MOUNT VERNON — The 2009 fall wild turkey season kicks off Saturday, and area hunters will have opportunities to bag one of Ohio’s estimated 200,000 birds. The season is open in 48 counties across Ohio, including Knox, Richland, Morrow and Licking, and runs through Nov. 29.
“Fall turkey season is a great time to harvest a turkey,” said Knox County Wildlife Officer Mike Miller. “Last year, hunters harvested 2,139 turkeys during the fall season. Generally, there are about 20,000 people who hunt wild turkeys in the fall, not counting private landowners. This year, Defiance and Williams counties in the northwest will be open to turkey hunting for the first time. Turkeys of either sex can be hunted during the fall season, and they may be hunted one half-hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset, but all turkeys must be checked in the county they were taken by 8 p.m. they day they are shot.”
State wildlife biologist Mike Reynolds believes that this year’s numbers could be down a little bit, based upon preseason observations.
“Summer brood observations suggest a below average wild turkey hatch this year,” said Reynolds. “In addition, acorn crops were highly variable across Ohio this fall. In areas with poor acorn production, hunters may have more success locating turkeys around agricultural fields rather than on hardwood ridges.”
Knox County had 69 turkeys taken during last year’s fall turkey season, and despite the statewide projection, Miller believes it will be at least that high again this year.
“For Knox County, with me driving around, seeing the hatch and talking with other people around the county this year, I think the local hatch is up a little bit from previous years,” Miller said. “Throughout the summer, I saw more turkey poults, so I think Knox County will be better this year than last year.”
Whether an expert or a novice, fall turkey season offers plenty of opportunities for hunters. Miller encourages anyone interested to get out and try their hand at it.
“Fall turkey season is pretty good,” Miller said. “I actually think it is easier than in the spring. You don’t get the gobbling activity that you get in springtime, but you still can call in turkeys, and that’s the fun thing to do.
“All you need is a valid hunting license and your fall turkey permit, which are available anywhere licenses are sold or online.”
Shotguns, using shot, crossbows and longbows are permitted. Hunters are advised to wear hunter orange clothing when entering, leaving or moving through hunting areas in order to remain visible to others.
Base on the forecasts, hunters will experience more cool over the next week, which should aid them as they are out hunting.
“The cooler temperatures will make hunting more comfortable if you need to move around and do a lot of walking,” said Miller. “Some years when it is in the mid ’70s, it is pretty warm and not very comfortable. It doesn’t really make any difference to the birds. The only thing weather will help with is the duck season opener, which is Oct. 17. The cooler weather makes the ducks migrate further south a little quicker with the cold fronts coming out of the north. As far as turkeys, it doesn’t affect them a whole lot.”
Duck season also provides good hunting opportunities around the area. There is a daily bag limit of six, and cannot include more than four mallards (only 1 of which may be a hen), three wood ducks, one black duck, two redheads, two scaup (bluebill), one canvasback, one mottled duck or one pintail.
“Wood ducks are always good; they are one of the predominant ducks that hunters bag locally,” said Miller. “The Division of Wildlife is predicting good waterfowl hunting in Ohio because the spring pond indexes indicated that in the breeding surveys around North America, there was good reproduction. It is indicated that it is an above average year for most duck species, which is a good thing for us.
“Canada geese have good numbers everywhere in the state. Locally, the giant Canada goose had the fourth-highest population estimate this spring that we’ve ever had in the state. The outlook for them is good to very good.”
Early archery numbers looking good: Since deer archery season started on Sept. 26, hunters have had good luck in their exploits for white-tail deer. Based on what he has observed, Miller believes Knox County is on pace to match last year’s totals.
“I’ve talked to some people who have killed some pretty nice bucks,” said Miller. “I haven’t seen any 200-class deer, but I have seen pictures of deer in the 150 to 160 range. The weather has helped hunters be more comfortable, and it has kept the deer moving. ... We are on average with where we were last year. Talking to Oiler’s (Meat Processing) in Utica, they think they are up in the number of deer turned in for the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program. So far, they are above where they were last year, which is a good thing.”
Fishing still available: “We did the trout stocking at Foundation Park on Monday, so that is a good place to go for some trout fishing,” said Miller. “Also, smallmouth bass are still biting good in the Kokosing and Mohican rivers. It is usually good up until the first of November, so fishermen still have a couple more weeks for good fishing in those places.”