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

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