Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve in deer blind but guest of honor is a no-show

So here I am; it's New Years Eve; I'm decked out in camo and Johnny Cash-black instead of my Sunday best.

My night on the town is really an evening in the woodlot, waiting for the guest of honor to show up. I'll take it any time of the year. Yep, even if that is the date when most other folk are getting all dolled up to exchange the last day of one year for the first day of the next.

At least some of the other guests have arrived, though not the one chosen for the evening's high honor.

A chickadee is worrying the suet block tucked into a wire cage that is hanging from the closest tree not more than a dozen paces from the blind. And when I first arrived I spooked a female downy woodpecker from off the fat-rich suet cake. She'll return shortly as she always does, I tell myself.

As I wait for the guest of honor to arrive I sort out my gear, pulling it from my over-sized L.L. Bean day pack. Exited are binoculars, gloves, a black-colored jacket that will help me blend into the blind's dark interior, face mask, crossbow rail lube, and a few other niblets of deer-hunting necessities.

Oh, yes, one other item. That being, the latest copy of "Guns And Ammo" magazine. Might as well entertain myself until the guest of honor shows up, I think out loud.

Some 20 minutes into the session a buck fox squirrel dives into the main entree: A 50-pound pile of freshly poured shelled field corn. The food pile is laid out a dozen yards from the blind's front door.

About an hour and a few minutes before the end of legal shooting time the woodlot's distinctive features become flat. The decaying daylight is fading what remained of my depth perception. And still the guest of honor is a no-show.

Before 5 p.m. the rain is tap-dancing on the blind which mostly shields me from the impact of the heavy droplets. Off and on the rain would comes, increasing and then tempering to a soft purr befor it roars once more.

It is time to put away the magazine. Light is diminishing to the point where I can't read the publication's type.

This is archery hunting's golden hour; the final moments when a deer can appear from the faded mist of twilight and float effortesly to the bait pile.

I must now reverse the direction of the removed material and restock them back into the day pack. Time is at an end for this evening, this year. The guest of honor once more failed to make an appearance.

So be it, I think, but the invitation remains open. And will be until the party favors are taken down until the next season. Happy New Year everyone; including the guest of honor.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Environmentalists on high alert over Kasich's pick for ODNR head

Governor-elect John Kasich's pick to oversee the Ohio Department of Natural Resources may be greasing the dreams of the state's oil and gas industry but it hasn't elicited a gusher of hope from environmentalists.

Selected as the Natural Resources Department's new director is David Mustine, a former top executive of the Columbus-based AEP, an electric utility firm that at one time conducted strip mining in southeast Ohio. For the past two years Mustine has been the vice president of an oil and gas service firm in the oil-rich Mideast nation of United Arab Emirates.

Also selected by Kasich is Scott Zody as the Department's assistant director. Zody is a 20-year state government employee who held positions in the administrations of both former Republican governors George Voinovich and Bob Taft.

In naming Mustine, Kasich said "...This sends a message to the business community that Ohio is open for business," praising his appointee's fossil fuel and energy development background.

Reacting with concern about the Mustine nomination is Jack Shaner, director of public affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council.

"We would hope the Kasich Administration would respect first and foremost the conservation and not exploitation of our natural resources," Shaner said. "We know from the incident in Geauga County that drilling for natural gas can contaminate water wells; with the need for safety first and then development. With that being said we are concerned. At least I'll give Kasich an 'A' for transparency; he is what he advertises himself - business first."

Shaner did say, however, that the appointment of Zody is a plus for Ohio's environmental community.

"Scott is a solid, sincere conservationist and I find his appointment encouraging," Shaner said.

Cheryl Johncox, interim executive director of the Buckeye Forest Council, said governor-elect Kaisch and ODNR director-designate Mustine would do a disservice to Ohioans if they were to promote the expansion of fossil fuel exploration where it would pose a risk to the environment.

Such a policy shift also would put at risk the opportunity for Ohioans to enjoy their state parks uncluttered by active oil wells or natural gas exploration, Johncox said.

"We are concerned though we haven't had a chance to explore his background completely," Johncox said. "We thought we had put to bed in the last legislature the idea of drilling for oil and gas in our state parks and perhaps even Lake Erie. People aren't able to travel far to recreate and they want their state parks to be free of oil and gas drilling. Those things have environmental consequences."

State Sen. Tim Grendell, (R-Bainbridge Township), said he is looking forward to communicating with the ODNR director-designate but wants to ensure that natural gas drilling in suburban and urban areas is done responsibly and with local input.

"I also look forward to speaking with him about the lakefront property owners' issue and I hope he is more respectful of their rights than the last director was," Grendell said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rumor has it - but "not interested" in ODNR director's job, says one

A rumble of rumors has set off the state's political seismic machinery, focusing on who governor-elect John Kasich will appoint as the new director for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

One frequently mentioned person for that hot-seat posting is state Rep. Danny Bubp (R-88) of Adams County.

Bubp also is a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves as well as an attorney and former judge. Among those who've worked for Bubp is current Brown County prosecutor Jessica Little who is prosecuting charges against five felony-indicted Ohio Division of Wildlife officials.

Just one problem about the Bubp rumor. He's not interested; instead saying he owes it to his constituents to serve as their state representative, having won in November with no Democrat opposition.

While Bubp will be sworn in next week for his forth and final term-limited stint as a state representative. Then he'll begin traveling the road that leads to the state senate.

Thus, Bubp said today, he's flattered by all of the attention but he's happy where he is at, especially now that the Republicans are back in command of the Ohio House.

"I've heard that rumor too and also for that of Veterans Affairs and State Adjutant General but I'm telling people that I'll be sworn in for my forth term," Bubp said.

Simple put, Bubp said also, leaving the legislature for an administrative post would not be fair to those people who voted for him with the expectation he'd serve their interests in Columbus.

"I have a lot of respect for the governor-elect and I'm sure whoever he picks will make a wonderful (ODNR) director," Bubp said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, December 27, 2010

UPDATED ODNR defends time off during deer gun season for indicted Wildlife officials

With their court cases still pending, four of the five felony-indicted Ohio Division of Wildlife officials took time off during the recent state-wide firearms deer-hunting season.

With permission from the parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

It was the ODNR’s director Shawn Logan who Nov. 10 took the indicted officials off a several-months-long period of paid administrative leave which cost the agency about $250,000.

Logan’s expressed reasons for bringing the officials back was two-fold: First, because the upcoming firearms deer season is the Wildlife Division’s most intense and extensively administered activity.

The second reason that Logan stressed was the impending transition from the current Strickland Administration to the one being assembled by governor-elect John Kasich.

Among those who took time off during the seven-day firearms deer-hunting season were Wildlife Division chief David Graham; assistant chief Randy Miller (and who will retire at the end of this month); Todd Haines, District 5 (southwest Ohio) director; and the agency’s human resources manager, Michelle Ward-Tackett.

Not taking off any time during gun deer week was the agency’s law enforcement administrator James Lehman.

“Obviously, overall, this was one of the safest gun seasons we had without any fatalities so we were able to accommodate the leave requests,” said ODNR spokesman Mike Shelton.

Asked how the department could know ahead of time whether the gun season would prove safe or not, Shelton responded by saying that the administration took into account whether someone else was available to serve as a short-term administrator.

“It’s a mater of being able to look at the time requested,” Shelton said. “If there was someone who could fill the roll for the requested time off then we could accommodate the request.”

The other reason for bringing back the indicted officials was to help with the transition and also because the court case had “reached a sensitive stopping point,” Shelton said.

As for whether allowing the time off makes either the indicted officials or the department look bad, Shelton said that “...folks don’t understand how we need to accommodate time off during that week.”

Fact is, Shelton said, all Wildlife Division employees - from a county wildlife officer up to the chief - cannot pull round-the-clock duty, not even during the uber-busy firearms deer-hunting season when up to 420,000 people are afield.

“From a lay person’s standpoint these people weren’t there when they should be but there were appropriate staffing in place,” Shelton said. “And had they still been on paid administrative leave it would have been difficult to accommodate time off for other division employees.”

A good example of this protocol, says Shelton, was Lehman who did not take time off during the deer gun season.

“As the law enforcement head he’d be the first responder into the field had there been a problem,” Shelton said.

Shelton said as well that Allen Wright, state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County, did not use any leave time "...(vacation, personal, sick, cost savings days, etc.)" during deer gun season.

It is Wright who is at the center of the legal-related matter, though charges against him were dropped by a special prosecutor assigned to the case. This prosecutor has said, however, that he intends to independently investigate Wright and possibly present his ultimate findings to a Brown County Grand Jury.

"As for whether any employees hunted with Officer Wright – I do not know, and employees are not compelled to describe what they do on their private time or who they spend it with," Shelton wrote in an e-mail today. "So, that’s not a question I would be able to answer."

This Outdoors Blog posting may be updated as additional information becomes available. Check back periodically for any changes that might appear.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

New Natural Resources director to be named

Word from Columbus is that governor-elect John Kasich will announce his pick as the new director for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. That selection could come as early as either today (Monday) or Tuesday. Whoever is selected - and there is a lot of speculation over a host of potential candidates - will replace out-going ODNR director Shawn Logan.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas bird count from my deer-hunting blind

Never try to elbow a slate-colored junco away from a suet block.

That is, if you happen to be another slate-colored junco. Ditto if you want to be king of the white-breasted nuthatch hill.

For that matter, cardinals can act pretty uppity, too. Throw in tufted titmice which often enough chew one another out over who is going to have first dibs on the suet block that's anchored inside a wire cage.

As for downy woodpeckers, well, they’ll dominate the suet with the best of them.

Black-capped chickadees are a different horse of the same avian color, however. Fearless and friendly, chickadees will patiently wait their turn, clinging upside down on the tree that supports the suet block and its wire support frame. If not there then the birds will take a seat on a nearby scrap of shrubbery.

All of this became an open book this Christmas evening, the view provided by the zippered-opened slit in my fabric deer-hunting ground blind.

Chased out of the house by Bev so she could troll with her Christmas-new electronic reader, I charted a course to my archery deer-hunting blind for the holiday’s last two hours of daylight. Just as I’ve done many other times this past archery deer-hunting season.

