Early scouting trips will pay off when Ohio’s turkey season opens
WELLINGTON, Ohio — Chris Skrant and his Flyway Outdoors guides will cover a lot of ground this week, one of the primary reasons the northern Ohio hunters will have an advantage when the Buckeye State spring turkey hunting season opens April 24.
“We are in the woods just about every day,” said Skrant. “It is necessary for success. We need to find and pattern the birds, noting where gobblers can be ambushed as they travel from their roosts to preferred feeding and strutting areas.”
Those locations change quite often, and it takes a savvy hunter with boots on the ground to solve the puzzle.
This spring the Ohio Division of Wildlife will debut a split turkey season, pushing back the turkey hunting dates by a week in the northeast corner of Ohio. In most of the state, the turkey season is April 24-May 21. In Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula, Geauga and Trumbull counties it is May 1-28.
“It is probably best to let that small pocket of Ohio get settled and thaw out from a tough winter, like we had last season,” said Skrant. “We haven’t had to worry about it this year, but it’s a good effort by our wildlife agency to handle the prospect of bad weather.”
“Hunting spring gobblers is quite a thrill, and with its popularity continuing to expand in Ohio, there is plenty of competition for birds,” said Skrant. “And not just among hunters.”
Southern Ohio continues to be the prime location for bagging a bird. Northern Ohio turkey flocks are hampered by a shortage of habitat, especially nesting areas. While turkeys roost in trees at night, in spring the hens nest on the ground where birds and their eggs are vulnerable to coyote, raccoon and mink.
Those predators have gotten out of hand in many areas, especially a big bump in coyote numbers in Summit County, said Skrant. With fur prices low, few actively trap the predators.
Turkey hunters are sometimes a problem, as well. Many head to public hunting areas or where big flocks gather well before the spring turkey season begins and test their skills calling in the big gobblers.
“I have seen groups of young turkey hunters competing to call in birds before the season begins,” said Skrant. “Many film their exploits for the Internet, or for turkey call companies sponsoring them. It has become common to hear pre-season turkey calling at all hours of the day. As a result, gobblers are not coming to calls during the season as they once did.”
Turkeys are also shying away from the turkey decoys used by most hunters trying to lure in birds.
“We’ve found the motions of a battery-powered Mojo turkey decoy can still fool a gobbler,” said Skrant. “We’ve been covering our regular decoys with a life-like turkey feather wraps made by A-Way Hunting Products (awayhunting.com), and that really fools gobblers.”
The FlyWay Outdoors guides rely on three basic turkey calls. The slate call, box call and membrane, or mouth call. All are designed to duplicate the sound of a hen turkey.
“My go-to turkey call is a locally made slate call hand-crafted by Matt Heater of Tradition Game Calls in Mogadore, Ohio,” said Skrant. “When you have to crank up the volume to outcall an alpha turkey hen, that slate call can handle it. I work a box call when I know an incoming turkey can’t see the motion needed to make sounds. A mouth call can be combined with one of the other calls to let me to sound like two bickering hens, a real attention-getter for a gobbler.”
Originally posted by D’Arcy Egan, special to cleveland.com on April 07, 2017 at 11:05 AM. D’Arcy Egan, the long-time Plain Dealer outdoors writer who retired in 2015, will occasionally write columns to appear in The Plain Dealer and on cleveland.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured Image Courtesy D’Arcy Egan