Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Youth deer gun hunt results (and Punderson Lake trout update)

With a deer herd that numbers 50,000 fewer animals than last year, the kill during the recently concluded youth-only deer hunt also saw a reduction.

Statewide, youths age 17 and younger shot 9,331 deer during the two-day hunt Nov. 21 and 22. Last year that harvest figure was 9,852 deer.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife estimated that around 40,000 youths participated in the hunt, seeking an animal from an estimated population of 650,000 deer and prior to the start of Ohio's various deer-hunting seasons.

Youth hunters were required to be properly licensed, wear blaze/hunter orange clothing and be accompanied by a non-hunting adult.

The local youth-only deer kill (with the youth-only 2008 harvest in parentheses) was: Lake County - 14 (20); Geauga County - 38 (48); Ashtabula County - 117 (147); Cuyahoga County - 6 (5); Lorain County - 61 (89); Huron County - 105 (132); Erie County - 28 (33); Medina County - 72 (65).

Monday marks the start of Ohio's seven-day general deer firearms hunting season where more than 400,000 hunters are expected to participate. They are forecasted to shoot up to 115,000 to 120,000 deer.

On another Wildlife Division note, the agency has scaled back the number of excess breeder trout it was to have stocked today - Tuesday, Nov. 24 - into Punderson Lake. Instead of the more than 500 breeders the agency will stock 375 large fish.

But the number of catchable rainbows has been increased from 1,000 fish to 1,500 fish.

The stocking is to occur around 2 p.m. today at the camground area of the lake.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, November 23, 2009

Punderson trout stocking update (Go fish)

Several problems at the Ohio Division of Wildlife's hatchery that raises trout will delay by several hours Tuesday's stocking of 101-acre Punderson Lake in Geauga County with fish.

Originally set for about noon the stocking will now likely occur sometime around 3 or 3:30 p.m., says Phil Hillman, fish management supervisor for the Wildlife Division's Northeast Ohio office in Akron.

Still to be stocked are approximately 750 excess breeder trout, these fish weighing several pounds each.

Also to be stocked Tuesday are about 1,000 catchable rainbow trout. These fish will average 9 to 12 inches.

Hillman says also that all of the trout are scheduled for stocking at the usual campground location. Talk that some of the fish will be stocked near the lake's boat launch and marina are not true, Hillman says.

The main reason that trout are not stocked at the marina site is poorer water quality, Hillman has said previously.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, November 20, 2009

Deer scouting venture (Looking ahead to opening day)

With time running out the need to do some pre-scouting of the gun club property was in order today.

There won't be sufficient time next week for such necessary work with all of the holiday fuss and bother and family obligations that Thanksgiving brings.

So I spent the better part of an hour early this afternoon at the club in Ashtabula County. There, I walked a flats situated between a winter wheat field and a low, undulating ridge line with several deeply cut ravines. Perfect habitat and escape cover for deer.

The flats appeared ideal but twice I pulled up to great-looking locations only to discover that someone else had beat me to the punch and saddled a tree with a metal tree stand.

The ridge appears promising, having a view of the flats below and the top of the knob. The only drawback is the somewhat constricting brush and saplings that dresses the hillside. The view would spy a deer out to well beyond 50 yards but the shotgun sabot would likely have to do a lot of brush busting. That never works, either.

Back down on the flat I continued walking north, close to the end of the property and where it curls around the Grand River. Maybe, just maybe, I reckoned, this could be the place to sit come opening day of Ohio's general deer firearms hunting season on Nov. 30.

(This stand will, though, require a heck of a long drag should I shoot a deer back that far from the car).

Not that going out is mandatory since I've collected two deer thus far. But I would like to add another animal to the freezer. That would greatly help out my daughter and her family who feast on much of the venison that I provide.

So if the weather is kind enough on the opener and I have a little elbow room on the stand, I guess I'll hunt the club.

Otherwise (or if the weather is particularly unpleasant) I'll return to my archery stand and its fabric tent-like blind. The only problem here is that the landowner requires any hunting to be archery only. I could be pretty frustrated if I were to archery hunt and see that none of the deer comes to within the 20-yard window I've declared to be my shooting venue.

Still, the scouting was a nice way to spend an hour afield, especially since I hadn't visited the flats, ridge and adjacent woods in more than 20 years.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Heros (Our waterways made better)

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of watercraft has toasted waterways educators and local marine patrols for their support in providing boating safety education program and related matters.

Among the recipients is the Mentor-based Spirit of America Foundation which has for several years helped local school children learn the basics of safe boating through hands-on experiences.