The hunting’s been slow but the nature watching has helped compensate for the general lack of deer activity. That slit has proven itself a voyeur's view of the woodlot where I hunt.

So much so that I’ve added a suet holder to a tree that stands well within the blind's purview. The fat-rich block of suet compliments the deer-attracting pile of corn that I maintain. Which, by the way, is occasionally supplemented by stoking it wit some black oil sunflower seeds.

It’s not that deer particularly relish sunflower seeds but my goal is to try and get the winged critters to back off the shelled corn and instead focus on the other food stuff. It hasn’t worked out all that well, though during this holiday season I'm sure it’s the thought that counts.

Especially now that it is winter, the harshest of seasons when collecting enough internal fuel becomes a daily life or death ritual for song birds.

Thing is, I’ve come to truly appreciate these little balls of feather that are supported by toothpick-thin sticks for legs. They are here - existing under grueling conditions - when supposed more robust bird species have taken the autumn express to more comfortable surroundings many miles south of our lake-effect winters.

So our cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers along with slate-colored juncos and tufted titmice tough it out. And occasionally spar when a member of their clan tries to muscle in on the suet block. That’s fair enough so long that at some point each gets a crack at the food dish.

Still, it would be nice if they all got along the way the chickadees do. Then there would be peace an earth, or at least in the bird world anyway.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, December 24, 2010

UPDATED Ron Johnson's funeral arrangements

Even in death the iconic Great Lakes charter captain Ron Johnson didn't stray far from his love of sport fishing.

The 73-year-old Johnson died Wednesday after a several-month-long battle with lung cancer. His funeral arrangements are being handled by Brunner Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 8466 Mentor Ave., Mentor.

However, instead of flowers, Johnson had requested that contributions be made to one of two charities. The first is the Future Fisherman Foundation, PO Box 6049, McLean, VA 22106.

The second is Lake University Ireland Cancer Center, 9485 Mentor Ave., Suite No. 3, Mentor, OH 44060.

As for Johnson's funeral, Brunner spokeswoman Nancy Sanden said visiting hours are scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. and again from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 28.

Immediately following the last visiting segment at 8:30 p.m. a funeral service is planned, Sanden also said.

Johnson was one of the Great Lake's most well-known fishing authorities and a popular go-to fishing seminar speaker. He operated his hugely popular and successful "Thumper" sport-fishing charter service from Grand River Marine in Grand River Village.

Friends and associates have expressed their sorrow at the loss of Johnson, an example of how a professional angler and sportsman should conduct himself, these individuals said in a Thursday News-Herald story.

For any additional information or directions, call Brunner Funeral at 440-255-3401.

Johnson's on-line obituary is available at

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A tribute to Ron Johnson

Confined to their stalls the fleet of sport-fishing vessels tugged at their rope moorings the way pent-up thoroughbreds snort and grind at their bits.

It would seem to suggest the boats were anxious to get about their business. That being, to become pack horses carrying riders and their truck to the fishing grounds off Fairport Harbor.

Maybe my eyes were deceiving me but the one stallion seemingly the most eager to break free of its tethered restraints was “Thumper,” owned by Ron Johnson.

I had traveled to Grand River Marina earlier this summer to collect some charter captain gossip along with tips for the paper’s weekly fishing report.

But none of the captains were around, each having cancelled their charters because of the lake’s unsettled nature. That cost them money, of course, but for Johnson it was also a tax-due bill.

By early summer we all knew that Ron was dying of lung cancer, battling the disease with a heart two sizes too large. It came as no surprise, of course, given that Ron was a seriously heavy chain smoker. Just the thought of him smoking gave us all the willies though I can’t recall anyone ever advising Ron to quit.

Maybe that was our fault and perhaps had we said something sooner Ron still would be around. Maybe, but I doubt it. That was Ron and we gladly accepted his faults along with the treasures he so often rewarded us with.

There was the smile, certainly. It beamed off his face and the laugh lines would crinkle at the corners of his eyes.

There were the jokes at our expense too. Miss a walleye with the net or watch as a steelhead took to the air and toss the Stinger spoon and Ron’s voice would boom from behind, condemning our amateurish efforts.

None of it was for real. He was just kidding in an attempt to integrate us into the vagaries of the hunt for fish. For Ron, there was always another walleye, another trip, another chance at redemption.

No more as the cancer ate away at Ron’s body but could not tame his spirit. No, never, with Ron continuing to pilot his much beloved and well-worn “Thumper.” Even when he was forced to sit in his captain’s chair, one quivering hand holding an oxygen mask while both eyes were fixed to the fish finder, Ron soldiered on.

That was the Ron that we, his friends, are going to remember: Ron, the never-say-quit guy just as much as Ron, the consummate walleye finder and charter captain.
So for a summer season we would tap-dance around the issue, fearful of the gathering twilight and whistling past the thoughts of a future without our Ron Johnson.

And he was ours as much - I guess - as he was his family’s, though I suspect that his daughter Meaghan and son Steve would disagree. For that, I beg their forgiveness.

Even so, Ron still belonged to us. He owed us that for the unbridled respect, fellowship and - yes - even love we held for him.

Ron gave us more than we could ever repay. He taught us anglers in a host of venues. Most of all Ron held court with his on-the-water seminars which really was how we approached his charters.

Without speaking, Ron knew what was needed. He would fiddle with his planerboards, test the drags on the reels and sort through lures in a search for the perfect walleye-catching color.

Seldom did Ron fail in his day job as a charter captain, either. And when he did come in second or third during a tournament almost without fail the winner would gush that he had “beaten Ron Johnson.”

No matter to our Ron, however. There was always another contest, another walleye, another charter. Then the cancer came and we all knew the trailhead in front of Ron was much closer than the one behind.

We indulged Ron while at the same time sucking in air whenever we saw him try to climb a hill just a tad too high.

We knew but we also understood. This was Ron Johnson and he was not going to leave us without setting an example of how to assemble dignity in the face death.

That is why some of his friends would assist Ron on his charters. Still others of us would pray for Ron, a point he appreciated.

All of which was Ron as well, always being the one to give more than he desired to get.

So now the stallions are tucked away in their barns, awaiting the spring day when they again can run the field. Except for Thumper and that makes us sad and angry and frustrated all within the same package. Which probably would disappoint Ron.

I think he’d tell us to move on, mindful to remember the good times but also not to forget his lessons, not the least of which is how to become a better person as much as a better angler.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Iconic Lake Erie angler/guide Ron Johnson is dead

Ron Johnson, the quintessential Great Lakes charter captain who held supremacy over Lake Michigan coho salmon, Lake Ontario steelhead and Lake Erie walleye, no longer will hold a fishing pole.

Johnson, of Painesville Township, succumbed to lung cancer today after being diagnosed with the disease in the spring.

Johnson, who operated a Lake Erie fishing charter business, vowed he would never be separated from his beloved Lake Erie. And he has requested that his ashes be spread over the lake next fishing season.

A full story is available at

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Pymatuning's walleye may be on road to recovery

For inland lake walleye anglers the year-end news is something of an early Christmas present.

Both the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Pennsylvania Boat and Fish Commission are jointly reporting another good survival rate for young-of-the-year walleye. Make that three years in a row, too.

What's more, says biologists with both agencies, these three back-to-back-to-back incidents represent the best first-year survival rates since 2000.

Boiled down this will translate into anglers encountering by next spring the entire stock of 2008 meeting the lake's minimum length limit of 15 inches. And the 2009 hatch will reach this all-important threshold by next summer while the fishes from the 2010 hatch will reach legal size by mid-summer, 2012.

All of which could see a transfer of angling pressure from nearby Mosquito Creek Reservoir and back to Pymatuning, a lake some walleye fishermen had given up as a lost cause.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snowbound wildlife areas to restrict weekend deer hunting access

Deer hunters looking to stalk a white-tail in Northeast Ohio will find limited access to state wildlife area parking lots.

At least in some locations. Not looking so good are the state wildlife areas in Ashtabula County. It is this county which encountered the full fury of this week’s snow storms.

With that being said, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is working to provide at least some access to a majority of its units in Geauga and Trumbull counties. Among them is the Hambden Orchards Wildlife Area in Geauga County’s Hambden Township.

Hunters there and who will participate in this weekend’s two-day bonus firearms deer-hunting season will find the entrances to the two parking lots off Rt. 608 and the one off Sisson Road have been opened.

At least partially anyway. There is enough room in each to turn around and park perhaps two or three vehicles. Needed, though, will be a good front-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle, state officials say.

For the Akron Watershed property near LaDue Reservoir snow-plowing work either has been or will be performed on about 12 to 15 lots.

And for the massive Grand River Wildlife Area in Trumbull County, the Wildlife Division anticipates opening up the lots at the shooting range, clay target range, headquarters, and a number of other popular access points.

“Each block of woods at Grand River will have at least one parking lot open so guys will have a way to get in,” said Bill Hickox, field staff member for the Wildlife Division’s Grand River Wildlife Area which oversees operations in Trumbull and Geauga counties. “We were in Geauga County on Wednesday, and the southern most parking lot in Mantua had the most snow; easily more than one foot,” Hickox said.

At Grand River about 9 inches of snow is carpeting the ground while at Hambden Orchards more than 1 foot of snow paves the surface, Hickox said also.

“Guys getting back there will be sweating,” he said.

Hickox said the problem is that the state will not approve overtime for agency employees and the Grand River unit has only vehicle capable of plowing snow.

It’s a brand-new truck and plow with only about 500 miles on it, but it is the only vehicle that we have for all of the areas that we managed,” Hichox said.

In Ashtabula County the situation is much more dismal for prospective deer gun hunters. The parking lots at the Dorset, Orwell and New Lyme wildlife areas are on the Wildlife Division’s ‘back burner,” an agency official says.

“The Mosquito Creek area doesn’t have a truck with a snowplow so that certainly limits its ability to get out,” said Allen Lee, Wildlife Division biologist. “It is unfortunate that we had this snow. There has been settling of the snow so I don’t think there will be a problem for hunters with four-wheel drive vehicles though those with other vehicles may have an issue.”

As for the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area and both its open-to-the-public hunting section as well as its controlled hunt units, those locations are being taken care of by a tractor that is fitted with a plow, Lee said.

However, this tool is restricted in where it can go with transporting it to Ashtabula County a none-starter, Lee says.

“Further south in District Three there hasn’t been as much snow,” Lee said also. “People are interested and we understand that and would like to accommodate sportsmen but we are limited by the physical lack of both equipment and manpower.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's time, Lake Metroparks, it's time

With Mentor thinking about making the plunge into establishing a controlled deer hunt in that city, Lake Metroparks should do likewise.

If anything, the parks system is at least one of the tap roots to Mentor's over-abundant deer population. Just as the agency is in other parts of Lake County.

The agency's Veteran's Park in Mentor is as close to Ground Zero for the city's deer herd as can be found in Lake County's largest city. It is a place where the deer have decimated the park's former trillium glory and are now munching on just about every speck of available forage.

These deer are now panhandling by visiting park neighbor's backyards where the critters are pretty much doing the same thing.

Of course, the Mentor Marsh is the leading candidate for supplying the city with all the deer. No doubt as well it would be at the top of the list for allowing a controlled hunt; likely in the form of archery hunting.

And that's just how Kirtland Hills and Waite Hills villages do it just as Kirtland City organizes its own controlled archery-only hunts.

Consider as well that both the Holden Arboretum and the Geauga Park District have for several years each offered controlled and very structured archery deer hunts and the question remains as to why Lake Metroparks remains so reluctant goes begging for an answer.

Lake Metroparks has long gone past the exit for organizing such a hunt. Its reserves in several outposts of Lake County are serving as sanctuary reservoirs for deer.

Thus, such locales as Girdled Road Reservation in Concord Township, and Hogback Ridge and River Road - both in Madison Township - are fueling a deer herd that is contributing to vegetative damage to adjacent private property. Not to mention providing fodder for motorists to strike as the deer race across highways.

By defying logic as it relates to wildlife management, Lake Metroparks' on-going refusal to conduct deer-reduction hunts is also stymieing efforts by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to keep Lake County's white-tail herd in check.

With the Wildlife Division declaring all of Lake County a part of an Urban Deer Zone the agency is saying that the county's herd is out of control and needs reducing. That's why bag limits and the use of antlerless-only deer permits in such declared units are more liberal than they are for the rest of the state.

Clearly it is time for the park district's three park board members to seriously take up allowing carefully crafted, by-permit-only, restricted deer hunting. Yes, even if that means that hunters can use only archery tackle.

It is now time for Lake Metroparks to step up and address this issue. Just as Kirtland, Kirtland Hills, Waite Hills, The Holden Arboretum, and the Geauga Park Districts have done. And as Mentor is now considering.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wicked weather may deter deer hunter access to local wildlife areas

With Northeast Ohio being pummeled by heavy snows and high winds, local deer hunters may see themselves ultimately shut out during the up-coming two-day bonus gun season.

More snow is in the forecast for at least through mid-week with the total snow depths by Tuesday evening possibly exceeding two feet in some areas. Most other locations in Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties likely will encounter a foot or more of snow before the intense low pressure system departs.

Bitterly cold nighttime low temperatures and uncomfortably chilly daytime high likewise could dampen hunters’ enthusiasm for sticking it out as well.

Then there is the question of whether hunters can even access public hunting areas, at least those anchored to Northeast Ohio.

At the massive, 7,384-acre Grand River Wildlife Area in Trumbull County, efforts likely will be made to clear at least some of the reserve’s parking lots. Most notably those lots would include the one by the area headquarters off Route 534, the handicapped-accessible lot and a few lots along Route 88.

Perhaps the best public hunting location in Northeast Ohio where access might prove easily available is at the 9,610-acre Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area, also in Trumbull County.

“Right now we don’t have much snow here,” said Jarrod Allison, the state wildlife officer assigned to Trumbull County. “It’s cold but we don’t have the snow; that would change if we get the foot of snow that’s being predicted.”

Almost certainly the state wildlife areas where access will be severely restricted - if not outright prohibitive - are those in Ashtabula and Geauga counties. Such locations as Hambden Orchards in Hambden Township, and Ashtabula County’s Orwell, New Lyme and Dorset wildlife areas may very well be shuttered closed by the ranting of the current weather state-of-affairs.

Though it would require something on the order of a two- to three-hour drive from Lake or Geauga County, the 12,000-acre Salt Fork Wildlife Area in Guernsey County could provide the safest and easiest access. So far very little snow has fallen on this area.

However, with that being said, what snow that is arriving is being sent drifting across secondary roads. Though passible these roads may require the use of a four-wheel-drive vehicle, especially on the steeper grades, says area manager, John Matthews.

“I think the hunting pressure will be lower than for the early muzzle-loading season and even during the seven-day gun season but with the weather forecast it will be difficult to determine what’s going to happen,” Matthews said.

For a preview look at this weekend’s two-day bonus firearms deer-hunting season prospects, see Tuesday’s News-Herald.

Efforts to update access conditions at nearby state wildlife areas will be attempted later this week and posted on this blog.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A shotgun not always a requirement during firearms deer season

I guess a person of general interest might have thought that my desire to hunt a portion of every day during Ohio’s recently concluded seven-day firearms deer-hunting season was something of a stretch.

And I suppose that even deer hunters might have wrinkled their brows if they had known that on most days I could be found in my fabric deer-hunting blind, holding my Horton crossbow instead of my souped-up Winchester slug shotgun.

Can’t say as I’d blame anyone for thinking along those lines. Even for me, hunting for at least 90 minutes every day is an assignment best left to people much younger than my 60-plus years of occupying above-ground space.

Yet it had always been a goal of mine. And one that I might complete next year as

It all started over in Pennsylvania and for which I wrote two stories on the subject. Both appeared in Tuesday’s edition of The News-Herald and perhaps in our sister paper, The (Lorain) Morning Journal.

Without dwelling too much on the details of the Pennsylvania firearms deer-hunting season opener, the facts are not in dispute. I shot what I thought was a doe but what turned out to be a buck instead; one that was not eligible to be taken by an adult.

So I turned myself in, forfeited the deer, paid my $25 restitution fee but saw the Game Commission officer issue to me another buck tag.

By Tuesday I was home, chased out of Pennsylvania by the very same nasty wet weather system that pummeled everyone there, here and everywhere else.

Thank goodness for my deer blind, set up because I’m forbidden to climb into a tree stand or surmount a tree ladder stand. A bad back with a recent $200,000 surgery and a still undiagnosed balance issue to deal with prevents me from rising above the earth.

So I swapped my rifle and kept my Winchester slug shotgun secured in its gun locker. Removed was my Horton Vision 175 crossbow and the appropriate related archery tackle.

About the only difference during the gun season was the state requirement to wear a vest or other outer garment made from blaze orange fabric.

The other requirement was for me to exit the blind at sunset rather than 30 minutes later. Which caused a little bit of a problem. On two evenings right at the cusp of legal-illegal shooting hours I unzippered the blind’s fly and rolled out.

Much to my chagrin in each episode I saw a deer standing less than 75 yards away.
I guess I’ll never know whether either deer would have come to the bait station in time under archery-hunting time rules and not under the firearms-hunting time rules. Then again, a before-work hunt saw me depart after two hours to the sight of three does strolling

On Saturday I switched gears once more and headed for Ashtabula County with my wife, Bev, my older brother, Rich, and my oldest brother, Terry. We were part of a 10-person crew that would conduct an assortment of deer drives on a piece of lightly hunted property.

As success and blessing would have it, both Terry and I killed deer; Terry shooting a buck which had broken off both of its antlers. My deer was a button buck, an animal that hard-charged its way through an overgrown mass of saw-felled tree tops.

Fired at first by both Bev and Rich the button buck managed to elude each but was taken down by my Winchester that fired Winchester-brand Platinum sabot slugs. How I managed to (safely, I must add) swing on a fast-moving deer at 70 or so yards and hit it not once but twice will remain a mystery to me.

In any event, I wrapped up the hunt but also looked forward to again getting to my deer blind and using the crossbow.

Sunday was a repeat of getting out of the blind at sunset just at the same moment when a deer shows up for dinner. Which got me to thinking.

My inkling was to believe that if I were to hunt the Monday AFTER the conclusion of the firearms deer-hunting season when it was again legal to hold my ground for 30 minutes after sunset, I’d have a chance to poke a deer with an arrow.

It wasn’t bad strategy. It was good, in fact. Except for one thing; Monday saw a raw and bitterly angry lake-effect system pour in. This presented me with a lot of snow to waddle through along with a whole bunch of wind to bundle up against.
Not surprisingly I didn’t see any deer that evening; just a couple of red squirrels that carved out tunnels in the deepening snow as they made their way from a nearby tree to a pile of shelled corn.
Still, I had kept to my promise. I had hunted at least 90 minutes during every day of the firearms deer-hunting season. Plus a bonus eighth day when you include Monday, which I did.
All the same, I’m still not finished. Too, if it weren’t for some family obligations and maybe some too-deep snow depths you’d probably find me in my hunting blind this evening.

Not to worry, however. I have until Feb. 6 to kill another deer from my archery-hunting blind along with two more days during the bonus two-day firearms deer-hunting season and four days for the muzzle-loading season.

In the long view of things there’s still a lot of hunting daylight left for me.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Octogenarian deer hunter shows it's never too late to teach another

For octogenarian Lynn Whipple of Painesville Township nothing beats introducing a youngster to hunting.

Even if that means the youngster is an 18-year-old oldster who also just happens to be his grandson, Colin Valante of Concord Township.

“I’m 87 and I’m still climbing into my tree stand,” Whiple said. “I took my 18-year-old grandson out with my Horton Hunter crossbow and on Saturday he was in the stand only 15 minutes when he shot a seven-point point buck right through the heart. I was just amazed.”

For Valante this assent into a tree stand was only the second time he had ever been deer hunting. The first time was during last Tuesday’s raw weather nastiness and where Valante spent three hours in the tree stand, Whipple said.

Yet Whipple is no stranger himself to successful deer hunting. Earlier in the archery season he shot a 160-pound doe, also with the same Horton crossbow used by his grandson.

“I even weighed the guts,” Whipple said with a hint of pride.

With a long track record of hunting in Lake County, the first chapter in Whipple’s sporting history began about 70 years ago; and in Concord Township, too.

“Boy, you should have seen Little Mountain back then with its virgin timber,” he said.

Times have changed and now the once very rural Concord Township is largely a checkerboard of small plots. Few are the places which offer much in the way of hunting elbow room, Whipple says.

“Most of the woodlots are five acres or so which is one important reason I didn’t want my grandson hunting with a shotgun,” Whipple said. “Besides, hunting with a crossbow is more of a challenge.”

Years ago Whipple took to the deep forests of Pennsylvania where he spent time hunting the McKean County woods for deer and turkey. That’s all changed, though, and all for the greater, Whipple says.

“The deer hunting is better back here; certainly the size is better and maybe even the abundance,” Whipple said. “I’ll be out for the two-day gun season and the muzzle-loading season.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Firearms deer season didn't stop Ohio white-tail harvest slide

Ohio’s firearms deer hunters are following the footsteps of their archery deer-hunting brethren and that is spelling a reduced kill.

For Ohio’s recently concluded seven-day firearms deer-hunting season, sportsmen shot 104,442 animals. For the same seven-day hunt in 2009, Ohio sportsmen killed 114,633 deer.

Ditto the drop for both the first six weeks of the statewide archery deer-hunting season as well as the two-day youth-only firearms deer hunting season. For the former, archer killed 49,384 deer while last year archers shot 53,959 deer.

And youths killed 9,024 deer during their two-day, Nov. 20 and 21 season this year and compared to the 9,331 animals shot during the same hunt in 2009.

The total preliminary do-date deer harvest is off as well. This figure stands at 163,362 animals thus far this season and compared to the 178,397 deer taken for the same period in 2009.

Bucking the gun-week white-tailed deer decline, however, was much of Northeast Ohio. Modest gains were noted in this sector and based upon preliminary figures reported to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

In all, about three dozen of Ohio’s 88 counties experienced preliminary gains their respective deer harvest while about 50 saw declines.

Among the not-so-fortunate were the traditional high-deer-kill counties located in southeast Ohio. Notable harvest drops were seen in such places as Guernsey, Muskingum, Harrison, and Washington counties.

Here are the reported figures for select counties with their 2009 figures in parentheses (note that this year’s figures are preliminary and are based on county of check-in and not necessarily county where taken): Lake - 300 (282); Geauga - 641 (509); Ashtabula - 2,310 (2,084); Cuyahoga - 128 (107); Trumbull - 1,514 (1,474); Lorain - 823 (808); Medina - 685 (639); Erie - 253 (332); Tuscarawas - 5,513 (5,901); Guernsey - 3,455 (4,289); Muskingum - 2,447 (2,829); Harrison - 3,741 (4,310); Coschocton - 3,320 (3,680); Washington - 2,935 (3,589); and Athens - 2,395 (3,049).

Ohio firearms deer hunters can still make amends. The state’s bonus two-day firearms deer-hunting season runs Dec. 18 and 19 with the statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season scheduled for Jan. 8 through 11.

If all of this weren’t enough, the state’s fall wild turkey hunters saw an even precipitous drop in their harvest. For this year’s fall turkey season, hunters shot 1,336 birds. That’s way below the 2,180 turkeys killed during the 2009 fall season.

In almost every county opened to fall wild turkey hunting declines were seen; chief among them being Ashtabula County. Though this county still ranked Number One in the state for the fall wild turkey harvest it was a hallow win. Ashtabula County saw 75 turkeys killed this fall season - a huge drop from the 127 birds shot during there the 2009 fall season.

Some other counties were, also with their 2009 figures in parentheses: Lake - 8 (23); Geauga - 45 (58); Cuyahoga 0 (1); Trumbull - 56 (73); Lorain - 14 (39); Medina - 27 (67); Guernsey - 44 (72); Harrison - 34 (57); Muskingum - 28 (23); Tuscarawas - 49 (135); Highland - 52 (18); Hocking - 16 (68).

Wildlife Division biologists speculate that the rather large descend in the fall wild turkey harvest is directly linked to this year’s massive white oak acorn (mast) crop. When the mast crop is plentiful the turkeys spread themselves out and are thus much more difficult for hunters to locate, these biologists say.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snafus dogging experimental hunting license/deer check-in system

With its reputation on the line and $16 million at stake, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is trying to work out the bugs with its web-based Wild Ohio Customer Relations Management System.

All in an effort to see where potential snags exist and then either cut them off and re-tie or else find an alternative way to get the job done. Problem is, both the selling of licenses and the check-in process have failed to deliver in a flawless fashion.

The WOCRMS profile is under the microscope as the agency experiments with the system in an effort to refine the process. This experiment includes selling licenses at Gander Mountain’s Mentor store as well as checking in deer at the Hartsgrove Square BP station in Ashtabula County.

In each case, problems arose.

Indeed, there’s been enough frustrating challenges that Gander Mountain employees have largely abandoned the WOCRMS process and have gone back to using the more familiar and quicker way of selling tags.

Meanwhile, the check-in process at the Hartsgrove Square station confused my computer-illiterate oldest brother and left me initially puzzled as well.

Last things first. On Saturday, my oldest brother Terry and me visited the Hartsgrove Square BP station to register our respective kills. The store is just a couple miles south of the Trumbull Locker plant where we have our deer processed into venison.

Invited by the Wildlife Division’s helpful staff there to try out the new check-in procedure that will become mandatory next year, both Terry and I agreed.

Terry selected the telephone option while I picked the Internet option. My choice was confused by a couple of points; one being poor instructions about recording a rather lengthy registration number with a seemingly lack of adequate spaces to fill in all of the digits.

Then too, the form’s Internet format was such that it required careful attention to all of the particulars. Among them was not pre-anticipating writing a response before examining the entire set of instructions.

For Terry the affair was far more frustrating. His efforts failed when the telephone call he made to record his information was dropped; this, in spite of the fact that cell phone tower for his provider is only a mile or so up the road.

Which could be a key warning considering that many rural areas of Ohio have poor cell phone reception.

Terry then looked to me to finish the chore via the Internet. Knowing what to look for and where, I was able to complete the task in fairly short order.

On these several prickly points the Wildlife Division staff noted that appropriate adjustments to the system are needed. Which is why the agency is going through the experimental learning process, they said.

Now comes the second point. With me having used up one either-sex deer tag on the animal I killed Saturday, I was needed a replacement permit. That meant a visit to the Mentor Gander Mountain store on Sunday.

Yet in spite of being one of only a handful of experimental stations for issuing licenses and permits with the WOCRMS process, the store employed the older, soon-to-be-extinct issuing model in spitting out my document.

The reason, said the issuer, was that the WOCRMS process is so slow that it can cause a customer traffic jam as holiday shoppers must wait for a hunter to be issued his or her legal documents

Time will tell if the Wildlife Division can smooth out the flawed wrinkles that the WOCRMS process is currently infected with.

But if come next hunting season - especially the firearms deer-hunting season with its crunch of license sales and animal check-ins - these problems are not resolved then it will be the agency’s neck on the block. And $16 million of Ohio sportsmens’ dollars in jeopardy.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ashtabula County deer hunter shoots rare antlered doe

Paul Skvarek of Sheffield Township shot what almost no other Ohio deer hunter has even ever seen, much less killed.

On Monday’s firearms deer-hunting season opener, Skvarek killed a 10-point deer. However, the animal was not a buck but rather a doe.

Such animals are called “hermaphrodites” and are uncommon to the point of being rare, state wildlife officials say.

“It’s a big deer, too,” Skvarek said. “The funny thing was we didn’t even know what it’s sex was until after we got home and went to field dress it. The officials at the check station didn’t look, either - just taking photos because it had a nice rack.”

Skvarek was hunting behind his home when he shot the animal. He used an older Remington Model 1100 semi-automatic shotgun and fitted with 4-power telescopic sights.

Since the shotgun is a smoothbore, Skvarek uses Foster-style rifled slugs instead of the newer sabot-type slugs. Foster-style slugs were never noted for their accuracy, however.

“My son, Jesse, shot an eight-point about two hours earlier and we were busy taking care of that deer before we went back out,” Skvarek said also. “We were in our tree stand - which is about 20 feet up - for less than two minutes and still catching our breath when the deer came.”

The big-rack doe was moving at a pretty good clip, too, when the animal was shot about 15 yards from the stand, Skvarek said.

“It was with two other deer, which also were does,” he said.

As for getting the head mounted, Skvarek says there’s no debate. A mount of the antlered doe will grace a wall in one of his home’s rooms.

“My son is going to do a skull mount of his rack; which was the first buck he’s ever shot,” Skvarek said.

Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist Scott Peters says that an antlered doe is unusual - even “highly unusual.”

“Common sense tells me it’s a matter of genetics,” Peters said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday's rains could dampen Monday's exceptional deer harvest

Ohio's chief deer management biologist wonders if Monday's 12.5-percent opening day deer kill gain was diluted by today's (Tuesday's) continuous heavy rains and high winds.

Regardless, the state's 420,000 to 450,000 hunters earned their deer-management stripes Monday when they killed a preliminary 37,805 white-tails. That figure is a 12.5-percent jump from the 2009 opener deer harvest of 33,607 animals.

Mike Tonkovich - the Ohio Division of Wildlife's deer management administrator - credits two factors for the jump in the opening day harvest. Chief among them was excellent weather with milds temperatures, light winds and sunny skies. Those elements merged to keep hunters in the field instead of fleeing for the comforts of home or deer camp, Tonkovich said.

The second prong, Tonkovich says, is a good white-tail carry-over from the lower-than-typical deer kill during the first six weeks of the state's archery deer-hunting season. That first six weeks showed a general decline in the deer harvest, attributed to a massive white oak acorn crop that kept deer where the hunters weren't.

"I fully expected the harvest to be up for the opener; in fact, at this point there is only a 646 animal harvested difference between the total to-date kill between last year and this year," Tonkovich said. "So we are spot on for the harvest."

That being said, however, Tonkovich believes that Tuesday's heavy downpour and the forecast for snow and possibly a return to rain in some parts of the state at least for Saturday could cut into the gains.

"Maybe we'll pick up during the two-day bonus season and the muzzle-loading season," Tonkovich says. "But no question, the deer are there."

As for the individual county-by-county deer check-in reports those are across the board in nearly every one of Ohio's 88 counties.

Still, Tonkovich reminds hunters that these figures are preliminary only. They represent where deer were officially checked in and not necessarily in the county where taken, Tonkovich said.

With that being said, here are the preliminary deer check-in for various counties, with their 2009 opening day figures in paranthesis: Lake - 83 (63); Geauga - 268 (188); Cuyahoga - 30 (25); Ashtabula - 983 and ranked 8th for Monday's opener (836); Trumbull - 639 (572); Lorain - 233 (210); Medina - 200 (146); Erie - 96 (112); Tuscarawas - 1,806 (1,793); Harrison - 1,439 (1,374); Guernsey - 1,406 (1,284).

Ohio's firearms deer-hunting season runs through Sunday. A bonus two-day firearms deer-hunting season is set for Dec. 18 and 19 with the statewide muzzle-loading season set for Jan. 8-11.

For the all-seasons' 2009 deer kill, hunters shot 261,314 white-tails. Ohio's pre-all-hunting-seasons' deer population was estimated at 750,000 animals.

- Jeffre L. Frischkorn

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lake County to lose 24/7 deer check station; new system awaits

Northeast Ohio's only 24/7 game check station will go dark after December 5, the last day of the state's seven-day firearms deer-hunting season.

Giles Marathon, located on Rt. 306 in Willoughby, will transition itself into a Speedway, the work starting Dec. 6.

Thus, says officials with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the station will no longer serve hunters as a game check station.

A Wildlife Division official said also she does not believe a replacement game check station for Lake County is in the works.

Lake County's current two other game check stations are Gander Mountain's Mentor store on Diamond Centre Drive, and Great Lakes Outdoors Supply on Route 20, Madison Township.

Of the state's 484 or so game check stations listed in the Wildlife Division's 2010/2011 hunting-trapping regulation digest, only around 13 are open 24/7. Make that "12" with the impending loss of Giles Marathon.

However, all of this old-style way of registering a deer or turkey kill will end next year. It will begin with Ohio's spring wild turkey-hunting season and go through the deer-hunting season.

The Wildlife Division is now trying to work out the bugs on an Internet/telephone-based license-issuing and game check program. This new system will allow hunters to record for themselves their deer or turkey kills by using a computer or a telephone.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Glacial pace marks Brown County wildlife officer issues

At the nucleus of the on-going ethics and legal questions swirling around what’s being called the “Brown County Five,” rests Allan Wright, the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County.

Among the Wright-related items being looked at is the Ohio Department of Natural Resources forwarding material to the Ohio Ethics Commission. This information transfer centers on Wright’s affiliation as a so-called “pro staff” member with a Michigan-based custom muzzle-loading rifle builder.

The Department gave the material to the Ohio Ethics Commission so that the latter agency can “provide advice” as it relates to any potential violation of Ohio’s ethics rules, a Natural Resources official said.

Related to the legal issues intertwined with this entire episode, in November 2006 Wright allowed his home address to be used by a South Carolina wildlife officer in order to buy an Ohio resident hunting license.

In regards to the law pertaining to deliberately skirting residency requirements, the Ohio Revised Code establishes that “No person shall procure or attempt to procure a hunting license by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or any false statement.”

In cases of this type an offender can be charged with a forth-degree misdemeanor. Such an offense is punishable by a fine of up to $250, 30 days in jail, or both. In addition, a judge can suspend an offender’s hunting or fishing license privileges.

“... as with most other potential wildlife violations, the officer has the discretion to determine whether the action warrants a citation or not depending on the circumstances of the case at hand,” said Mike Shelton, the Natural Resources Department’s chief of external affairs, in an e-mail sent today (Nov. 24) to The News-Herald.

Confusion arising from a non-resident seeking help from a license-issuing agent who then provides incorrect advice is an example where leeway is an option for a wildlife officer, Shelton said.

In Wright’s case the officer received an Ohio Division of Wildlife verbal reprimand on Sept. 18, 2008 for “...failure of good behavior,” though the rebuke acknowledged that Wright “... had supervisory guidance to do so...”

This reprimand was expunged from Wright’s personnel file on Sept. 18, 2009 and as required by conditions spelled out in the official document, Shelton said.

All of which set into motion a months-long chain of events that included felony charges being brought against five Wildlife Division officials.

The charges stem from a belief held by Brown County Prosecutor Jessica A. Little that the five officials - including agency chief David M. Graham - should have handled the Wright issue as a criminal matter and not as an administrative matter.

Little acted upon an investigation conducted by the Ohio Inspector General’s office of the five agency officials. It is this office which turned its findings over to Little.

In April, the five administrators were indicted in Brown County Common Pleas Court on two felony counts each. Wright was also charged in the same court with two felony counts and one misdemeanor count.

During the on-going course of legal activity, Little appointed David Kelley as the special prosecutor for the Wright case. Kelley is also an assistant prosecutor in adjacent Adams County where he served from 2001 to 2008 as its prosecutor before being called to active military duty.

In May, Kelley announced that he was dropping all charges against Wright, pending an independent investigation and possible presentation of evidence to a Brown County Grand Jury.

Subsequently, Wright returned to his wildlife officer post in Brown County.

Likewise, after a several-month period of being placed on paid administrative leave the five Wildlife Division officials were called back to work Nov. 19 by out-going Natural Resources Department director Shawn Logan.

The long-term absence of the five officials cost the Wildlife Division about $250,000.

However, the charges against these five officials remain with Little having filed an appeal before the state’s 12th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

She made this appeal after being rebuffed by Brown County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott T. Gusweiler on a legal issue called the Garrity Rule. This legal fiat protects at least some civil servants from making potentially self-incriminating statements to an investigating agency such as the Ohio Inspector General.

Still left unanswered is the current status of both Kelley’s investigative work and any investigation that might be on-going by the Ohio Ethics Commission.

“I really can’t comment on on-going investigations; I’m waiting on a couple of things, including the appeal,” Kelley said. “I’m kind of letting that run its course, but regardless of which way (the appeal) goes it won’t be the deciding factor. However, it can determine the manner in which the investigation proceeds.”

Kelley did say too that he anticipates the matter will “progress within the next 60 to 120 days.”

“I don’t see any need for this to be dragged out forever,” Kelley said.

What is known is that the Natural Resources Department forwarded to the Ohio Ethics Commission the Department's findings about Wright’s connection with Okemos, Michigan-based Ultimate Firearms company. This firm makes high-end muzzle-loading rifles with one “Ultimate Muzzleloader” model starting at $3,750.

“In addition, we requested the Ohio Ethics Commission to provide advice regarding Officer Wright’s pro shop activity on April 15, 2010,” said Shelton, in a Nov. 22 e-mail sent to The News-Herald.

Ultimate Firearms’ web site posts Wright as a member of the firm’s pro staff. It also notes in the pro staff section that Wright is an “Ohio Wildlife Officer.”

Among Ultimate Firearms’ other listed pro staff members are such well-known television hunting show personalities as Bob Foulkrod, Brenda Valentine, and Hank Parker.

In his Ultimate Firearms “Testimonials” web site appearance, Wright is quoted as saying “.. Being a wildlife officer with two young boys, time is a valued commodity at my household, and the ease of cleaning the Ultimate Muzzleloader is one of the most important features of shooting the firearm.”

Wright also is featured on the web site’s “300 Yard Club” posting, showing him with a coyote shot at 300 yards or more with an Ultimate Firearms’ muzzle-loading rifle.

Previously, Ultimate Firearms had declined to comment on any association with Wright.

As for the Natural Resources Department’s forwarding of information about Wright’s association with Ultimate Firearms to the Ohio Ethics Commission, that agency is required by law to remain mum, officials there say.

“We cannot comment on any matters that are of an investigative nature by (state) statute,” said Susan Willeke, the agency’s education and communications administrator.

Asked, however, to speak in the broadest of context on how long most investigations take to complete, Willeke said “that it’s tough to predict.”

“We (always) do want it to be thorough, which is what the public expects,” Willeke said.

Messages seeking comment on these matters have been left with Wright at his Wildlife Division-supplied telephone number.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Hartsgrove BP to host test of state's new deer check-in system

Northeast Ohio deer hunters can become human guinea pigs in a test of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s impending new hunting/fishing license-issuing and game check system.

Beginning Monday at select sites the Wildlife Division will seek out successful deer hunters. These sportsmen then will be asked if they would volunteer to participate in a trial run of the new $16 million Wild Ohio Customer Relationship Management System check-in process.

Monday is the start of Ohio’s seven-day firearms deer-hunting season.

In all, 17 sites around the state will host the test of the new Internet/telephone-only product. Among them is the BP station/food mart located on Hartsgrove Square in Ashtabula County.

Here, Wildlife Division officials will post themselves, soliciting volunteers and helping those who say “yes” to engage the system, says Mike Tonkovich, the Wildlife Division’s deer management administrator.

As for how much time it will take to fulfill the check-in process that will combine the “old system” and the “new system,” Tonkovich says the entire process will require about 10 minutes of a hunter’s time.

A series of nine questions will be asked along with the conducting of other details. All of will aid the Wildlife Division in ferreting out the new system’s bugs, said Tonkovich.

“The idea is to identify problems with the system and then make adjustments accordingly,” Tonkovich said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ohio's young deer hunters bring home less bacon for their own two-day hunt

Even with pleasant weather this past weekend, Ohio’s young guns failed to top the harvest seen during last year’s youth-only firearms deer-hunting season.

For the two-day hunt conducted Saturday and Sunday - Nov. 20 and 21 - properly licensed hunters aged 17 and under shot a preliminary 9,024 deer. During the 2009 youth-only gun hunt the kids killed 9,331 deer.

This decline somewhat mirrored the drop in the kill for first six weeks of Ohio’s archery deer-hunting season.

However, the youth-only gun season kill was up in Northeast Ohio, with the exception of Lake County. Here, the preliminary harvest figures were identical: 14 deer killed last youth-only gun season and 14 deer taken during this year’s youth-only gun season.

Geauga County saw a kill of 40 deer this youth-only season, a preliminary gain of just two animals taken there during the 2009 youth-only season.

Cuyahoga County saw an increase as well; from the 6 deer shot there during the 2009 hunt and up this season to a preliminary 11 animals.

The local heavyweight - Ashtabula County - likewise experienced a gain. This year’s youth-only season saw a preliminary 149 deer killed and compared to the 117 deer taken there during the 2009 youth-only two-day season.

Trumbull County’s youth-only kill was up by only one animal. This year’s preliminary youth-only deer kill was 97 animals; last year it was 96 deer.

Lorain County saw a modest increase. Here, young hunters shot a preliminary 84 deer and compared to the 61 animals shot there during the 2009 season. Huron County experienced gained ground by an even less modest amount: Up 108 deer this season from the 105 deer killed there during last year's youth-only season.

Medina County noted a pretty big drop, though. This year the young hunters there killed a preliminary 49 deer, down from the 72 deer shot there in 2009.

Knox County was one of the counties that scored a huge gain: From 265 deer shot there during the 2009 youth-only season to 416 deer during this year’s youth-only season.

Many of the other traditional high deer-kill counties in southeast Ohio saw slight to modest declines. Among them were Guernsey County (265 deer this season compared to 276 animals last youth-only season), Muskingum County (179 deer this youth-only season compared to 198 deer last youth-only season), and Harrison County (265 deer killed this youth-only season compared to the 351 animals shot there last youth-only season).

Of course, the unsuccessful youth hunters can join their elders for Ohio’s general firearms deer-hunting season. This season will run Nov. 29 through Dec. 5 with a “bonus” two-day gun season set for Dec. 18 and 19.

Ohio has an estimated 450,000 to 500,000 deer hunters. The Ohio Division of Wildlife estimates that between 125,000 and possibly as high as 130,000 deer will be shot during the up-coming firearms deer-hunting season.

The all-seasons' deer kill could reach 250,000 or more animals out of a population estimated at around 750,000.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Saying good-by to waterfowl season hard as winter closes in

And just like that, it’s over.

Probably, or mostly, anyway. Which is a real shame since I’ve enjoyed watching the sun rise above the far tree line and then sprinkle the pond’s water with flecks of morning light.

Today was more threatening in its appearance, though. While the actual timing of the sun rising was on cue its glory was being over-shadowed by a heavy cloak of darkened clouds. The sky was a shade of sinful black and later threatened with loud claps of thunder and bursts of lightening.

A nasty bit of southwest wind was cutting deep furrows in the water, too, adding liveliness to the two remaining goose decoys and the like number of standard-size mallard duck decoys.

From a branch just out of arm’s reach of the goose-hunting blind hung a cheap hardware store thermometer I had attached to a piece of brush. The tool’s face was recording a temperature of 56 degrees, way too warm for this time of year.

And in another week the nearby landscape will be blotched with stains of hunter orange, the color of the season for firearms deer-hunting participants. While I could legally continue to hunt ducks and geese then I won’t. That’s because the landowner and his son are planning to cast a shooting net on what they hope will be a large buck.

To go banging away at waterfowl while they’re in the adjacent woodlot trying to kill a deer would anger the most temperate of landowners.

So I hope against hope that once the firearms deer-hunting season concludes I’ll get another crack at shooting a Canada goose. It’s just a thought and one likely not to bear fruit.

More times than I like to remember Ohio’s firearms deer-hunting season is plagued by snowy and cold weather of the kind that takes a choke hold on the pond’s open water. Either the pond is entirely encapsulated in ice or so nearly as such that I would not - will not - risk sending Blackberry, my black Labrador retriever, out to fetch a downed goose or duck.

Which explains why I need to get my licks in now, before the forecast of arctic cold zips shut the pond.

For that reason alone I was in the makeshift goose-hunting blind, looking out over the sacrificial decoys that I could spare if they become ice-bound statues.

Gone back to his Florida home was my father-in-law. He joined me on the general waterfowl season opener where he shot his first-ever Canada goose. Gone too was Steve Myers, busy with his new janitorial duties at Eageville Bible Church along with planning an expedition for the gun deer season.

Terry, my oldest brother, wasn’t around either. His Labrador retriever, Ben, just had major surgery to fix some serious (and seriously expensive) damage to a torn ligament. Ben will be out for the rest of the hunting year and that’s a powerful drag on Terry’s bird-hunting enthusiasm.

Even Beverly, my wife, is probably finished for the remainder of the waterfowl hunting season; or what will probably occur as a result of the all-but-guaranteed freeze-up of the pond.

Besides, Bev's busy trying to kill a deer with archery tackle. She has circled Friday and Saturday on the calendar, reserving the two dates for all-day archery hunting if that becomes necessary. I understand and heartily endorse her plans.

“Looks like just you me, Berry,” I said as I looked over the blind at the dog.

Berry was steadfast, determined to keep to her post. Her butt was anchored to a spit of muddy earth that stood between the blind and the pond’s edge.

This is how the two of us had started our waterfowling during September’s early Canada goose-only hunting season. And this, no doubt, is how our goose-hunting season will draw tightly in on itself.

I don’t mind. Really I don’t. I cut my hunting eyeteeth on hunting ducks and graduated to geese beginning in 1976. That’s when Tom Daly and I each bagged a goose on the second day that the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge ever conducted a controlled goose hunt.

I wonder whatever happened to Tom? I’d like to hunt geese with him one more time.

Yet while I enjoy companionship when waterfowling, it isn’t always mandatory. That is, so long as I have a Labrador retriever to debate life's critical issues and a long row of tethered goose calls to work in an effort to communicate with a flock of the real deal.

Of course I still have the waterfowling itch. Thus, I expect to visit the goose-hunting blind a couple of more times this week; Thanksgiving for sure and probably Saturday as well.

And after that? Well, let’s take it one step at a time. Maybe I’ll luck out and early December will see unseasonably warm temperatures and an open farm pond.

But if good weather migrates south and the pond closes its doors for the rest of the goose-hunting season, then so be it. What I do know is that it’s been a good ride all things being considered.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, November 19, 2010

UPDATED Five felony-indicted Wildlife Division officials back on job today

Out-going Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Shawn Logan today reinstated to their positions the five felony-indicted Ohio Division of Wildlife officials.

These officials are the agency’s chief, David Graham; assistant chief, Randy Miller; law enforcement administrator, James Lehman; Todd Haines, director of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District 5 (southwest Ohio) office; and Michelle Ward-Tackett, the agency’s human resources manager.

The five have been on paid administrative since April 8. The department has paid out more than $250,000 in salaries to these five officials during this administrative leave period. These officials have a combined total service of more than 138 years.

For the full story see today's (Friday, Nov. 19) The News-Herald's web site at

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

On board with gun deer-hunt primer and well-deserved boating honors

Ohio’s annual sportsmen love affair with all things white-tailed deer blazes across the hunting zenith November 29.

That is when the state’s seven-day firearms deer hunting season begins. This season is said to attract more than 400,000 participants. They may shoot more than 130,000 deer, too, representing a good chunk of the annual white-tailed kill.

Leading up to this point are the preliminaries: One of the nation’s longest archery deer-hunting seasons and a special muzzle-loading deer-hunting season on three designated areas.

Add to these hunts is this weekend’s youth-only firearms deer-hunting season. And this season may provide some clues as to how the “adult” hunt will go 10 days from now.

As a reminder to anyone interested in archery hunting Saturday and Sunday, be mindful of a wrinkle the law requires during these two days. All hunters except waterfowlers - and that includes all archery hunters - must visibly wear “a vest, coat, jacket, or coveralls that are either solid hunter orange or camouflage hunter orange” from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset," reads the Ohio Division of Wildlife-supplied hunting and trapping regulations digest.

However, archery deer hunters can stay afield until one-half hour after sunset, also as noted in the state's hunting law digest.

Accompanying the up-coming season is one of the busiest times for sporting goods stores, especially those that are particularly flavored with the selling of hunting gear. Not to mention the sale of hunting licenses and deer tags.

This is the period in which more of these documents are sold than at any other time of the year. And all driven by a multi-million dollar bang for the buck to Ohio’s economy.

The Wildlife Division is at full battle alert, too. The agency is cranking out more than a few press releases on the subject. While these statements may give a glossy view of the firearms deer-hunting season they certainly include valuable pieces of information.

Among them is one that suggests people looking for information about the upcoming youth gun and white-tailed deer hunting seasons, or to report violations of state wildlife laws, can take advantage of extended call center hours from Nov. 20 to Dec. 5.

The 1-800-WILDLIFE (800-945-3543) general hunting information hot-line will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday in order to accommodate those hunters with questions about the youth-only season.

Staff also will be available prior to and during the regular firearms deer-hunting season. These special call center hours are:

n 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Nov. 26.
n 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Nov. 27 and 28.
n 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Nov. 29 through Dec. 3.
n 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Dec. 4 and 5.
n However, the hot-line will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.

In other outdoors-related news, two area and one former area resident have received high recognition from the nation’s recreational boating industry.

Among those receiving praise from the Marine Retailers Association of America is retiring Sen. George V. Voinich. who received the group’s Legislative Award.

This honor is given to a lawmaker who has worked in some way to advance the recreational boating industry. Voinovich has been a strong supporter of the industry and the Great Lakes as mayor of Cleveland, governor of Ohio and later as a senator,” the group said.

Along with the one presented to Voinicich another honor was awarded to John Sima, owner and president of Sima Marine, a family-owned dealership and marina in Eastlake.

Sima’s parents started Sima Marine in 1952, and his father, Jim, also once served as chairman of the MRAA.

Sima said he was shocked to receive the honor, adding, “this business is our life.”

The organization’s Jerry Marine Journalism Award was presented to former Mentor resident Norm Schultz, who writes Soundings Trade Only’s semiweekly “Dealer Outlook” blog.

Schultz retired to the Tampa, Fla. area a few years ago.

“Receiving the Jerry Martin Journalism Award has very special meaning for me because Jerry and I both came out of Johnson Outboards, and his contributions to MRAA and the industry were truly remarkable,” Schultz said. “He was a generous counselor and a friend to me.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ohio's pilot hunt/fish license system a really slow boat to China

Even though it was early afternoon with little shopping foot traffic, a line of customers was beginning to form behind me at the check-out counter of Gander Mountain’s Mentor store.

Trying to do my best to avoid the gaze from the anxiously awaiting customers, I focused instead on what the sales clerk was doing for me. That being, issuing an antlerless-only deer-hunting permit.

No biggie there, but for one thing. The issuance was electronically motivated, data entered and the document spat out. Eventually, anyway. Maybe even before the start of the firearms deer-hunting season.

It was all a brand-spanking new way for the state to provide me with the proper documentation. If only it wasn’t slower than poured molasses on a cold January morning.

Gander Mountain’s Mentor store ranks sixth in the number of hunting/fishing licenses sold in Ohio. As such, the store was selected as one of about 75 or so other issuing agents to be lab rats for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s $16 million Wild Ohio Customer Relationship Management System. It will replace the agency’s existing point-of-sales issuing system, effective March 1, 2011.

The rub comes from the deathly unhurried way the “new-and-improved” $16 million system was gorging itself on the supplied data and then being so kind as to type up the actual paper permit.

Have I said yet that the system is going to eat up $16 million of the state’s hunters’ and anglers’ dollars?

Slow is not the word with even the sales clerk noting through a forced smile that no permit issued by the store has seen the light of day in anything resembling an acceptable period of waiting time.

So what is the solution being offered by officials with the Wildlife Division to counter the tardy way the new $16 million system issues documents?

“Buy licenses and permits early to avoid lines.”

That’s it? Really? Seriously? The Wildlife Division's best answer is to head to the nearest license sales outlet before anyone else in order to beat the crowds?

That’s sort of like sleeping on an outlet mall’s sidewalk so you can take advantage of Black Friday pre-holiday sales.

Fact is, the Wildlife Division has collected onto itself a new $16 million system that produces an inferior-delivered product.

To make matters worse I literally had to look over the sales attendant’s shoulder as the person set about entering my personal information. There was no alternative for requiring this hawk-eye view, either.

Otherwise the record would have shown that my name wasn’t the same that I had inherited at birth and my Social Security number didn’t match the one issued to me by the federal government a long time ago. Had to keep an eye out for those misspellings and typos, you know.

Consequently, I quiver to think what’s going to happen toward the end of next week when a large volume of general hunting licenses and deer permits are sold. Imagine a long line of toe-tapping, less-than-enthralled holiday shoppers standing behind an equally anxious hunter; all held hostage by a slower-than-a-tortoise license-issuing system.

One that will cost Ohio's hunters and anglers $16 million, too.

And I shudder when I ponder the implications when the new $16 million system takes a full-nelson hold March 1 on not only the selling of required licenses and permits but also on the way Ohio deer and turkey hunters check in their respective kills.

Maybe the bugs can be worked out on the new $16 million license-issuing system. And maybe the firm that designed the system’s software and such can learn from what the 75 pilot agents are discovering.

But to turn a quote regularly given by a famous American politician: This is not a change that I can believe in.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ohio Farm Bureau backs state Ag Dept nominee; says too early to say impact on outdoors issues

Praising governor-elect John Kasich’s pick of state Rep. James Zehringer, R-77, as the newest director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture is the Ohio Farm Bureau.

Zenringer will replace out-going Ashtabula County resident, Robert Boggs, an appointee of Gov. Ted Strickland who lost Nov. 2 to Kasich.

“We see this is being very positive for agriculture in the state," said Joe Cornely, spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau. "Rep. Zehringer has experience as a farmer, as a businessman, and also in state government. So when you put that background together it will serve the citizens of Ohio very well.”

The Ohio Farm Bureau has about 215,000 members of which around 60,000 are farmers, both full-time and part-time.

Cornely said also he wouldn’t be surprised to see an extensive look taken at state government revamping in order to see how it can better deliver its products.

“There’s been a lot of discussion for years that we have more government then we can afford,” Cornely said. “When you look at the current budget direction with a possible $8 billion deficit something is going to have to change.

How that change will come about, however, is the unanswered question.

Even so, it is way too premature to discuss how any restructuring of state government - a key Kasich campaign talking point - will impact Ohio’s natural resources issues in general and fish and game policies in particular, Cornely says as well.

Rumblings that Kasich and the state legislature will create a super Agriculture Department that will control elements impacting hunters, anglers, naturalists and the like have picked up steam.

“That’s a micro-policy issue; it’s just too much of a stretch,” Cornely said. “Certainly there are areas where both farmers and sportsmen need to come together and come to terms with each other.”

For now, Cornely says, it is the role of the Ohio Farm Bureau to represent its members’ interest, “making our case for what we believe state government can do for Ohio.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ohio's deer tag sales shrink with reduced first six-week archery deer kill

A drop of eight percent in the first six-week Ohio archery deer-hunting season harvest has spilled over to a near-corresponding fall in sales of either-sex deer tags.

Approximate real-time sales of Ohio’s so-called “special deer permits” - which allow the taking of any deer and of either sex - stands at 152,074 documents. For the same period of Feb. 15, 2009 to Oct. 31, 2009 the Ohio Division of Wildlife sold 161,879 special deer permits. That is a drop of just over 6 percent.

This special deer permit sales decline has resulted in a revenue loss for the Wildlife Division of $235,320.

However, the decline in sales of antlerless-only deer permits was not nearly so steep. For the period Feb. 15, 2010 through Oct. 31, 2010, the Wildlife Division sold 87,304 antlerless-only deer permits. For the same period in 2009 the Wildlife Division sold 87,799 antlerless-only deer tags, or a drop of less than 1 percent.

Annual resident general hunting license sales have taken something of a hit, too.
For the period between Feb. 15, 2010 and Oct. 31, 2010, the Wildlife Division sold 189,199 resident general hunting licenses.

Last year for the same time segment the Wildlife Division sold 200,767 resident general hunting licenses. The revenue slope translates into a departure of $219,792 for the Wildlife Division, or a net loss of 5.76 percent.

Also off were sales of youth-only deer permits - a drop of 3.43 percent.

Gains, however, we seen in reduced-cost senior citizen deer tags - up 7.6 percent; reduced-cost senior citizen antlerless-only deer tags - up 9.8 percent, as well as reduced-cost senior citizen general hunting licences - up 9.63 percent.

But in each of these three cases the actual numbers of licenses sold was small, meaning only a marginal gain for the Wildlife Division’s bank account.

Down even more than the various resident general hunting licenses and individual deer tags are sales of the permits required to hunt fall wild turkey and waterfowl.

Sales of fall wild turkey hunting permits declined 11.55 percent: 5,700 such permits sold between Feb. 15, 2010 to Oct. 31, 2010, and compared to the 6,444 permits sold for the same period in 2009.

Off, too, are sales of the state’s waterfowl (duck) stamp. Here, the drop went from the 20,465 such state duck stamps sold from Feb. 15, 2009 to Oct. 31, 2009 to the 18,410 state duck stamps sold between Feb. 15, 2010 and Oct. 31, 2010.

Thus, overall, the Wildlife Division’s income has shrunk 2.47 percent, or a loss of $347,930.

In total dollar terms this means that the Wildlife Division’s revenue for the period between Feb. 15, 2010 and Oct. 31, 2010 was $13,714,955. For the same period in 2009 the agency’s revenue was $14,062,885.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rumors dog Brown County Five case; one official sets out to retire

Speculation and rumors that the Brown County Five felony-indicted state wildlife officials will cop to a reduced misdemeanor charge in exchange for retirement are just that - rumors.

And bad ones to boot.

Yet at least one item is true; that being, the filing of retirement paperwork by one of the indicted Ohio Division of Wildlife officials.

At issue is the on-going legal matter involving five top Wildlife Division officials: the agency’s chief, David Graham; one of its assistant chiefs, Randy Miller; it law enforcement administrator, James Lehman; Wildlife District Five (southwest Ohio) director, Todd Haines; and the Wildlife Division’s human resources manager, Michelle Ward-Tackett.

Miller - who has 31 years with the Wildlife Division - filed retirement paperwork on Nov. 1, with an effective date of Nov. 30, says Mike Shelton, the Natural Resources Department’s chief of legislative services/media relations.

Each of the indicted Wildlife Division officials has been charged in Brown County Court with two fifth-degree felony counts. Those are one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstructing justice. Each count can result in up to 12 months in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.

All five officials were placed on paid administrative leave in April. The to-date paid administrative leave cost for the parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources is $239,000.

The court matter stems from an investigation conducted by the Ohio Inspector General’s office. It is alleged that the five officials should have handled differently a disciplinary matter involving the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County; doing so as a criminal matter and not as an administrative issue.

It was alleged that Brown County wildlife officer Alan Wright allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his Ohio address in obtaining an Ohio resident hunting license in 2006.

Felony charges against Wright were later dropped, however, requested by a special prosecutor assigned to the case who said also that he would conduct his own independent investigation. Nothing further has been heard regarding this matter, though.

Subsequently, legal wrangling involving the other Wildlife Division employees led Brown County Common Please Court Judge Scott T. Gusweiler to issue a decree that at least some of the evidence collected by the Ohio Inspector General be suppressed on a legal point known as the “Garrity Rule.”

This legal shield protects civil servants from making potentially self-incriminating statements to an investigating agency such as the Ohio Inspector General.

On the flip side, Brown County prosecutor Jessica A. Little has begun the process to reverse Gusweiler’s action. She is taking the steps required to appeal the decision before the state’s 12th District Court of Appeals. No further lower court action can take place until Little’s request is acted upon by the appellate court.

All of this was outlined in an Oct. 28 e-mail memo sent to Natural Resources Department employees by that agency’s deputy director, Tony Celebrezze.

As for the rumors that the indicted officials will seek a reduction in their charges in exchange for retiring from the Wildlife Division, it’s all news to Little.

And to Shelton, too.

“Their attorneys have not expressed that to me,” Little said.

Still, plea bargaining is always one of the cards available on the table, Little says.

“We always look for settlement in every case if something can be worked out, and this case would be no different,” she said.

And Shelton says also that such a deal lacks legs.

“That doesn’t make sense since all five can retire right now. I don’t see that happening,” Shelton said.

For now the entire episode remains within the purview of the courts, a situation that could take months to resolve.

A telephone request for a response to this matter was made to one of the defendants' attorneys but it was not returned.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Lake County's state wildlife officer takes new post

Moving up in the world of wildlife law enforcement in Ohio is Tom Rowan of Concord Township.

Rowan is becoming the new law enforcement supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron. He will assume that role immediately after Ohio’s firearm’s deer-hunting season which runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 5.

A 15-year veteran of the Wildlife Division, Rowan also was a Chardon police officer.
During his Wildlife Division tenure, Rowan started out in 1996 as the state wildlife officer assigned to Lake County before moving on to take the same position in Ashtabula County.

From there Rowan took a posting in Columbus as the agency’s training officer for prospective wildlife officers. He then returned to Lake County in 2005 as its assigned wildlife officer.

“I don’t like to stay in one place to long,” Rowan said with a chuckle.

As the district’s law enforcement supervisor Rowan will take up responsibilities that focus on coordinating the law enforcement duties in the District's 19 counties.

“I’ll have four investigators working directly under me as well as working with the various county wildlife officers, but in a law enforcement capacity only,” Rowan said.

A native of Fairport Harbor Village, Rowan now considers Concord Township his home. His wife, Sabrina, is a teacher with the Fairport Harbor Exempted Village School District. They have one daughter, 13-year-old Macey, who accompanied her father on a successful Wyoming pronghorn antelope hunt earlier this fall.

“I think I might have had it a little easier than most other officers who come to Lake County because this is where I’m from,” Rowan also said.

A replacement for Rowan may be named within the next few weeks but likely won't come aboard until late December or early January, said Doug Miller, the District's manager.

It is Miller's old job that Rowan is taking.

"Tom's a great asset with more than 20 years of law enforcement experience and has lived his entire life in District Three," Miller said. "He's certainly been one of our best officer trainers and is a true professional."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ohio's initial six week archery deer kill misses 2009's bull's-eye

With the woods of Ohio full of fat-rich white oak acorns, the state's deer herd has been making itself scarce for archery hunters.

Animals are bunched up in oak stands that are dropping their acorns. Consequently, the state's deer - said to number around 750,000 animals before the start of the hunting season - are not moving much. Which means archery hunters are seeing fewer animals to shoot at, Ohio Division of Wildlife officials are saying.

Not surprisingly then, Ohio's first six-week preliminary archery season deer kill is off 8 percent; 49,384 animals for the archery season's early portion and compared to the 53,959 animals killed during the same period in 2009.

Off specifically is the archery deer harvest in Northeast Ohio. However, even though the early portion deer kill in Ashtabula County fell the numbers were still strong enough that the county is ranked 6th in the state.

The first six-week kill for Ashtabula County was 1,247 animals. This compares to the 1,348 deer shot there during 2009's first six weeks of the archery hunting season.

Down proportionately even more was Lake County. Here, 390 deer were killed during the first six weeks. Last year for the same time frame the harvest was 504 deer.

Not impacted as much was Geauga County. The first six-week deer kill for Geauga County stands at 727 deer; off only 40 animals from the same season segment in 2009.

Trumbull County's deer kill was down also: 1,074 deer checked in for this season's first six weeks and compared to the 1,251 deer killed during the same six week unit in 2009. Still, Trumbull County is ranked 8th in 2010's first six-week deer kill.

Cuyahoga County was one of the lone exceptions, seeing its archery harvest increase instead of decrease. In Cuyahoga County for the first six weeks, archery hunters shot 417 deer, up from the 362 animals reported in 2009.

Lorain County saw a nearly identical first six-week deer kill this year when compared to last year. For the first six weeks of the 2010 archery deer hunting season, Lorain County bowmen shot 763 deer, a very small drop from the 774 deer shot there in 2009.

Other northern Ohio counties were (with their 2009 first six week deer kill in parenthesis): Medina - 519 (666); Erie - 243 (359); Huron - 529 (598); Ashland - 962 (1,139); Sandusky - 165 (216).

Other notable Ohio counties were: Tuscarawas - 1,897 (1,770) and ranked 1st.; Coshocton - 1,352 (1,451) and ranked 4th.; Guernsey - 1,029 (1,134) and ranked 9th.; Holmes - 1,537 (1,969) and ranked 3rd.; Licking - 1,779 (2,334) and ranked 2nd.; Harrison - 1,274 (1,278) and ranked 5th.

Ohio's archery deer hunting season runs through Feb. 6. Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, excluding the general firearms season and the statewide muzzle-loading season.

Last year the state's estimated 345,000 archery hunters killed 91,546 deer.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

All figures are preliminary. They are based on where the deer were checked in and not necessarily were actually killed. However, the figures do help illustrate year-to-year harvest trends.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lead fishing tackle ban nixed by federal government

Lake Erie yellow perch anglers won't have to sneak attaching an half-ounce lead bell sinker to their fishing rig.

For that matter, neither will walleye anglers have to give up their lead-head jigs or bass anglers be forced to switch to lead alternatives for their drop-shot rigs.

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected a petition that called for the agency to do just that. This effort is being spearheaded by a group largely consisting of environmental organizations who believe that lead-based fishing weights, lures and other tackle are killing wildlife, mostly birds, that accidentally ingest the metal.

Earlier this year the U.S. EPA also rejected the same environmentalists' claims regarding hunters' use of lead-based ammunition.

In rendering its decision, the U.S. EPA noted that the ".. petitioners have not demonstrated that the requested rule is necessary to protect against an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment..."

America's sport fishing industry is praising the government's rationale.

"It represents a solid review of the biological facts, as well as the economic and social impacts that would have resulted from such a sweeping federal action. It is a common sense decision," said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.

Quick to respond, the environmental petitioners say that the U.S. EPA's decision is wrong in every way. It is these group's contention that upwards of 20 million animals - chiefly birds - die annually from lead poisoning.

“The EPA’s failure to act is inexcusable, given what we know about how toxic lead is to wildlife and the extensive science linking lead poisoning in wildlife to ammunition and fishing weights,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.

“There are plenty of safe and available alternatives to lead products for these outdoor sports, so there’s no good reason for this poisoning to continue.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

UPDATED The new political landscape for Ohio gun owners and sportsmen

With the 2010 general election receding in the political rearview mirror, the nation’s gun owners and sportsmen can take stock on what the heck actually happened Nov. 2.

Much of it is good news, some of it not so good news. A mixed bag then, but with more delectable goodies than lumps of coal.

Certainly at the very top of the barrel is the cream that rose when current (and soon to be former) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was handed a drubbing of political biblical proportions.

Few other political leaders have experienced such frustrated, angry opposition as had Pelosi, a West Coast liberal of the first stripe that had little regard for Second Amendment rights believers and they the same for her.

She is now a note in the history books, replaced by Ohio U.S. Rep. John Boehner who clearly enjoys a much more cordial relationship with the National Rifle Association.

Likely, too, the Republican tilt in the House will mean new committee chairs, very possibly filled by officials who are viewed more favorably by gun owners and vice-versa.

And add U.S. Senator-elect Rob Portman to the plus side of the pro-hunting, pro-gun, pro-sportsmen ledger. He will replace retiring U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich, who never did garner much enthusiasm from gun owners or their Washington-based lobbying wingmen.

Still, Portman has a long reach ahead of him if he’s ever to match Voinovich’s determined drive to protect the Great Lakes in general and Lake Erie in particular.

Across the country gun- and sportsmen-related ballot issues also proved the yin and yang of fickle voters.

In North Dakota, voters rejected by a large margin an attempt to ban high-fence big-game hunting operations. And pro-hunting proposals were passed in places as diverse as Tennessee, South Carolina and Arkansas while one Kansas ballot issue ensuring the right to own firearms passed.

However, a referendum that would protect Arizona wildlife management from the meddling of anti-hunters through the initiative petition route was defeated.

On the home front here in Ohio, the snapshot is not so clear.

Even with the backing of both the National Rifle Association and the Buckeye Firearms Association, neither incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland nor incumbent Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray could overcome the Republican fire storm. Each of these devoted pro-Second Amendment officials crashed and burned Tuesday, set afire by angry voters holding their lit torches as they stormed the polls on Tuesday.

Rising from the ashes is the new Republican phoenix of John Kasich as governor-elect and Mike DeWine as Ohio Attorney General-elect. While neither of these two now successful candidates had the same level of sportsmen support as did Strickland and Cordray (or Portman, for that matter), at least one former Ohio Division of Wildlife official says Ohio sportsmen should cut the two men some slack.

Mike Budzik was chief under then-governor Bob Taft and is himself a dyed-in-the-wool Republican of the first order.

Budzik swears on a stack of hunting law digests that both Kasich and DeWine have been doing their homework and legwork in an attempt to create detente with Ohio’s gun owners and sportsmen.

“DeWine even took a concealed carry class and got his permit and he’s been to the state’s trappers annual meeting,” Budzik said in a Wednesday aftermath election telephone interview.

What Ohio’s hunters and anglers can expect when Kasich takes over in January is more than just a shuffling of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ deck chairs.

Anticipate sweeping reform, perhaps in the guise of an extensive make-over that very well could include a blessing from the new-GOP-controlled Ohio House and existing GOP-controlled Ohio Senate.

Perhaps as well, Budzik says, the Wildlife Division will be granted a divorce from the Natural Resources Department and be wedded into a more independent fish and game commission instead.

Along with that will almost certainly materialize a fusion of various state agencies with perhaps the Natural Resources Department merging with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Some state representatives have long salivated over just such a prospect, their fingers crossed that they’d have the opportunity to make their political dreams come true.

Of course, for some, the new political climate has thoroughly chilled; maybe even to the point of an Ice-Age epoch. Rest assured, however, that what freezes also thaws, and two years from now what looked new and shiny in 2010 may very well have lost its luster.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn