Ohio Birds with Mark Wiley

Show Notes

Repeat guest to the show, this week Mark Wiley is getting us that twas the night before Christmas feel good mood going with a discussion of the Ohio turkey scene.  Mark works as the state upland bird biologist, and has spent his career studying and monitoring the birds of Ohio.  With Turkey season opening in just a few short hours, Mark was gracious enough to answer some lingering questions about the current status of the flock in Ohio.

Paul is returning from another southern turkey trip, but this time empty handed.  He was lucky enough to spend sometime in Alabama with Mike Pentecost and others chasing birds through the hills.  Andrew did spend a night out in the fields watching for coyotes, but was unsuccessful on that front.  However, he was able to catch sight of a bobcat moseying through the fields.  Dan Johnson killed a turkey. Nothing else to see here.

Have a great week and enjoy the O2 if you get out into Ohio’s great Outdoors!

Show Transcript

Andrew Muntz: [00:00:00] What's up everybody? Welcome back to the O two podcast. Tonight it's Andrew and Paul doing a quick intro here for our show this week with Mark Wiley from the Ohio Division of Wildlife. But first we will get you caught up. Paul, you're rolling, buddy. So you're just cruising down the road and on your way back from down south.

Paul Campbell: Yeah, I am man headed back from Alabama, coming home empty handed. I had about a day and a half to hunt Alabama with Mike Pentecost from Woodhaven. And Tuesday, it was like 35 mile an hour wind constantly. And for those of you that have Turkey hunted, you know how hard that is? For those of you that haven't Turkey [00:01:00] hunted, I'd rather hunt and downpour than 20 mile an hour winds.

So yeah, man, it was tough. Had a couple run-ins today on the, on a big piece of property. We were at spooked to Turkey. One of the guys I was hunting with that was doing some video work, Dylan Hazing, great guy. We had Turkey gobbling. And so I've been dealing with this, like sinus infection, like weird, like pressure in my ear.

So I can't hear anything, Andrew, when I'm in the woods, it's driving me nuts. My, my ears were popping all the time. And so those four guys had to like, listen for, they had to do all the work, right? And so Dylan had this Turkey go and we're trying to move in to get into position to, hunt this bird.

And we were around the corner and he's standing in the middle of the road,

Andrew Muntz: middle of the trail. Were you guys up higher than 'em or lower or what? Cause they got Oh,

Paul Campbell: Yeah. We they were hanging down. So it was like we were hunting the edge of the property. So we were on a road, like a trail and the right side of the trail.

So the I [00:02:00] guess it was the south side of the trail was the property line. And so all, a lot of turkeys were down. It was like a 200 foot drop like a gradual slope. Not like a cliff or anything. It was like a, so we're 200 feet above this beautiful little river bottom, Greek bottom, lots of green vegetation.

It's, 10 degrees cooler than it is in the sunshine. And so those turkeys had been hanging out there just gobbling like crazy. And we, we had to pull 'em up off of the other property.

It was a hard, it was a hard thing to do, but it worked. We got him up.

We just didn't realize, I don't know if there were more turkeys, but we rounded this bend to get in and that sucker was standing right there, man, Dylan, he walked face first into em huh? All good, man. It happens. Spooks, spooking, Turkey sucks. But that was really the only, only runin literal and theater that we had today had a couple other goblin, but it was still, man.

It was a lot of fun. Learned a lot. It's great [00:03:00] hunting with people that are really good Turkey hunters, and you just learn a ton. So what's what's a

Andrew Muntz: pop, what's the population look like down there as far as birds? Are they having a rebound? Like some of the other places seem to be reporting?

Paul Campbell: Yeah, so it's funny, like you talk to anyone in any Turkey hunter in any city. We don't have the turkeys like we used to. That's probably true. All I know is the turkeys that I did hear, I saw and heard a lot of turkeys in Alabama this year. Or I saw a ton driving down, alongside of the road or in fields.

So Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, the four states I've been in this year, I, man, I am seeing turkeys everywhere. So I feel good about it. I think people just need to have a little more, have a positive outlook. Quit being so negative about it, it's hard. You're not gonna hear him gobble nonstop all of the time, right?

So I feel good about, I feel good about the populations that I've seen just to, from a non-science [00:04:00] perspective, hotta and just drive, literally driving down the road.

Andrew Muntz: Good. Good. So you're on your way back. What do we, what do you got on the agenda? We've got opener will come up on April 22nd.

So this show will release,

Mark Wiley: oh,

Andrew Muntz: the 20th, somewhere in there. So we're, yeah, here you go. We're recording this a little bit ahead of time. We had to get some stuff in. Yeah,

Paul Campbell: we got, we had some vacations to, not for us, but for the Sportsman's Empire

Andrew Muntz: guys the head out early corporate headquarters of the Sportsman's Empire has taken a little Turkey trip.

So as of this morning at what, 6:25 AM the emperor had already put his bird in the box. Is that what we've seen? I know you said he was trolling you pretty hard.

Paul Campbell: So he tagged me in a post on Instagram at four 30 in the morning. I was on my way to the woods, tagged. He's Paul, I'm turning on it.

I'm like, all right, good for you. So I texted him. I'm like so damn proud. 6 26, he sends me a picture of a Turkey. [00:05:00] He's this is easy. And at this point in time, like I've been getting worked over by a couple birds at that point, and I was beside myself.

Andrew Muntz: When that happened when I saw the post, I was mildly pissed.

I was like you son of a bitch. You're the one that makes people like me look bad. Like I'm gonna spend weekends away from my family trying to find a bird. And you are the one posting up. I walked out 300 yards and put down a bird. This was not that hard. Yeah. Thanks Dan, let's go screw yourself.

Paul Campbell: I, so I called him on my way back, I said, Danny, you're not supposed to shoot the Turkey that's living in the farm yard. Someone, he hadn't called back yet, but you're good for him, man. I'm happy he got a Turkey. But it's like the equivalent of shooting a boon and Crockett buck off of 500 pounds of corn from a, from an enclosed tree stand with a eater.

Like you just walk up and sit in the stand and you shoot em off. The, I'm not saying Dan's baiting turkeys. What I'm saying is that's a nice cushy Turkey. Doesn't always happen like that. Yeah. It's good for him. [00:06:00] I want to get out, I want him to experience the back and forth battle, Matt with they're where they're coming.

Just working you over. So funny. Get too, man.

Andrew Muntz: When I gotta get you over again, I'll take one of those cushy turkeys to start. I'm not gonna lie. That would be great. So yeah, anywho

Paul Campbell: Mike Pentecost made he had this this genius saying, Jerry, we're just all week man. For the last two days he, he said that, he's kill turkeys with either your feet or your seat.

Either your feet are gonna hurt or your ass is gonna hurt cause you're sitting waiting them out. And we did a little bit of both, but There was a point, man, where we didn't, we had turkeys around us. We just couldn't get 'em to, they had hands all over 'em. We couldn't get 'em to work in. And I didn't move for four hours and then all of a sudden we had to get up and move.

My foot's asleep, my hips are asleep, and I like fell over, man. I like, catch myself on the tree. Cause I tried to run up this feet. Speed.

Andrew Muntz: That's good. Don't forget. I like that. I like that. All right. Let's see. So I haven't done a whole lot since the last [00:07:00] time we were on here. The I did go out one night to try and call in some coyotes, so I'm, we're pretty real on this Paul, on this show, Paul.

And I went out what, nine 30, something like that over an area that had been, just been, like, that day had been controlled. Burned. Burned, yeah. Control burned. They were saying that's a great time to come out because the coyotes would come out to do, whatever, find mice and eat the mouses.

Eat the mouses. So I went out there and I was sitting up in a good perch and everything and I was using my, the ex vision scope. So shout out to them, but I didn't, I'm an idiot. And it's one of those learning things. I don't know about you, Paul, but when I go deer hunting, the first sit or two, like I have to remember everything I need, what I need to take with me, what makes mo noise, what I don't need to take with me different things like that.

One thing I forgot to do is check the batteries in my [00:08:00] predator call. So I've got one of those little elec, eca or whatever you call 'em. And I didn't check the batteries. So I got out there and realized that I didn't have a working call, so I was going to just sit out there and scan for a couple hours and that was fine.

It's, I'll tell you cons compared to going to Missouri with, in, in Oklahoma, when you've got multiple other eyes on the field, I'm sure that helps a lot. And you're constantly scanning. You got multiple people scanning, it, it just is you've, it's like even honey in the day, if you've got other people sitting there saying, okay, there's one over there, there's one, whatever.

It also would've helped if I had a call, I think. But I did not see any coyotes that night. I heard some off in the distance. I didn't, again, I couldn't call 'em, but that thermal is crazy cuz I sent you the video, but, I had a bobcat walking across the field and I'm pretty sure I should say, I'm pretty sure it's, it was cool watching this thing.

It just, no tail walking. Like a little lion. Yeah. [00:09:00] Across the field. And he was probably a couple, 200, 250 yards out. But that was neat to watch. There was rabbits everywhere. I think skunk saw some deer off in the distance. It's amazing what that, that scope will do, but, so no luck there.

Yeah. And it was a quick in and out thing, but we'll give it hell again. What's the ex what's the ex vision website? Andrew? Ex x vision optics.com. So hop on there, check their stuff out. If you get a chance. Sawyer and the guys are he was at their show there a couple weeks ago. If you wanna hear more about the actual science and the technology side of things.

It's pretty, he goes pretty in depth. But they've got all kinds of stuff on there for night vision and thermals, range finders, binoculars, all that kind of stuff. So pretty cool stuff and we look forward to more stuff coming from them in the future. While we're on this, you can also find some X Vision products on Go Wild on their shopping feature.

So check out, go wild. [00:10:00] It's time to go wild.com. Our buddies over there, we are on the group text today, getting geared up for a fishing trip. Do a little wall walleye stab in there and at the Walleye Festival. That'll be fun. It'll be good time. And yeah, we appreciate all the support from those guys.

What else we got Paul?

Paul Campbell: So we've got first light. I was was enjoying my leafy

Andrew Muntz: suit today, ma'am. Work out well for you.

Paul Campbell: It, dude, I love it paired with the wick short sleeve when it's hot out. That is my go-to. Turkey hunting setup

Andrew Muntz: right there, man. Speaking of when it's hot out, they just released the trace pant right in quarter zip.

So these are some of the new 2023 line and I'm looking at it right now. For ideally it, I mean they've got 'em in inspector and really I think all the colors, but the early season hunts, so I think back last year going up to kill deer when it was that opening early weekend and it was 90 degrees.

It would've been nice for that, but I think it might [00:11:00] also come in handy Turkey season cuz it, I'll tell you what, Paul, it was warm here today, man. It was nice. But

Paul Campbell: yeah, Ohio, our tri season is so weird. I mean we, we can hunt when it's like 26 and then in two weeks you could be hunting in 90

Andrew Muntz: degree weather.

And sometimes it's 2026 at the start of the day and 90 degrees by noon layer up man. Yeah. Layer up. Midwest Gun Works. So we've got our, yeah. Midwest code on there is Ohio Outdoors five. It save you 5%. We appreciate you Cameron, and all the guys over there and ladies that are doing everything and telling

Mark Wiley: if you fixing

Paul Campbell: work, you're working on a gun.

That parts finder, Andrew is legit. That thing is intuitive. Really easy to use. Ton of information there. Schematics. Check out the YouTube page too. Camera does the the breakdown of the different firearms. So

Mark Wiley: yeah, what's gonna works com

Andrew Muntz: Those are great videos. Great videos there. Oh man, they're, yeah, so I think [00:12:00] half rack, half-rack.com.

Our last partner of the show and what is it, Paul, Ohio Outdoors guys are correct. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Ohio Outdoors 15, save 15%. Here is a little. Secret though. There's 20% off Sitewide if you use Code Turkey right now oh

Mark Wiley: yeah, there you go. So use code Turkey this time,

Paul Campbell: get you new boom sl that thing's freaking sway hunter

Mark Wiley: hangers.

Those things are cool snack packs.

Andrew Muntz: Yeah. Good stuff there. So appreciate all of our partners helping us out there. Let's see. Anything else Paul? I don't have a whole lot of news cuz we were on a short window here, but I would like to

Mark Wiley: say, so

Paul Campbell: what I, so what Mark Wiley say? I'm, I wasn't there for this interview.

I was working. What was going on?

Mark Wiley: But yeah. What do you have to say about the church population here

Andrew Muntz: in the state of Iowa? So Mark and I had a great conversation and we talked a lot about the state of the birds at this [00:13:00] point and we recapped last year going into this year. We talked a little bit about the research project that you were involved with.


Mark Wiley: don't know if I still have my notes here. Lemme

Paul Campbell: tell you that I got to hold that Turkey and was like a

Mark Wiley: little freak and kid in the candy

Andrew Muntz: store. Yeah. And we discussed the rocket launcher gun because it's still, it sounds really cool in my mind. Yeah, so we covered all kinds of stuff though, but Mark is wealth of a knowledge and discussed all the upland bird idea and that kind of stuff.

He's your go-to there. So one of the other things, and I actually sent this to him. I think I sent it to you too, Paul, after I got off the phone with him I went out shed hunting a day or two later and I came across those woodcocks that on this one Oh yeah. Property that I hunt. Man, I'm telling you, I was walking through the woods, I'm looking at the ground and I scared off a woodcock.

And they hu they hunker down right until you're about to step on 'em. So she flies off and then I realized that there's three babies right there. And they talk, they look like they old [00:14:00] chicks. These things were so tiny and the blending, oh my gosh, mother nature's ability to blend and camouflage animals is incredible.

Absolutely incredible. So I took a video and some pictures and stuff I sent to Mark and he was very interested in about that. To me, the craziest part is, and I should probably, I don't know if they're still alive at this point, but ground nesting bird, I think, I'm assuming they're ground nesting, but whatever.

They were all on the ground when I found them. The,

Mark Wiley: This.

Andrew Muntz: Group of birds was 30 yards from a camera. And I'm telling you, every night there is a coyote that walks through that by that camera. Oh, gosh. So I don't know if they're just dodging the bullets there, if it's just, how would you think the dog would be able to smell 'em?

But whatever. It's tough to

Mark Wiley: brown

Paul Campbell: nesting bird man. That's the reality. Turkeys deal with it all the time. Yeah. I kicked I bumped a Turkey off of a nest today. Yeah. She just went, there [00:15:00] were no eggs in her nest. I didn't even see her. I was 10 feet from her mess. I didn't see her until she got up.

That's crazy. I was collecting pine cones. I, for my wife, I wasn't even hunting, walking

Mark Wiley: through the woods, picking up pinewood and pine cones.

Andrew Muntz: Oh, pardon me ma'am. I'm just collecting pine cones. Yeah. But anyway, so this is a good talk for with Mark. We'd like to have Mark on at least to start the season, hopefully get him on a recap, see what comes up.

But I think you guys will enjoy this one and keep you rolling closer to Turkey season. Like I said, this is gonna launch on like the 19th, 20th, and then we open. So I hope everybody's excited. You listen.

Paul Campbell: Yeah. If you want some more Turkey content. How to Hot Turkeys. That podcast is rocking.

Andrew Muntz: Shameless plug, but there it is. You get the nitty gritty.

Paul Campbell: Shameless. Yeah, that's it, man.

Mark Wiley: With your host Paul Campbell. That

Paul Campbell: Joe, yeah. That's been fun, man. That's been a lot of fun getting [00:16:00] to meet all these cool people and talk about turkeys

Andrew Muntz: and dude, you've had some killer guests on there. I have,

Paul Campbell: yeah.

It's been it's been this guy's been great and I've got more coming. I've got a couple recorded, but I don't think I'm gonna we'll probably release him. Next year. Yeah. Just because we're kinda running outta time,

Andrew Muntz: good stuff. Paul, my

Mark Wiley: friend,

Andrew Muntz: construction, drive safe, get back to us and come over. I got something I can put, I'll put you to work on if you get bored.

Mark Wiley: You got

Andrew Muntz: it buddy. So take care everybody. We'll talk to you next week.

Mark Wiley: See you guys.

Andrew Muntz: Our special guest, Mr. Mark Wiley of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. Mark, how are you

Mark Wiley: today? I'm

Andrew Muntz: doing well. We were just talking here beforehand, but. You look a little tired. You've been up early today.

Mark Wiley: I don't know if I should be

Andrew Muntz: offended by that or not.

I, that's my favorite. People are [00:17:00] like, man, you look worn out. I'm like, oh, thanks.

Mark Wiley: Yeah. A lot of early mornings for wildlife staff in the spring, running surveys and so forth.

Andrew Muntz: So what were you out doing today? And what does that look like on a daily basis?

Mark Wiley: Yeah. Yeah. So the Division Wildlife runs gobbling and drumming routes in early April, just ahead of the spring Turkey season.

So we're, we are of course, lift listening for gobbling turkeys and also drumming rough grouses. So the calls of the displays and calls of those two birds overlap here in early April. And so we go out we've got about 30 routes in eastern Ohio and it gives us some sense of what gobbling activity is doing.

Of course, that's highly variable with weather and what's going on with breeding activity. But it's also really important that we get out and we try to get some sense of what rough grouse populations are doing because they're struggling in recent years,

Andrew Muntz: certainly. So what was this morning like?

Was it good morning? Was the weather cooperative? Did the birds make noise?[00:18:00]

Mark Wiley: I had two birds one gobbling his head off and one just let out one late morning. And for that route in Vinton County, it was a pretty quiet morning. Okay.

Andrew Muntz: What do you, what's a good morning?

Mark Wiley: Were you here? Just so we make 10 stops along the route and they're about a half mile. Probably not too different than what a lot of people are doing scouting ahead of the season. Making a bunch of stops at various places through a state forest or wildlife area on that route in, in Vinton County.

I think I've had as many as 15 gobblers. When you get that many out there, I'm sure you've experienced that. When you get one sounding off and sets off others, you get that chain reaction. It gets tough to keep track of how many birds you've got out there. But it's not unusual for me to hear birds on more than half of those stops in Vinton County and often hear multiple birds.

To just hear two birds this morning even though one of 'em was gobbling a [00:19:00] lot it was a little bit quiet. Yeah. So I'll run that route again in the next few days and I hope to hear a little bit better gobbling activity on that route. So just to recap,

Andrew Muntz: you're getting paid to scout is what basically I just heard.

That sounds like a pretty good gig now. But so one of the things I want to talk about is like a preview for 2023. I know it's no secret the across the country really. People have talked about the decline in Turkey population with your gobbling studies and some of the other research and stuff you guys are doing.

What does Mark Wiley think this year's hunters should expect when they got in the woods? Are they gonna see more birds than last year? Is it are we in a better spot? What are we thinking?

Mark Wiley: I think we're gonna have more birds than last year. And we don't necessarily look to the gobbling data for that.

We look at our poll data. So we collect poll observations during the months of July and August. We collect those from the public. Just tell us how many turkeys you saw during those months. How many adults, how many hens, how many males [00:20:00] and how many pulses. And normally that pulp data gives us a sense of what's to come two years later.

So two years down the road. So very fortunately, two years ago 2021 summer of 2021 we had a really good PU year. Our pulp numbers were well above average. The long-term average is about 2.7 pulses per he. And I think we were at 3.0 or 3.1. And then to add to that last summer, 2021 excuse me, 2022 was another really good year.

So there's likely to be a lot of Jakes on the landscape as well. So I expect hu Ohio hunters are gonna encounter increased gobbling activity because of those good poll classes. And then I expect to see our spring permit success rate go up a little bit. It already went up. Last year. Over the previous year.

So our permit success rate was up in 2022. I expect it to go up again a little bit in 2023.

Andrew Muntz: [00:21:00] So how many birds were harvested last year in

Mark Wiley: 22? Yeah. LA last year was 11,870. Two

Andrew Muntz: 11. So I love when you guys below the numbers, you get right to the exact number mark. Oh, I've got it. I'm

Mark Wiley: got Mike ov.


Andrew Muntz: Mike Talkov

Mark Wiley: does the exact same thing. Mike Tanovic probably hasn't memorized. I've got a sheet in front of me cuz I, I know you're gonna ask. He

Andrew Muntz: does. I'd be like, Mike, how many deer harvested in 1994? And he rattles off. You know exactly what the number was. But

Mark Wiley: that doesn't surprise me at all.


Andrew Muntz: funny. So 11,000 plus birds last year, that, what does that look like for, I don't know, the 10 or 20 year

Mark Wiley: average? That is very low. But I caution a lot of times when people see that harvest total they get really concerned. But of course, 2022 was unique compared to the previous 20 years because we only had a one bird bag limit in the spring, one bearded bird versus two bearded birds.

[00:22:00] So right there you're taking several thousand birds out of the harvest, as we typically our hunters typically harvest a few thousand second birds each year and have for two decades almost. It's low when you look at the total, but again I try to focus on permit success rate.

So what percentage of our spring permits were filled? Because you've also got a complicating factor that is declining hunter numbers. Each year since the early two thousands, we've had fewer and fewer permits issued in the spring. So at our peak of 90 some thousand permits 20 years ago, we're now or we, when we were still issuing two permits in 2021 we were down to about 60,000 permits.

So a loss of roughly 30,000 over that time. And then of. [00:23:00] In 2022 with the bag limit change, we're no longer issuing second permits. So we saw a big dip in our permit sales as well in 2022. So I tried to steer people away from the harvest total and have them focus on permit success rate, which in a good year, it approaches 25%.

So one out of four permits is being filled in the spring. And we were, I believe right around 22, 21 or 22 last year, and that was up from the previous year. And again I'm hopeful with good pulp numbers over the last two years that we're gonna see it, it creep up a little bit more

Andrew Muntz: this spring.

And that all makes perfect sense to me. We don't have Paul on today, so you don't get the real bird brain here to discuss all the in depth stuff. More, much more surface level, but, Overall, you think the health of the flock is headed in the right direction?

Mark Wiley: I do. I mean[00:24:00] for two decades, Ohio's Turkey population and not just Ohio other states as well have observed a considerable amount of fluctuation in their Turkey populations.

You have up years, you have down years and you bounce between those every few years. It was unique recently that we had a string of bad years and those were. What kicked all of that off was a string of bad PU years. Our pulp index dropped for three consecutive years, well below the average.

And that alarmed a lot of people, it alarmed us as well. We wanted to understand why we were hopeful that things would bounce back and that we weren't seeing the start of the long-term trend of some form. As some states have seen more of a long-term decline in Turkey numbers. So very fortunately, as I mentioned, we have seen PLP numbers increase in recent years.

So it's starting to look more like we just [00:25:00] had a few bad years in a row. And we might be bouncing back from that. So that leads me to believe that we're still in a good place. We still have good Turkey numbers out there. Our hunter success rate was never too far below what our long-term average was, in that 20 to 22%.

I think we fell down to maybe 18% success rate, which doesn't sound that much lower than 20. But when you think about 50 to 60,000 hunters you're talking a few thousand birds that are no longer in that spring harvest. So I do think we're in a good place. We have initiated some research with Ohio State University looking at hen survival and reproductive output.

And that is hopefully gonna help us better understand. The mechanics of that fluctuation that I mentioned. So when we have those bad PO years or when we have those good PO years we'd like to better understand why, what are some of the factors that are driving that [00:26:00] fluctuation up and down.

Some of that is understood. Or has been researched in the past. So for any number of ground nesting birds, you can rattle off all the things that impact them. Not only hen survival while they're nesting, but the success of that nest. And then pulse survival. You've got weather, you've got predation potentially disease and then habitat quality and availability impacts all of those things.

That's what OSU is gonna help us better understand as we follow hens across the landscape over the next couple years is, what is their survival like and what is impacting their survival? What is, what are their movement patterns and habitat use? What are those trends look like?

And then what's their nest? We met we measured next nest success pretty thoroughly about 17 years ago. And used some of that data to set the spring season and some of the other season, fall season as well. That data has been really important for our regulation setting process, but it's almost two [00:27:00] decades old now, and a lot of things have changed on the Ohio landscape.

We recognize that predator communities have certainly changed over the past 20 years. Weather patterns seem to have changed. I'm certainly not a weather expert, but it seems like we have more severe fluctuations in spring weather. Certainly. And so we want to try to better understand some of those things with this research.

Andrew Muntz: Just for our listeners who maybe have not heard you talk or need to be reminded, the pulse surveys that you guys do, what are you looking at with that? You're just out in that timeframe. Observing hens and their pulses finding following behind them, right? Or, how many they've got on average.

Is there a certain age you're looking for those PTs to be are you going out to find the nest and see what's around?

Mark Wiley: So yeah, the summer pulse survey is actually a survey that's, it's, we've standardized the procedure across [00:28:00] the range of the Eastern subspecies for sure.

But I think that's the survey is even in use in some of the western states with other subspecies. But in essence, we're collecting any observation, just opportunistic observations of wild turkeys during the months of July and August. And we've selected those months because most of the nesting effort is over at that time.

And you've got hens with fairly large pulses, for the most part, they're gonna be observable. And if there were any losses to ab brood when those pulses are very young they would've already occurred. So you get a more accurate assessment of how many pulses might make it to adulthood, in essence.

So basically, we'll collect any observations from the public, from wildlife staff, from forestry staff whoever is willing to submit an observation of wild Turkey during the months of July and August. And we take all of that information, how many males, how many [00:29:00] females, how many PTs? And we basically break all of that down.

The most important we want all observations of wild Turkey, but then we glean from that the observations of hens and pulse, and we produce that index that I mentioned of the average number of pulse. Per hen. And with it, we also get the number of hens that actually have pulses with them, gives us some sense.

That's another measure, of reproductive success. You don't like to see a lot of lone hens with no pulse means you, something has happened that year likely, and you had a lot of unsuccessful hens. And at the same time, we don't wanna see a lot of hens with only one pole. So something is occurring that they just weren't that successful recruiting colts into the population that year.

So again, our long-term average is 2.7. Doesn't seem like a lot of poles. Your average clutch size is 11. And but take into account, we're including all those loan hens. They bring that average [00:30:00] down. They've got zero pulses, so they're really impacting that average.

And we're also. Taking those observations at the end of the summer. So again, even a hen that successfully hatched 11 eggs, 12 eggs she's gonna lose pulses, especially very small poles. And so when you get into July and August, and they're half her size or three quarters, her size, their survival rate is much greater than it was when they were very small.

So that's why we only collect in that narrow window of months at the end of the summer. And again, other states are doing the same thing we're doing, they're collecting at the same time the same way. And now we're able to collect, to compare our poll data to Indiana, to Kentucky, to Pennsylvania, and get some sense of the patterns that are happening not just in Ohio but regionally across the range of the Eastern Turkey, Eastern subspecies.

Andrew Muntz: So with our surrounding states, are we seeing similar.

Mark Wiley: We often do. Yeah. So when we have a good year it seems our neighboring [00:31:00] states have good years as well. And it lends a little bit of credibility to the hypothesis that weather is having a tremendous impact on, on, on wild Turkey and weather impacts predation and other factors as well.

So it's not just weather but when you see trends like that year to year where we are up and our neighbors are up or we are down and our neighbors are down it's something more than often people wanna boil it down to simply predation. Certainly a lot of nests, a lot of eggs, a lot of hands meet their fate with a predator.

But that's not always, habitat plays a role. Weather plays a role in predation rates as well.

Andrew Muntz: Yeah, and I think you and I and Paul have talked about this in the past. I know Paul and I have. Everybody today in today's society just wants to find that silver bullet, right? Let's point the finger at one thing, whether it's predation or insecticides or whatever.

And I think oftentimes it's much more of a gray area than a black and white thing. If it was black and white, it'd be our jobs would be easy. [00:32:00] And you just start eliminating things that are causing a problem. Now, that said, I've also heard, the raccoon population in North America is greater now than it's ever been, so maybe they've got a little bit more to do with that, or, some of the farming.

And I, hell, for my job, I sell insecticides, but I get it, they do cause issues. And the one thing I none of us can control is the weather. So we just have to take that one as it comes. But

Mark Wiley: I don't certainly, but you make a very good point. It is complicated. There are a lot of factors out there that are influencing Turkey numbers.

And those factors interact with each other, as I described. So weather can impact predation. I run bird dogs, upland, bird hunting on a dry day. My dogs perform terribly. They just can't smell birds to save their life on a wet day when those birds are wet, they look, my dogs look like world champions.

They can find them from across the field. So I try to [00:33:00] convey that message to the Turkey hunter is a wet hn. Is much more likely to be found for maybe that simple a reason as she's putting off more scent than a mammalian predator is gonna be able to pick up on. So when I get those cross looks, when I start talking about weather, the eye rolls like, oh, you don't want talk about predation, weather and predation go hand in some regards.

Andrew Muntz: Okay, so I'm gonna derail this conversation. And I don't remember if you and I have talked about this last summer. I had we had chicken coop at my house and I don't know, I had six birds in there and we were on vacation and after we had a big thunderstorm, this was in June, a big thunderstorm that night.

And I had a raccoon get in and took out a couple birds. My neighbor was giving me the play by play the day after, a couple days later again, another big thunderstorm. And storms came through. The raccoon got in again and took three of the birds. And then when I finally [00:34:00] got back and was able to set a trap, it was another night of stormy weather that the raccoon came back and we still had birds in there.

So like I think the, we had six total to start so that the first night they got two, the second night they got three. There was the sixth one, the lone survivor, buttercup, she's still there. So there was always something there to entice him, but it was always when the rain came and I found that, that was interesting.

The other thing in my mind was that my dog wasn't in the yard cuz he was at the camp, but so maybe that was also something that wasn't deterring them. But again, like you said, it all maybe goes on top together. And in my little microcosm of my backyard, chicken coop. There you

Mark Wiley: go. Yeah.

Yeah. That's interesting. With the chicken coop, of course you have those birds in a place where that predator. Knows. Once they figure out they're there, they're likely to come back. The difference for a nesting, Turkey nesting, pheasant, nesting, grouse, whatever the case might be, is they're [00:35:00] doing their best to hide and never be discovered.

And so the disadvantage of putting off more scent is a predator that might otherwise walk by. Maybe detects that hen but yeah. Yeah. Interesting observation. I'm glad to hear Buttercup

Andrew Muntz: made it, but she's still out there, man. She's kicking. We got new chickens now. We've got two roosters out there, so she's got two cocks that are protecting her out in the coop.

But the all right, so I'm gonna play a little game ish. I wanna throw some weather scenarios at you, and I just, you don't have to give like big long answers, but just the overall, how that would affect a Turkey's population health overall in general. Okay. And some of these we've seen recently, so recently December 23rd, when we're hitting wind chills of negative 35, what does that do to the birds?

Mark Wiley: By December you're dealing with adult sized birds and wild turkeys are large [00:36:00] compared to any of our other game birds. So I don't think they're gonna struggle in those severe winter cold snaps like many of our other game birds are. But certainly they're gonna need to eat more.

To keep that body temperature up so they, they might be more reliant on food sources at that time. And as long as it doesn't last too long that cold snap, that's where it really gets you. It's, it seems though our game birds can ride out short windows of severe winter weather, but it's, when it drags out for days or weeks, that's when you start to see mortality associated with severe winter weather like that.

But wild turkeys in general are pretty hardy and they can get through that stuff. They can scratch through the snow, even potentially the ice. They can find the food they need and keep their body temperature up. Good, good to hear.

Andrew Muntz: How about a mild winter?

Mark Wiley: Yeah. No complaints I suppose. I think turkeys do just [00:37:00] fine in that they find the food they need.

They're Caloric needs are probably less than in a severe winter. And so yeah, I think that's probably a positive thing for Wild Turkey.

Andrew Muntz: But what's, is it also a positive thing for the pre, for predators? Or do they not need as many calories to stay warm so they're not out hunting for food or.

I guess what you gotta, you gotta, that's a good mature bird. They can fly up and whatever, but

Mark Wiley: yeah. Yeah. Good question. I don't know whether it would be it would be advantageous to the various Turkey predators for other reasons. But I don't know that it gives the predators any specific advantage over the Turkey to have a mild winter like that.

Ok. And the advantage might be, or the advantage might be for the Turkey spending less time foraging and moving to new areas to forage because those are points when game species, prey species are often susceptible to predation is the more time you have to spend looking for food. [00:38:00] Often the more risk you have that you're gonna encounter a predator or a predator is gonna encounter you.

So pre Turkey predators might actually be at a disadvantage in those mild winters.

Andrew Muntz: How I, how about a wet spring, and you just touched on it a little bit from, the overall smell and then scent of, the, use your dogs as an example of the predators in general. But what else? Once those eggs are in the nest and before the they hatch, what's a wet spring?

Some, gonna do.

Mark Wiley: Yeah. The easy answer for nesting weather is anything out of the ordinary is generally bad. And people often laugh at me when they, what's ordinary, right? That's in Ohio Spring. That's what I was gonna say. Yeah. Yeah. Any major deviation from from normal temperatures and normal precipitation levels is generally viewed as bad.

Some even. Would [00:39:00] claim that the dry years are bad. But I think a dry year for Ohio is probably a good thing for ground nesting birds. For a variety of reasons. We don't, even in drought years we don't see necessarily negative impacts on o on our wildlife populations. We don't have wildlife that are dying as a result of drought.

At least in nothing that I've seen in my lifetime. So I, Dr I think is generally better for us in the spring when you're talking ground nesting birds, so a wet year. In, in, in most cases, I'm gonna expect to see low pulp numbers in that index. When we get to July and August you're probably gonna have more nests fail.

You're probably gonna have more hens killed on the nest, and you're probably gonna have lower PT survival rates. I say probably with all of those because I don't know that for sure. It's just the pattern we see with our pulp index.[00:40:00] I'm hopeful that this research with Ohio State University though investigating weather patterns is not a primary focus of the research.

I'm hopeful that maybe that's something we can glean from their efforts monitoring all these hens through the nesting season.

Andrew Muntz: I don't think with weather data, that's always something you can go back and correlate after the fact, right? Because once it happens, it's there.

It's you just go back and see,

Mark Wiley: And that's. Where those, my comments come from is going back and looking at past years of pulp data. So we have that pulp index going back 20 years or more. And you can, as you said, look at some of the rough trends in weather from those years.

And often what is in a wet year are pulled indexes down. And in a dry year, spring, I should say, not year. Typically we look at the months of April, may, June when you've got the most nests on the ground and young pulses. So if you've got above average [00:41:00] precipitation in those three months, those typically fall in line with our low polet years where the DR than average periods, spring periods those are typically the years where we have above average pole production.


Andrew Muntz: How about real knockdown, drag out thunder.

Mark Wiley: Yeah so really severe storms or flooding are certainly a negative. Again, think about that hn she's getting, she's just got those eggs in a depression in the ground. So if she's in a flood prone area and when that flood occurs, that's a complete loss of that clutch and those eggs and potentially small poles.

So if those pulses aren't flooded which occurs about three weeks, so if they're less than three weeks of age in a area that's gonna flood they're, she's likely to lose that entire brood as well. And then even just I, if you are outside of a flooding, an area [00:42:00] that might flood that hen has got to keep those pulses dry and warm through that severe thunderstorm event.

So yeah any severe events like that with heavy rain or drop in temperature after the rain, those sorts of things are definitely gonna be negative on your pulp production for that year.

Andrew Muntz: Knock on wood. So far we've been in Ohio, been pretty lucky on severe weather. I know we're just getting started here this spring, but, down south I just drove back through Arkansas and, they had a just chain of thought of tornadoes and all kinds of stuff down there.

Do you think that will cause any kind of major disruption to. Their flock

Mark Wiley: down there? Oh, that's a really good question. I've seen some of the wind damage that's been highlighted on the news, and of course, that's a terrible thing. I don't know, in, in those specific areas where there was severe damage to forested areas maybe there was some direct loss or loss of birds or loss of habitat.

But I don't know how [00:43:00] much rainfall accompanied those events and maybe that would be the more broad impact over a large area. But yeah I don't know enough about exactly what those storms were like other than what I've seen the carnage on the news. Yeah.


Andrew Muntz: Okay. Off of the weather game now what are the turkeys doing right now? And it is April 4th.

Mark Wiley: Yeah. Yeah. Well-timed question because I just spoke with OSU researchers and so we've got j just shy of 50 hens marked with G p s transmitters, and several of them were in in winter flocks still up till last week.

And we're seeing those birds break off into twos and threes now. So it's very interesting to watch a group of seven or eight hens that have all been together for more than a month. They probably were together all winter, but we just marked them recently in February and March.

And so now you're starting to see those groups of seven or eight transmitters together break off into, [00:44:00] again, twos and threes some single birds sharing off and making some large movements to new areas where they've not been for a month or or to so winter flocks are breaking up.

Actually some of the folks at OSU that are tracking these hens, have watched hens moving to areas with displaying gobblers. So we're probably already seeing some of the early preliminary breeding activity occurring. So yeah, spring is underway. And of course anybody that's been out outlined like I was this morning, there is some good gobbling activity going on and I hope there's better yet to come.

Andrew Muntz: So the, and the timeframe of this, and remember you're talking to the Turkey novice, Paul is probably gonna listen to this in cringe that I'm asking questions. So we're the first week of April, they're starting to break up and begin the breeding session. How long before? I don't know. 50% of the hens are bred, 75%.

And then we're done. Obviously our Turkey [00:45:00] season starts April 22nd. But the. And I think we're a lot later than some states because we try to give 'em a little bit more time to get bread in, in the process.

Mark Wiley: Yeah. Yeah. So most states try to position their spring season so that it opens at near the median date of incubation initiation.

Okay. Meaning you would it would be ideal if your spring season started when about half of your hens have already started sitting on their nest to warm those eggs and hatch them. They're not gonna leave that nest. The, they've begun incubation where you probably still have a large fraction of your birds, your hands that are laying, they've got an s established and they're depositing an egg.

Every couple of. So we can probably backtrack from there and mark off some dates where, half of your hands are bred as you mentioned. But I don't, I'm not, I won't be able to do that for you today.[00:46:00] But yeah so the study that I mentioned from 17 years ago, That identified a date, the May 1st as our median date of incubation initiation in in southeast Ohio.

And then from that we actually start our season a little early. So our season often opens in the third or fourth week of April. So we're a little bit earlier than would be considered ideal which is common in a lot of states. There is usually pretty intense pressure to open a season earlier and earlier spring.

Hunters are chomping at the bit to get out in the field. I completely understand that. We do our best to keep that season at an appropriate time. We gobbling activity is still high, but birds have a chance, gobblers have a chance to fertilize those hens. And then hens are moving off to start those nests before the bulk of hens are moving off to nest before that spring season starts.

There's surely some breeding activity that's already occurring here in the [00:47:00] first week of April. But we won't see the bulk of that for another week or two. And then as the season comes in we'll likely already have some hens incubating.

Andrew Muntz: So the ones that are incubating when the season starts.

How long does, is the incubation process?

Mark Wiley: 27 days, I believe So about

Andrew Muntz: a month. So in reality, what's the end of our season? Sorry. Get my book

Mark Wiley: out here real quick. Yeah, you'll beat me to it.

Andrew Muntz: May 21st looks like. So realistically, if you went out May 21st, I think I'm reading that at least in the Southern zone.

You could see some pulse

Mark Wiley: running. Oh a absolutely. I mean there will be pulses even earlier than that in the spring season. We have some very early nesters and they they're rolling the dice that they're gonna be successful with that. Probably a lot more threat of of inclement weather during that early [00:48:00] season.

And then you're going to, again we try to position our season and we try to focus on the peak of that activity, whether it's gobbling activity, whether it's nesting activity, whatever it is. You're always gonna have some of their very early some that go very late. And we try to focus on that peak.

So there will each spring. I typically get reports of very small pulses in the first and even first and second week of the season. And those are unusual. But it does happen.

Andrew Muntz: All right, so for anybody who's not a Turkey biologist or bird biologist, you, if you stumble upon a nest what should you do?

Mark Wiley: Walk backwards and leave the area. Yep. Do your best not to disturb the hen. Unfortunately, typically the way we find those nests is the hen blows off of 'em and flies away. But I would definitely suggest you just follow your footsteps the way you came and back out of there and try to avoid that area from then on.[00:49:00]

Those, some of those are gonna abandon the nest, that just is gonna happen. So I generally, folks always want to ask can I put a camera on the nests? Can I come back and check on it? Each visit, each time that you come there, even that first time, there's gonna be some risk that hen abandons that nest and doesn't come back.

So I generally advise people don't visit again. Just back away and you can wait till later in the summer and maybe investigate the eggshells and get some sense of whether those eggs have hatched or if they were predated. Gotcha.

Andrew Muntz: All right. Let's see here. Do you wanna talk anymore about that research you guys are doing and is this, oh, is this the rocket launcher net gun thing that Paul was all excited about?


Mark Wiley: is. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, it's it's a means of Turkey capture that's been used for decades. It was pivotal to the the restoration effort, catching large numbers of Wild Turkey and moving 'em state to [00:50:00] state from the states that still had wild Turkey to, to states like Ohio that no longer had Wild Turkey.

It sounds, yeah, it's, it sounded awesome. Yeah. Yeah. It's not the it's not the cartoon looking rocket, or the rocket you might have played with as a kid. It looked just essentially like a metal pipe, big thick metal pipe. And rocket ports on the back. You load an explosive charge in there.

It's connected to a large net about 60 to 70 feet wide and long. And that's all packed into a box and the rockets sit on. And you then you're basically Turkey hunting. You're just waiting for turkeys to come in bait. We bait with corn during the winter months. So turkeys are pretty susceptible.

They come into corn fairly readily at that time of year. And basically the tricky part is when you get a large number of birds in is getting them all in the right position and out of any dangerous areas so that you can deploy that net safely and capture a large number of birds.

So it's it's a very interesting process.[00:51:00] We're very fortunate in the Division of Wildlife and a number of our staff were part of either the restoration effort or Turkey research that went on decades ago. Because it is very much an art not only positioning that bait and net but knowing when to trigger the net.

When is a safe time you've got birds on the bait and birds moving towards or away from the bait. You might have birds come to bait and move off and move back. We've also had birds move onto the bait. And then I waited a little too long hoping for some other birds to join them, and the whole flock left in, into the woods and never came back.

That was a hard day. That was a tough pill to swallow. But again, for, we're very fortunate that we have some experienced staff that have been able to train younger generations of wildlife staff like myself that have never experienced this Turkey netting this capture method. And so we were very successful this spring despite some.[00:52:00]

Challenging weather. I'll say you, you typically want snow. Snow seems to bring turkeys to bait even more than they normally would. And we actually had I believe I heard this was the first February on record with no measurable snowfall. So despite that, we got our birds caught.

Andrew Muntz: Good.

And what kind of stuff are you guys tracking?

Mark Wiley: So with the GPS transmitters, you mean? Just, yeah. Yeah. So we get daily updates of bird movement. And then as nesting season begins, we will, we'll be able to identify almost to the day when those birds begin incubating nests.

That'll give us a date that we'll use to identify that median incubation date. And then we'll be able to monitor the movement of those hens while on nest as well. We won't have to visit the nest, but we'll be able to remotely monitor their their activity to get some sense of whether or nests were successful or not.

So if she's on that, if we can tell she's on [00:53:00] that nest for 27, 28 days and then begins to move off. She likely had a successful nest and has pulses with her, and we'll be able to verify that with trying to find her later when it's more safe for us to do if she's only on that nest for 14 days and then she moves off, or the transmitter lets us know that she's dead they do have a mortality signal that lets us know that transmitter hasn't moved for a period of time and the bird is likely dead.

But if she leaves that nest early and doesn't come back we'll go in and we'll try to investigate what happened to that nest. Why did she either abandon it or was it predated what, whatever the case might be. So it'll give us very detailed information on Turkey movement, their habitat use when and where they nest and.

How successful were those nests? And then, as I mentioned, the hens that still have pulses or the hens that successfully nest and hatch pulses, we'll track them down at about three weeks after the [00:54:00] hatching date and we'll try to get a count of the number of pulses that she has. The easiest way to do that, it sounds like from states that have been doing it for a while now is to go in very early in the morning and count them on the roost.

So by that time she oughta be tree roosting with young poles. And so you ought to be able to fairly clearly see, we'll probably use infrared scope and try to identify her and then count each poll that she's got with her and that'll give us some sense, like the summer survey that'll give us some sense of how successful those polls were.

Andrew Muntz: Excuse me. That's very interesting. I'm curious to see what you guys come up with then, and how many years are you guys gonna run this study?

Mark Wiley: So we'll monitor hands throughout this entire nesting season and next season, and then probably into 2025 as well. Sounds like

Andrew Muntz: a good master's thesis or PhD project.

Is that Yeah,

Mark Wiley: there's a master's student working on it there. There may be another one coming on soon. Yeah. Good

Andrew Muntz: stuff.[00:55:00] Man, I think that's about all I got for today. I, this was great catching up and hearing about where things are at in the state. Is there anything else that you want to talk about or have to say as far as what people should be looking for this spring when they're out in the woods or.

Mark Wiley: I think we covered it all. Yeah. Yeah. Don't let Paul give you a hard time. I think you, you knocked it out of the park. Oh,

Andrew Muntz: That just comes with Paul. He just always had a hard time. So anywho. Mark, we really appreciate your time today. Looking forward to a great season and hope, hope you get some sleep and I'm eager to hear about the study.

So we'll get back to it here a couple late, maybe late summer, so that sounds good. All right, thanks.