
Hunting hours from April 24-May 2 in the south zone and May 1-9 in the northeast zone are 30 minutes before sunrise until noon. Hunting hours from May 3-23 in the south zone and May 10-30 in the northeast zone are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.
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. The Division of Wildlife advises turkey hunters to wear hunter orange clothing when entering, leaving, or moving through hunting areas to remain visible to others.
Anyone interested in learning to hunt or becoming a mentor to a new hunter can visit the Wild Ohio Harvest Community page for information on how to get started, hunting-related workshops, as well as special hunting opportunities for mentors and new hunters.