This safe-boating group earned one of the agency's Outstanding Boating Safety Program awards.

So too did the late Patricia Eichenlaub who participated in the Spirit of America Foundation's programing in Lake and Ashtabula counties, reports John Wisse, spokesman for the Watercraft Division.

All of the award recipients were among those local community organizations and law enforcement agencies which received Watercraft Division funding assistance grants during the past year.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is hunting season winding up? (Or winding down?)

I'm in a race against the clock. Or more specifically, the calendar.

Ohio's hunting seasons are reaching a crescendo; the early phase of the archery deer, fall turkey, waterfowl and squirrel seasons nearing their ends.

But the biggie - the general deer firearms hunting season - is fast approaching and will arrive Nov. 30. Expect that about 420,000 Ohio hunters will take to the field for seven days, many of them for the season opener.

And they are expected to shoot between 115,000 and 125,000 deer. For some of the successful hunters this will be their first deer and for others, their last.

Just how much the hunting pot is stirred is seen in the fact that more hunting licenses are sold the Friday after Thanksgiving to the Sunday after Thanksgiving than at any other time of the year.

Obviously then the general deer firearms hunting season is important. Not just in terms of deer killed or people participating, either.

The many circulars now going out from area sporting goods stores and gun shops are full of advertisements for deer-hunting slugs and sabots as well as deer-hunting shotguns and rifles (for those who hunt out of state). It's an exceptionally busy time.

Yet there is a certain melancholy about the arrival of the gun season. It is the pivotal point of the hunting year. Tipped in one direction and it points to the end of what came before. Which for me was jammed with activity.

But when the archery season resumes and the second phase of the waterfowl season starts don't expect a lot of activity for either from most other hunters.

Besides, the holidays will put a crimp on hunting activity. Men will be drafted into shopping and putting up the Christmas decorations, leaving little time to hunt.

Oh, there will be the hound men who'll be seeking rabbits during the day or raccoons at night but the bulk of the hunting activity will be dying embers.

I am disappointed too, though I have only me to blame. Along the way I had promised myself that I'd take another shot at bagging a fall turkey and using my .22-caliber rifle on a squirrel hunt. But I never kept either of those pledges.

Still, if the farm pond is open and ice free come Dec. 7 I'll be there with my two Labrador retrievers in the hope of shooting another goose or two.

And as long as I can drive back on a short access road to a piece of property I regularly visit I'll continue to drop off bait alongside my deer-hunting blind. It will no doubt be a lonely, cold vigil of a hunt knowing that the woodlot contains fewer though, wiser, deer.

But the late season archery deer hunt is something I've done many times before. To do otherwise risks being called a fair-weather hunter. And while I am fast approaching the 60-year-old mark I'm not ready to assume that title. No yet anyway.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, November 16, 2009

Punderson trout stocking (The more the marrier)

Punderson Lake is going to provide even greater trout fishing opportunities Nov. 24.

Instead of releasing 500 excess breeder golden strain and regular strain rainbow trout into the 100-acre natural lake, the Ohio Division of Wildlife will instead stock 675 of the no-longer-needed breeder trout.

These fish will average 16 to 24 inches each and weigh between two and 10 pounds.

But that's not all, says Phil Hillman, the fisheries management supervisor for the agency's Northeast Ohio office in Akron.

Nope. Rather, the Wildlife Division also will stock another 1,000 rainbows at the same time. These catchable trout will average between 9 and 12 inches each.

Both stockings will occur around noon and definitely at the campground area. This is because of the poor water quality at the boat launch/marina area.

The breeder stocking fisheries has proven increasingly popular and the addition of the catchables likely will only intensify interest in this put-and-take fisheries that will last through the winter ice-fishing season.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fresh fish (annual Punderson Lake trout stocking)

What would Thanksgiving Day be without fresh rainbow trout for dinner?

Anglers who annually look forward to the trout stocking of Punderson Lake in Geauga County's Newbury Township can again wet a line on Nov. 24.

This year the Ohio Division of Wildlife will stock about 500 surplus brood stock rainbow trout and golden-strain rainbow trout. Each fish will average between between 16 and 24 inches and weigh two to 10 pounds.

The stocking is set for around noon and will be done by the state park campground, says Phil Hillman, fish management supervisor for the Wildlife Division's Northeast Ohio office in Akron.

The reason for the stocking there and not by the boat launch area is due to frequent low oxygen and high algae problems associated with the marina's boat launch area.

Each year this stocking has proven more and more popular with anglers, some of whom arrive early to station themselves close to where the fish are stocked.

Shore anglers often use jigs tipped with maggots or Berkley PowerBait along with canned corn or else small spawn sacks. Boat anglers do the same but also cast in-line spinners and small spoons.

The stocking provides the lake with enough fish to last through the winter with ice fishing for the trout a popular activity.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, November 9, 2009

Jenny Lynn still has the right stuff (Good dog)

The farm pond was littered with the bodies of six Canada geese.

Not bad for an eye-blink of a shoot involving three goose hunters who hardly settled in before a large flock of birds showed up.

It was no more than 10 minutes after legal shooting time and the hunters were finished with their chore. Not so Berry - my black Labrador retriever - nor for the semi-retired Jenny Lynn, my other Lab who is a senior citizen with all the aching joints that comes with such a status.

Now-a-days Jenny Lynn only accompanies me when I go to the farm pond in search of geese or ducks. It is a short, easy walk from the car to the blind. And it gives Jenny a sense of hunting even if doesn't involve much work. That is why I've hired Berry.

But this morning belonged to Jenny and the memory will walk with me until I die.

At the sound of the gunfire and that of birds whacking the farm pond's surface, Berry was hot on the trail of one of the geese. A fast swimmer, Berry wasted little time in picking out a goose and returning with it.

Jenny sort of hung back, almost questioning what to do. But that indecision didn't last long.

Even before Berry was back with her bird Jenny was swimming ever-so-slowly to another goose. It would take Jenny Lynn longer to go there and come back though she's always been a dependable sort and really enjoys water retrieving.

Try as I could, though, I was unable to convince Berry to get back in the water and fetch another goose. Instead, she wiggled in excitement, sniffing her goose and running to and fro. I was none too happy.

Jenny on the other hand; now there's where all the years paid off. After she returned with the first goose she immediately turned and went for her second bird. Again, ever so slowly out there and back but just as dependable.

When that bird was fetched to shore Jenny went after her third goose, this bird being the furthest of the group.

All I could do was encourage her and shout out praises for her championship performance.It nearly brought tears my eyes.

Jenny Lynn is more than 13 years old and can no longer tolerate either runs on land after pheasants nor all-day waterfowling trips. It grieves me that I have to leave her at home in such circumstances but she's paid her dues - and then some.

And the time is fast approaching, when mild-weather waterfowling will be even too much for the old girl. At that point (no doubt next year) she'll have to take up permanent residence on the dog bed. I do not look forward to that day, I must say.

Still, I will always harbor with great love the warm, bright November morning where Jenny Lynn's strength matched her heart and she fetched three giant Canada geese, one right after the other, with not a complaint or hesitation.

It is such days that makes a dog man burst with pride.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, November 6, 2009

Small-game opener (So what's with the goose?)

As far as small-game openers go, today's model was all bright and shiny coming out of the showroom.

The morning sky was a brilliant turquoise and softened the brightest of the stars before they faded with the rising sunlight.

A chilling frost smothered the grass, offering a crunchy scale that crinkled with each foot fall.

I headed for the Club as I always do if I am in town for the small-game opener, which to me is better than the deer season - or even, turkey - opener.
Maybe that's because growing up I relished the small-game opener with our beagles. My dad, who never took a day off unless it was during his two-week vacation, always made an exception for the small-game opener. It was quite a crew, me, my dad and my two older brothers.

Now it is my turn and the Club in Ashtabula County is always my destination. Oh, I suspect I might find more stocked pheasants at the Grand River Wildlife Area but I'd also have a lot more company. I don't want to be peppered with shot. It's happened before. So I settle on the Club and hope there is still a leftover rooster pheasant from a field trial held periodically there.

Berry, my black Labrador retriever, joined me this morning. We left Jenny Lynn behind, though. She's almost 14 years old and her hips are uncomfortably stiff. I doubt she could handle two hours of rough going through neck-high corn and chest-high ragweed.

After about 15 minutes of hunting I needed to stoop down and retie the laces of my right boot. That's when a bunny jumped out only a few feet away. No way could I get off a quick-enough shot.

Several passes through standing corn didn't yield anything either. Berry never got excited and I didn't see any pheasant scat. I was rapidly becoming disappointed.

What I did see on my final west-to-east pass through the corn was the neck and head of one very much alive rooster pheasant. The bird was perhaps 60 or 70 yards distant and near the end of the corn.

Hoping the bird would stay put in the weed-infested corn patch, I kept walking forward with Berry cruising to my left. But when the pheasant reached the corn's terminal it became airborne and still at that 60 to 70 yard range; way, way, way too far for a shoot.

I tried to mark where the rooster came down and Berry and I searched for the better part of a quarter-hour but we found no bird. I figured it continued on to either adjacent private property or still further to another Club-maintained corn patch.

So I towed Berry through a large-size ragweed field and then turned west along a swale. This wet sink is a thick goo of brush that often holds a pheasant. Not this time, though.

Continuing on, Berry and I took our time going through the woods. Normally not a good place to find pheasants, the woods still serves as a bird thoroughfare. And sometimes you can pin one down beside a tree. Not this time, either.

Tired and starting to get played out, I ushered Berry to a 50-foot-wide strip of trees and brush that separates two fields. I've found many birds before hanging out in this strip that runs for perhaps 150 yards.

Getting to the end where a tractor path connects the two fields, I stopped to collect my thoughts as to what to do next. My shotgun was held at parade rest on my right hand and I hiked up my brush pants with my left hand.

Of course that is when the rooster decided to bolt, pushed out by the eager-beaver Berry. But the charmed bird used the brush to its advantage. Even though it erupted at less than 30 feet away there was too much natural screening for the shot from my 16-gauge Ithaca pump to worm its way to the rooster.

Bluntly, I missed as clean as a whistle.

Berry was none too happy that she couldn't fetch the pheasant and I was even less pleased. I had been bamboozled out of a rabbit and twice on a rooster.

After two hours of hunting I left in order to drop off a photograph of a young man to a mother who had requested it.

Fortunately for me the family also happens to own a farm pond that is often visited by Canada geese. And a small flock was there, too, lounging around on the grass between the barn and the house.

I parked by the barn and walked forward, not carefully or stealthy but normal like. The geese were puzzled and soon waddled into the pond. Flushing the flock I managed to drop two geese.

Maybe next year I'll take the plunge and go to Grand River and hope to find a pheasant or two. Then again, maybe not. For many years now the Club has been the place to begin my small-game hunting season and maybe I'm too old a bunny to make the switch.

Besides, a goose or two isn't a bad consolation prize.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Best of times ('Tis the hunting season)

For now through Thanksgiving are the best of outdoors times.

There is just simply so much to do. Maybe even too much, if that is possible.

Though fishing buddy Bob Ashley has been whacking the steelhead and Paul Liikala has found the night-time walleye bite, my evenings have been spent deer hunting and the mornings chasing geese.

Alas, I have to give in to this evening by covering Lake Metroparks' park board meeting so I'll have to rearrange things. Maybe I'll go deer hunting in the morning. That worked Monday.

In any event there is just so much going on afield that it is difficult to hit the streams too.

This morning was spent in the goose blind and two friends and I bagged four birds out of several flights that maybe totaled 300 geese. Neat thing was three of the birds were dry-land retrieves for my two Labrador retrievers while Berry got wet fetching up the forth goose. And what a party that one provided. I managed to hail it from a long, long way off and we watched it glide straight into the decoys. Nice piece of work.

One of the tempting things too was hearing a tom gobbling its head off in the woodlot across from the pond we were hunting. That gave me another option to think about.

And come Friday morning I'll be at the Club in search of any pheasants that may be left over from a pair of recently held field trials. It's something that I do each year and I rally look forward to the experience.

I love November, fully realizing that after Thanksgiving things move pretty quickly and it will all be over in an eye blink.

For now, however, I'm in seventh hunting heaven.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wildlife officers' cruiser shot (Close Call)

State Wildlife officer assigned to Champaign County Jeffrey Tipton, and Adam Smith, State Wildlife Officer officer assigned to Logan County, had a too close call Oct. 30.

The two state wildlife officers were sitting in their cruiser that was parked in a field while on surveillance duty looking for night-time poachers.

Another vehicle with three Champaign County men pulled into the field and directed the headlights toward the cruiser.

One shot was fired, hitting the cruiser in the windshield and piercing the glass.

The officers turned on the cruiser's emergency lights and the suspects fled.

The officers pursued the suspects for 4 1/2 miles, apprehending the suspects with the assistance of the Ohio Highway Patrol and the Champaign County Sheriff Office.

Jim Lehman, the Ohio Division of Wildlife's chief law enforcement officer, said the matter is under investigation that is jointly being conducted by the agency as well as the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Charges could be filed as early as Tuesday or possibly by Wednesday, Lehman said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn