Ohio boasts some of the country's most magical wild turkey hunting locations. It is a blessing that we can head out every spring in search of these wily game birds. The old saying that a bad day hunting is better than a good day doing almost anything else rings true in the Buckeye State. We’ve spent plenty of days prowling the woods and glades of Ohio without ever taking a shot, and while we don't get out much for turkey season anymore, we wouldn’t trade those moments for even the most stuffed freezers.
Hunters looking for the best spots for spring wild turkey hunts are in luck – a robust reintroduction program in the state has led to surging populations in recent years, and expectations are that 2023 will offer turkey hunters plenty of opportunities for mature beardies in numbers not seen in many years. We encourage hunters to get out and experience as much public hunting lands as possible. Below, we'll tell you about five of our favorite spots to hunt each spring.
Wayne National Forest is one of our all-time favorite places for spring turkey hunting, fall deer hunting, and year-round hiking. It is the only national forest in the state and was largely created as a reforestation project following massive timber harvesting in the 18th and 19th centuries. The park is comprised of three units that are not connected. Of the three, we tend to head to the Athens unit for turkey, but all three units boast large wild turkey populations. Wayne National Forest is located in the southeast part of the state.
The Grand River Wildlife Area is in the northeastern portion of the state and is one of the few excellent public hunting areas that remain. Wild turkeys are abundant, as are several other excellent game animals like whitetail deer and river otter, which were once trapped to extinction in the state. Grand river is largely flat and marshy, with stands of new-growth hardwoods that offer opportunities for big toms in the spring.
Highlandtown Wildlife Area is in the state's eastern region and offers some of the most pristine environments you’ll ever see. Turkeys are plentiful, particularly in the northern regions near Yellow Creek State Forest. This is one of the smaller wildlife areas, and having good maps is essential to avoid accidentally wandering onto private land. Highlandtown offers rugged terrain with heavy hardwood foresting on the tops of ridges and old croplands, providing perfect conditions for turkey populations.
Egypt Valley Wildlife Area is in the southeastern region and is another area that has thrived after being rehabilitated. This area was heavily mined in the past and the result is a meandering valley of ponds, streams, and wetlands interspersed with grasslands and wooded areas. Second- and third-growth hardwood areas are common haunts of wild turkeys and many other game species. You might even see a bald eagle cruising the park on a good day.
Mohican River Wildlife Area is in the state’s central region and is one of the smaller areas we like to head into for wild turkey. It offers excellent opportunities for the dedicated hunter. The area is split into a northern and southern region. The southern region is larger and boasts numerous heavily wooded areas that are prime locations for bagging big tom turkeys in the spring.
Challenging Locations for Wild Turkey Hunting in Ohio
You probably noticed that most of our favorite spots are in the eastern parts of the state. These areas are the best for turkeys because of the open woodlands and grassland areas turkeys need for roosting, feeding, and breeding. There are turkeys in every county in Ohio, but the lack of public hunting areas and large population centers in much of the state prevent hunting turkey from being highly successful. Most wild turkey hunting in Ohio is done on private land, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find turkey while hunting on public lands.
Hunters should spend some time in the weeks before the season opens scouting the area they plan to hunt. If nothing else, scouting gives you an opportunity to get out and see the beautiful country. Scouting should be treated just like a hunt. You should get out of the truck, walk the land, and observe. Spend time just listening, and you are bound to hear gobblers. Several mapping apps you can use on your smartphone will help log areas with a good chance of being productive once the season opens.
If you're looking for some more tips and tricks before heading out, check out some of our other blog posts about turkey season: