As of this writing, the Ohio management board has yet to settle on a bag limit for turkeys during this spring. However, as soon as that information is released, we will update this article so it'll be your one-stop spot for information. We expect to see this information soon.
Ohio is home to some of the most beautiful fans in the world. If you're looking for a gorgeous mounted bird, this is the state to hunt in. Though the birds may not be as plentiful or weighty as some southern turkeys due to having to overwinter in relatively harsh conditions, their plumage makes the trip to Ohio worth it.
The 2022 Spring season varies only by a few days between the Northeast and the South zones. The Northeast Zone starts the hunt on April 30th and ends May 29th. The South Zone begins April 23rd and ends May 22nd, with Youth dates April 9th and April 10th respectively. Those wishing to hunt outside of these dates will need to wait until the Fall Season dates are released. Turkeys are very seasonal nesters and these laws help protect the future of the species.
Are you ready to gear up and head out to bag a few birds? Then let's get going.
Finding Good Hunting Land
If you're from out of state, you'll need to start early to find good land to work with. Though public land is plentiful at over 44,000 square miles, you'll likely find a good bit of competition early in the season. Those willing to wait for the mid-season or toward the end, when gobblers have been a little more picked over, will find quieter public land but perhaps fewer birds available.
It all depends on your preference as a hunter, how much experience you have, and what you're looking for out there.
Utilize Craigslist or any of the many hunter forums out there to ask for good spots near your chosen lodging. Many farmers are overrun with birds and happy to rent out still-barren pastures and recently tilled farmland for you to work through.
Still turning up nothing? We recommend looking in the South Zone near Lawrence, Scioto, Adams, and Brown counties as these are gems typically overlooked by turkey hunters. Though these are smaller counties and you will likely be working with smaller plots, they're well worth taking a glance at when planning your turkey hunting trip. You'll likely find tons of turkeys, plenty of areas to hunt in, and enough meat to fill your freezer well within the dates of the season. Even better if you can hunt during the week when most other hunters are at work.
Those resident hunters hunting locally for the first time should check in with other local hunters, who are likely to guide them to decent (if not prime) areas. Again, turkeys are prolific in Ohio and bag limits are usually so low that there are tons to go around. Additionally, this skirts around the most popular turkey hunting counties based on the 2021 statistics seen on most official coverage. While it's great to hunt in these areas (they're popular for a reason), you may find the competition to be a little rougher than you're used to.
Getting Those Gobblers
Finding nice gobblers is the easiest part of turkey hunting in Ohio. Though Ohio is rather strict about its baiting and lure policies (see below for more info), these birds practically strut across the street in front of you, too proud to look both ways before crossing.
Once you've located land that has what you want, it's time to stake those birds out. Finding where they're hiding, discovering their favorite nesting sites, and looking for areas that have been thoroughly eaten.
Bait is not allowed in Ohio and all baits must be removed for at least 10 days to allow a turkey to be killed legally. This has become a much more common practice throughout many prolific hunting states, especially in the most popular areas, simply due to the fact that it was impacting the turkey population too much. Molding and rancid feed was getting into the population and killing them due to bacterial infection, ruining nests, and causing a serious decline.
Electronic turkey calls are also forbidden in Ohio. If you want to yelp a bird, you're going to have to do it the old-fashioned way – with a box call or your own voice. And decoys? Forget about them, they aren't allowed either.
Grabbing your gobblers is as simple as getting out there early and knowing where the birds are. We all know to look for tracks and scat, to listen for the birds calling each other to new finds, but it's just as important to eyeball predator signs in Ohio. Though many states where turkey hunting is popular seem to have a relatively low predator load, Ohio is not one of them. Bobcats, black bears, coyotes, foxes, and even otters and minks can be a threat to turkeys and Ohio is simply full of these animals.
So, we suggest hunting in reverse. Find signs of predators and stay as far away from them as you can. The further you go, the more likely you are to hear that wonderful gobbling sound that you crave so much. You also won't have to worry about getting a big surprise as you're staring down your sights at the perfect turkey.
Bearded Hens and Legal Status
In Ohio, the Spring Season is only for bearded birds and that is inclusive for hens. Birds must possess a beard that is visible to the naked eye when seen from a distance. Birds that do not have a visible beard when brought down are not allowed to be tagged.
So, we all know there is a big ethical debate about taking hens with beards. After all, they lay eggs just as easily as non-bearded hens and they're an important part of making sure that there are turkeys to hunt next year. They're likely to be a little more gamey, too.
We won't weigh in one way or the other. Every hunter has their ethics and their standards and that's their business. However, be careful when selecting your bearded hens and be absolutely certain that, if you do desire one of these very rare ladies, the beard you see is definitely hers.
Other Helpful Tips
Don't use your scope to verify a beard if you can possibly avoid it. We realize that some turkeys are a great distance away from a hunter and it may be necessary to verify a bearded bird (the only legal kills during this season) via your scope or binoculars. However, we recommend using your own eyes if at all possible.
Also be aware that Ohio allows hunters only one weapon of choice. If you are caught with an arsenal of bows and rifles while settling in your turkey stand or hide, you may be fined by park rangers and wildlife management personnel. Most will overlook a backup weapon or one rifle and one bow, especially if more than one person is using a hide or if you're in a heavily predated area. After all, they are very aware of the areas that may be at risk for hunter attacks.
Though some hunting hours extend toward sunset, it is illegal in Ohio to take a turkey from its roosting spot in a tree. Any bird that is roosting is protected through Ohio law and should not be captured, shot at, or otherwise annoyed. However, we do strongly recommend noting which tree those birds are roosting in and trying to avoid the turkeys seeing you. There is a good chance that their territory runs through that area (though frightened birds or those displaced from poor hunting practices may roost anywhere they consider safe for the evening) and you can stake them out to see where their trails lead in the morning.
Ohio requires your kills to be reported by 11:30 pm on the day of the harvest. If you do not check your game, you could be subject to typical penalties such as loss of license or fine, or even imprisonment depending on which county you are hunting in.
One last reminder: Bows must have at least a 40-pound draw weight on them. Anything lighter than this, even for youth, is not allowed. Most bows under this weight will not kill the turkey in a well-aimed shot. This is for the welfare of the birds, which should always be a hunter's primary concern.
Get Ready for Spring Turkey Season
Ohio is a wonderful state in which to hunt wild turkey and should be considered for anyone wanting to go out and bag a few tasty birds for their freezer or impressive fans for their wall. And if you do, make sure to try out our wild turkey nugget recipe or turkey empanada recipe while you're at it.