Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Wildlife's fault (bad turkey opener)

Right now I can hear the heavy sound of intense rain striking the skylight here at the paper.

So too the wind, which is reaching gusts of up to 40 mph in most parts of Northeast Ohio and up to 50 mph in Ashtabula County - typically Ohio's spring turkey season harvest leader.

But you aren't finding me in the woods today. Nor Tuesday or Wednesday. Rain, wet snow and high winds are all in the weather mix; none of which is conducive to good turkey hunting.

At 59 years of age I've gotten a lot smarter and with more aches and pains that help me become a better judge of what I can (or want to) tolerate. I'm no fool. I don't want to get soaked or frozen, not on a day when the rain seems to be coming in sideways.

What a lousy spring opener weather-wise, which is the first spring season opener I've missed in close to two decades.

And the weather won't improve until at least Thursday, which is when I'm planning to be in the woods.

However, this didn't have to happen. A few years ago the Ohio Division of Wildlife bowed to pressure from one of its Wildlife Council members who hunts turkeys along the Ohio River. Down there spring comes a lot earlier than it does in Northeast Ohio.
This council member exercised enough pull to bring about an earlier opener.

But a season that starts on April 20 makes no sense along Lake Erie. It's at least one week too early.

Clearly what is needed is a zone system for spring turkey hunting - an idea many Wildlife Division officials resist. They say a two-zone system would put too much hunting pressure on the zones.

But continuing with the system we have now makes no sense at all. With the price of gasoline, limited hunting opportunity and the desire to hunt closer to home, hunters just aren't traveling long distances to kill a gobbler.

And turkey hunters can point to the very successful zone system now in place for waterfowl hunters. It works well for duck and goose hunting where biologists have determined that autumn weather and the like means northern Ohio can have an earlier season while southern Ohio benefits from later migrations.

While turkeys do not migrate they do act differently south to north, the flocks breaking up later the further north you venture.

Same is true for vegetation. While in southern Ohio things green up by early May up here we might still see snow then and can experience killing frosts well deep into the month.

The time has long since past when Ohio should adopt a duel-opener for spring turkey hunting.

And while we're at it the Wildlife Division should ignore the personal prejudices of one or two Wildlife council members who just happen to have the ability to abuse their power.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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