In chat rooms, social channels and news outlets, you can find conversations about Turkey about the population status of the wild turkey. I am someone who seeks and longs for data on this subject. As a turkey hunter who hunts in both spring and autumn, I am always curious about the certificates after the end of the season. Last week I got the reports from two of the states where I hunt turkeys this fall.
The state’s numbers are very similar, in fact the harvest numbers were both down that fall. I was curious why and thought my research on the subject might be of interest to others pursuing the noble wild bird.
West Virginia hunters harvested 694 birds during the fall 2021 turkey season, according to preliminary results from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. In the turkey season in autumn 2021, hunters harvested 33.1 percent fewer birds compared to the previous year.
The low harvest may be partly due to the fattening conditions. The nationwide fattening conditions are 61 percent above 2020 and 8 percent above the long-term average, with the soft fattening species developing very well. “We expected a higher fall harvest this year due to the good turkey production,” said Mike Peters, WVDNR wild turkey and migratory bird biologist.
“Apparently, good fattening conditions have spread the birds thinly across the landscape, making them more difficult to hunt and less susceptible to harvesting,” which was reported last year and the highest in the past five years.
The turkey harvest in autumn 2021 was 30.7 percent below the five-year average and 39.5 percent below the ten-year average. This is the third year of a declining autumn harvest and the lowest harvest since 1962 when 664 birds were caught. Greenbrier Counties led the state with 41 birds harvested, followed by Hardy and Monroe Counties with 36 birds each, and Pocahontas with 34 and Mason with 33. All of these counties had a four-week season except Mason County, which had a two-week season.
In Ohio, hunters controlled 694 wild turkeys during the 2021 fall hunting season, according to the Wildlife Division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The autumn season 2021 was open in 70 counties from Saturday, October 9th to Sunday, November 28th.
The top 10 counties for wild turkeys caught during the fall 2021 hunting season include: Highland (29), Trumbull (29), Columbiana (27), Ashtabula (25), Stark (25), Coshocton (22 ), Tuscarawas (21), Guernsey (20), Clermont (19) and Knox (18).
The average harvest of the last three fall seasons (2018, 2019 and 2020) is 1,079. In 2020, hunters killed 1,063 birds. In 2021, the Division of Wildlife issued 7,470 fall turkey hunting permits. This is 21% below the 3-year average (9,428 permits).
While the turkey talks continue this winter and the predictions for the coming seasons roll in, I will continue to scour the news outlets for more data on the bird and the trends observed from the field. For my part, I can’t wait to hear the swaying of an adult turkey over the hills and the roar of the great state of West Virginia.
For those of us looking forward to another chance before the spring gobbler season begins, our state has a Mountaineering Heritage Season – opening date January 13th and closing date January 16th.
According to WVDNR.gov, a turkey of either sex can be shot with a percussion sidelock rifle or pistol, flintlock rifle or pistol, muzzle-loading shotgun, longbow, or recurve bow during the Mountaineer Heritage season. A turkey’s pocket limit does not count towards the hunter’s spring or autumn pocket limit.
For more information and licensing requirements, see the West Virginia Hunting and Trapping Summary.