Friday, January 28, 2011

Will any potential Y2K-type glitches strike Ohio's new license issuing system?

With Ohio on the threshold of employing a new way of issuing fishing and hunting licenses as well as checking in such game as deer and wild turkeys, a Y2K-type question remains.

That being, will we all survive the switch starting February 15 or will we experience an electronic crash?

No one knows for certain, though the Ohio Division of Wildlife is frantically applying the finishing touches to its new Internet-based license issuing and check-in system.

A system that for sportsmen like my two older brothers - Terry and Rich - is no less alien than seeing a moose in Ashtabula County or catching a sailfish from Lake Erie. Each brother proudly shun all things computers.

Making matters more challenging is that presently fewer than 150 of the 900 or so signed-on license-issuing agents have received the necessary training in order to understand the system’s electronic nuts and bolts.

“The system goes online February 15,” said Korey Brown, the Wildlife Division administrator in charge of the new system. “We’re still in the process of training agents and we’ve trained about 140 of them and should have about 350 of them trained when the system goes up.”

Annually the state issues 2.2 million documents; everything from deer permits to fishing licenses to free senior citizen tags. Sales of these documents generate around $40 million for the Wildlife Division with all monies being dedicated funds that cannot by law go into the state’s General Fund.

In all, about 1.2 million Ohioans buy a hunting/fishing license of one kind or another.

Fortunately for the Wildlife Division, Brown says, only about 20,000 licenses are sold between Feb. 15 and 28.

“I’m trying to get the agents around northwest Ohio up and running first because that is where the annual run of walleyes are as well as the reef walleye fisheries,” Brown said.

The real test will come during the first general warm period in March.

“That’s when we’ll see tens of thousands of licenses sold; you almost always see a spike following a good weather report,” Brown said.

For those sportsmen who do plan to buy their licenses early they are being urged by the Wildlife Division to track down an agent that has received the training.

Regardless, says Brown, everyone from Wildlife Division personnel to issuing agents to hunters and anglers will need to understand that a learning curve is assuredly a part of the process.

“People need to expect this at the beginning, but it will become faster as time goes by,” Brown said.

The reason, says Brown, is because the agency went through such birthing pangs in 1999. That was the year the Wildlife Division unveiled the system now accepted by the buying public.

“Our current issuing system lasted a lot longer than we ever expected. We drew every drop of blood out of it but the way of the world is the Internet,” Brown said.

Thus, the licence-buying part is actually encouraging because of the agency’s 13-year use of the present system, Brown said.

What is less well understood is how the whole Internet affair will shake out during the seasons when successful hunters must register their deer or turkey. And that, says Brown, will represent “a drastic change,” requiring a longer transition period for sportsmen.

“That’s been seen in the 20 or so other states that have done it,” he said.

Another early on concern is the requirement that people must provide their Social Security number. This stipulation is necessary because it is demanded by both state and federal law in an effort to crack down on child support cheaters.

“My worry is that it puts the issuing agent in a tight corner. It’s not their decision or even our decision; its the law and something that we must do,” Brown said.

Also, understanding that some members of the Amish community may not have a Social Security number, a process is available for avoiding giving out this information for religious reasons. A form for exclusion is even available on-line. Which could be something of an oxymoron since people of such religious convictions likely don’t have a computer to begin with.

That point is being taken into account, too, says Brown.

“Our officers have been hand-delivering these forms to folks they believe will need them,” Brown said. “But it’s a system based on providing options to the buyers, and in the long run we believe it is best for both the consumer as well as our agency; no doubt, certainly.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, January 24, 2011

Decision day for Lake Erie walleye and perch

Circle March 24 and 25 on the calendar as important dates to remember for Lake Erie angling.

Those are the two dates that the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission has set aside for reports from its Lake Erie Committee. It is this committee that will review and make recommendations as to the daily bag limits for both walleye and yellow perch, allocated on a quota basis for each respective state and the province of Ontario.

Most anglers are expecting a drop in the bag of walleye from the current summer-time daily limit of 6 fish to either 5 or even possibly 4 walleye. The Ohio Division of Wildlife has done little to nothing to discourage such speculation, either.

Given the anticipated huge rise in fuel costs a drop to 4 fish in the lake's walleye limit will almost certainly see a tremendous drop in both angling pressure as well as catch rates.

The GLFC will be making its decisions March 21 through 25 at the Marriott Eagle Crest Hotel in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

For more information about the annual conference, contact the commission at 734-662-3209, ext. 28 or e-mail at

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, January 16, 2011

No easy weekend watch as dog grows more ill

Winter's winds blow cold and unforgiving.

They have no charitable feelings nor remorse. Always taking and never giving, these pangs do their best to rob us of our most prized possession; our best and most cherished memories. On that score, at least and fortunately, the cold winds of winter fail. And do so miserably.

Even so, the memories come at a price and for many people the cost is too high. I can understand that thought process just as I have chosen to steel my mind from it as best as possible.

As I sit here in my recliner I am watching my very aged, very much ill Jenny Lynn struggle with her own worst winter winds. I knew she has been growing more feeble and dying.

Almost certainly Jenny Lynn probably would not last until late spring when the grass is warms her sun-soaked coat and the birds return for her to watch.
But I have delayed as long as possible the inevitable, though I have long since vowed I would not be selfish and put my interests above her pain level.

A glimmer of hope came Saturday when I asked a favor of Jenny Lynn's veterinarian, Debbie Ting of Lakeshore Animal Hospital, located just around the corner from our home in Mentor-on-the-Lake.

I had left a message for Debbie and she responded by saying she would meet me, my wife Bev and Jenny Lynn.

"I'll see you in 10 minutes," she said.

We were there in five. Bev and I were prepared to have Debbie give Jenny Lynn the lasting peace from the grim pain of her own winter winds.
Ting inspected Jenn Lynn and said the 12-year-old Labrador had suffered what veterinarians call a "stroke," saying that the word is the best analogy in layman's terms they can give to a pet owner.

Then something unexpected happened. Debbie said a dog may actually recover on its own from such a physical storm though likely with slight limitations.

Asked what were the odds of such a recovery, Debbie said "About 80 percent."

When questioned about the pain level and fearful that Jenny Lynn would be tormented by it, Debbie reassured Bev and me that no veterinarian would allow a pet to suffer.

However, we needed to work with Jenny Lynn during this time. We'd have to put up with possible indoor urination or defecation until the healing is done. And we'd need to hand feed her and place a bowl of water on her head's still-strong side.

Then too, to take her outdoors or to get her to remain upright without falling we'd need to place a blanket, robe or similar piece of cloth under her as a sling.

On all these matter Bev and I were - ARE - willing to accept.

The critical period, Debbie also said, was the first 24 to 48 hours, though more full recovery may very will take days or possibly a few weeks.

It is a race against the clock, as all life is when you stop and consider the road ahead in any living thing's existence.

As I write this Jenny Lynn is resting comfortably, curled up in her favorite bed designed especially for older dogs with joint problems.

Yet I remain concerned enough to experience the arrival of stress-induced muscle pains and a headache that claims the high ground.

Sleep's been difficult, as well. Both Bev and I "rested" during the night, reposing in our respective recliners that oversee Jenny and her bed. We demanded of ourselves to be on watch.

I do not know at this point how the matter will resolve itself, though I am concerned. A short but required business trip will demand its coinage tomorrow.

No doubt I feel a great deal of guilt and anger with myself if I am not the one to see this thing through to its ultimate trail head.

Life, of course, is not always fair and seldom accommodates our most treasured desires.

Still, the winds of winter cannot rip away the fondest of my memories; thoughts of training Jenny Lynn, the sight of her finishing a puppy hunters' trial and the reward aluminum band that I still carry on the dog whistle lanyard, our field trips together that included everything hunting up South Dakota duck and pheasants to Ohio squirrels and fall wild turkeys, the time when as a puppy Jenny Lynn chewed the leg of a wooden rocker hand-built 100 years earlier by a friend's ancestor.

Nor of the way she greeted me each morning, laying on a throw rug in front of the closed bedroom door - just waiting for the reassuring scratch behind her ear and the familiar head-to-head snuggle.

Some day I will miss these things. They will come soon enough, I am afraid. But I hope not today.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, January 14, 2011

Embattled state wildlife officer still doing his job

Any speculative whisperings or murmuring that embattled Ohio Division of Wildlife officer Allan Wright is laying low on his duties must be placed on the scrap heap of myths.

Wright is the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County and remains at the core of a controversy that still swirls around five former and current Wildlife Division top officials.

These officials remain under felony indictments filed by Brown County prosecutor Jessica Little for allegations they should have pursued criminal charges against Wright instead of issuing an administrative reprimand.

Wright allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his home address in order to obtain an Ohio resident hunting license.

The cases against these officials - which include former agency chief David Graham - are now before the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals following the defendants’ successful arguments in the Brown County Court of Common Pleas.

Also, charges against Wright were dropped by a special prosecutor assigned to the case but who has indicated at least twice that he continues to investigate the matter.

However, Wright has returned to duty, a function he still performs and as indicated by official documents obtained by request from the Wildlife Division.

These figures show that during the 2009 statewide general firearms deer-hunting season, Wright made 37 “contacts” and which resulted in 7 arrests. Of the 28 wildlife officers noted in the supplied document, Wright ranked 14th in the number of contacts and was tied for 8th in the number of arrests. Several other officers reported “ties” in either contacts and/or arrests.
hat year the greatest number of contacts was made by wildlife officer Ryan Garrison of Mercer County with 117 contacts with 14 arrests (3rd). Wildlife officer assigned to Adams County Chris Gilkey made the most arrests: 17 with 90 contacts.

Also, based on the 2009 gun season officer activity profile, one official made 14 contacts but no arrests, another made 102 contacts and 3 arrests, another 91 contacts and 1 arrest, another made 67 contacts and also 1 arrest. Two officers made zero contacts and thus zero arrests.

As for the recently concluded 2010 firearms deer-hunting season, the report form lists the names of 24 officers. Among them is Wright with made contact with 54 people (ranking 9th) and made 6 arrests (ranking 7th).

The most contacts made was again performed by Garrison at 97 who ranked 4th in arrests with 13. Gilkey made 80 contacts (ranked 3rd) and made 21 arrests (2nd).

Wildlife officer Brad Turner who is assigned to Preble County had the most arrests recorded: 28, and having made 65 contacts - the same for office Matt Hunt who is assigned to Greene County.

Also, four of the listed officer made contacts but no arrests while one officer recorded no contacts and consequently no arrests.

Likewise, it must be noted that both for the number of contacts and arrests, “ties” were recorded.

Overall then, and based upon the data provided by the Wildlife Division, officer Wright continues to perform his required duties and was near the middle of the pack during both years in each of the “contact” and “arrest” categories.

Updates may follow if they become available and if they are required.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Opps, simple mistake ruins a late season archery hunt

Mistakes can be costly when participating in the late archery deer-hunting season. That was the case Thursday when a simple clip-up cost me the opportunity to launch an arrow at a very fine doe. The animal would have added a lot of venison for my daughter's family freezer. The saga will continue. Here is the video on my "excuse"

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Life just got harder for area gun cranks

Life is getting more complicated for the area's sportsmen, particularly its shooters and hunters.

At conclusion of the statewide seven-day firearms deer-hunting season on Dec. 5, the former Marathon fuel dealership on Rt. 306 in Kirtland switched to become a Speedway dealership. That change of command also included the end to the station's role as one of the state's few 24/7 deer check-in stations.

And after today the Dunham's Discount Sports store in Willoughby will cease to exist. While never offering a giantic selection of fishing and hunting related items, the store did frequently beat the prices of just about every other area outdoors-minded outlet. This means the selection for hunters, anglers and shooters will narrow only further.

That situation is likewise true for those people looking to have their firearms serviced by a competent gunsmith. Like the matter at Dunham's, today marks the end of the direct gunsmithing service provided at Gander Mountain's Mentor store.

While the super-giant outdoors outfitter has broaden its approach to include Internet and catalog sales, it is shrinking its direct relationship with customers looking to have their handguns, shotguns, rifles and muzzle-loaders serviced, cleaned, blued or whatever.

Instead, Gander Mountain says it will still operate gunsmithing services, but only via a regional process with the headquarters being in Twinsburg.

The soon-to-be-former Gander Mountain gunsmight Ron Paul Duning - however - is expected to soon plant his independent flag off Lost Nation Road in north Willoughby. Details will come once plans are finalized.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, January 13, 2011

State's deer hunting muzzle-loaders shoot wide of season harvest estimate

Ho-chee-mamma, Ohio’s muzzle-loading hunters experienced a combined hang-fire during the recently concluded four-day season set aside just for their type of deer-hunting implements.

For the muzzle-loading season that ran Jan. 8 to 11, hunters killed 17,108 deer. In 2010, a preliminary total of 24,078 deer was shot during the same four-day season, says the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

This divide in the deer harvest represents about a 30-percent decline. Prior to the start of the muzzle-loading season, Wildlife Division officials believed that participating hunters may wind up shooting between 25,000 and 27,000 deer - a belief that missed the target by up to 10,000 animals.

In all probability it was the generally poor weather throughout the state that brought about the sharp decline. Abundant snow showers, bitter cold and breezy conditions almost certainly were the factors that dimmed the reflection in this year’s muzzle-loading season deer kill when compared with that of last year, which also saw poor weather. Just not as much and not nearly as bad.

Counties reporting the highest number of deer checked in during the muzzle-loader season included: Tuscarawas - 914, Harrison - 761, Licking -6 71, Guernsey - 665, Washington - 527, Coshocton - 464, Athens - 449, Ross - 438, Meigs - 433 and Belmont - 432.

A total of 227,469 deer have been harvested so far this season when combining the gun seasons, early and statewide muzzle-loading seasons, and the first nine weeks of the archery season. Hunters took a total of 261,314 deer during all of last year’s hunting seasons.

Ohio’s archery deer-hunting season extends until Feb. 6 and represents one of the nations’ longest such hunt. However, the number of deer taken after the conclusion of the muzzle-loading season only amounts to a few thousand animals. Thus, in all liklihood Ohio hunters will kill fewer deer than they did during the 2009-2010 combined seasons.

The following is a list of deer checked and tagged by hunters during the statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season. The number taken during the 2010 muzzle-loading deer-hunting season is in parentheses:

Adams – 245 (326); Allen -44 (83); Ashland - 327 (603); Ashtabula – 283 (293); Athens –449 (816); Auglaize – 26 (31); Belmont – 432 (735); Brown – 137 (232); Butler – 84 (156); Carroll – 227 (300); Champaign – 144 (80); Clark – 73 (117); Clermont – 222 (310); Clinton – 106 (117); Columbiana – 386 (510); Coshocton – 464 (692); Crawford – 119 (135); Cuyahoga – 39 (32); Darke –23 (43); Defiance – 124 (104); Delaware – 85 (127); Erie – 62 (94); Fairfield – 232 (417); Fayette – 15 (11); Franklin – 51 (109); Fulton – 60 (46); Gallia – 247 (312); Geauga – 130 (114); Greene – 35 (72); Guernsey – 665 (1,000); Hamilton – 106 (106); Hancock – 71 (66); Hardin – 72 (100); Harrison – 761 (1,025); Henry – 31 (29); Highland – 286 (367); Hocking – 286 (510); Holmes – 359 (407); Huron – 160 (146); Jackson –312 (583); Jefferson – 357 (616); Knox – 392 (503); Lake – 35 (45); Lawrence – 238 (317); Licking – 671 (679); Logan – 139 (187); Lorain – 161 (209); Lucas – 23 (49); Madison – 42 (53); Mahoning – 157 (208); Marion – 35 (42); Medina – 119 (163); Meigs – 433 (645); Mercer – 9 (35); Miami – 16 (33); Monroe – 385(498); Montgomery – 64 (65); Morgan – 283 (439); Morrow – 106 (162); Muskingum – 381(493); Noble – 304 (539); Ottawa – 8 (22); Paulding – 98 (86); Perry – 281 (521); Pickaway – 47 (105); Pike – 136 (182); Portage – 122 (147); Preble –47 (118); Putnam – 65 (67); Richland – 160 (147); Ross – 438 (487); Sandusky – 41 (49); Scioto – 224 (275); Seneca – 123 (178); Shelby – 81 (93); Stark – 288 (486); Summit – 89 (143); Trumbull – 285 (290); Tuscarawas – 914 (1,345); Union – 83 (73); Van Wert –60 (55); Vinton – 218 (364); Warren – 87 (182); Washington – 527 (937); Wayne – 99 (103); Williams – 104 (103); Wood – 59 (67); and Wyandot – 94 (117); Total – 17,108 (24,078).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No place to run from Kacish's ODNR bloodhounds UPDATED

Well, that job didn’t last long.

Mike Shelton, the former chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Communications tried to make a side step by becoming a public information specialist with the department’s Division of Parks and Recreation.

However, the new Kasich Administration wanted to make a clean sweep of as many former Gov. Ted Strickland’s appointments as possible.

Thus, while Shelton tried to embed himself into the Parks Division at the end of the year he “resigned” for his short-term Parks Division position, effective January 7.

Appointed as the agency’s new full-time chief was David Payne. ODNR Director David Mustine noted in a prepared press release that Payne “...has a diverse management background and excels at marketing and strategic development.”

As for Payne, the Department-supplied press release also says “he prides himself on bringing people together and working productively with a broad base of constituents,” and that “He has a passion for Ohio’s award-winning state parks system and enjoys camping, hiking, and ice fishing.”

Returning to his role as assistant parks division chief is John Hunter, who served as acting division chief until Payne's appointment. It was Hunter who asked Shelton if he wanted the communicator's job.

Other Kasich ODNR newbie appointees include Laura Jones who was appointed Chief of the Office of Communications; Shelton’s old job.

Also, appointed was Ben Pendery who joins the ODNR administrative staff as its legislative liaison. Pendery most recently served with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

Other appointments announced by Mustine include:

* Bob Boyles as acting chief for the Division of Forestry.

* Ted Lozier as acting chief for the Division of Soil & Water Resources.

* Carla Camp as acting chief for the Office of Budget & Finance. Camp spent her first 21 years of state service in the fiscal section of the Department of Youth services, and has been the assistant chief for ODNR.

A call to Scott Zody, ODNR assistant director, has been placed but has not yet been returned.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Former ODNR head says his good-byes, too; Door open for return?

Ousted Ohio Division of Wildlife chief Dave Graham was not the only Ohio Department of Natural Resources official who made a farewell address to his troops.

So did Sean Logan, who served for four years as the ODNR director during the Democratic administration of then-governor Ted Strickland.

Maybe one question is what Logan is referring to when he says "... Farewell Until We Meet Again." Perhaps one can read into that another run for the job by Strickland and a return of Logan to the ODNR top job. Anything is possible when it comes to Ohio politics.

Anyway, here is the text of Logan's Jan. 7 e-mailed address:

From: Logan, Sean
Sent: Friday, January 07, 2011 7:00 PM
To: ODNR Field Offices; Fountain Square Employees
Subject: Thank You and Farewell Until We Meet Again

Dear ODNR Family:

I’m signing off as 11th Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. I’m headed home to the family more enriched, more tested and with many new friends. ODNR is a very special place with a special mission.

Each Administration has had their own way of achieving our collective missions and I want to let you know that I am very hopeful for the future of our department’s mission. I am comfortable in this statement because I am impressed with incoming Director David Mustine. He is a genuine individual that earned my respect immediately and I know that he has our mission at heart.

Together we have made Ohio and its natural world a better place. We have proven, once again, that economic progress and conservation can be achieved at the same time. We are able to achieve this because of your professionalism and understanding of our collective connection to our natural world.

I wish you, as individuals, and collectively as members of the ODNR family, much success.

Thank you for four wonderful years,


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Man's cave makes best deer hunting camp (See also video)

See a video of the truly best Man's Cave a deer hunter can hope to have as a headquarters. Go to, access the Blog portal and then view the Outdoors Blog.

NELLIE - This town is no larger than many of the others in Coshocton County, be it Warsaw, Randle or Blissfield.

They are hard scrapple towns populated by blue-collar, dirt-in-the-fingernails folk who take pleasure in small town high school state championships of one form or another. And these good people have a decided taste for the flavor of hunting.

Especially if that genre’s relish is garnished with anything related to white-tail deer.

It is rough-hewed country, too. The hills climb steeply and fall with the same incline into narrow slits that anchor somber valley floors. Most of the hillsides are lathered in forests, luckily in many cases made up of acorn-bearing-food-rich white oaks.

That is good because Coschocton County is always playing king of the hill with neighboring Tuscarawas County for the leadership in Ohio’s 88-county race for the state deer harvest top spot.

Last year Coschocton County easily scored first place with 9,633 animals harvested while Tuscarawas County had to accept the also-ran trophy with 9,010 deer taken. Positions are being reversed this year, however, as the to-date deer kill in Coschocton County is 6,011 animals while it’s 9,820 deer in Tuscarawas County.

Yet no matter where the counties vie for first place honors each gets the nod by the state’s deer hunters as must go-to destinations. And lucky are the few folks who have managed to stake a claim to a piece of deer-hunting nirvana. Credit one very good stroke of luck to the Schmid family of Thompson Township.

More than 40 years ago the Schmid’s won what would eventually become a deer hunter’s Super Lotto prize. That acquisition fell into their collective lap long before the white-tail deer surprised everyone by taking root in Ohio with a population greater than the number of people living in either one of four states.

“My father wasn’t a hunter. He just wanted a quiet place for a vacation spot,” said Dave Schmid, a retired truck driver who serves as the family’s chief camp magistrate.

Like the family itself the hunting locale is a humble affair. No unique nameplate hangs over the spacious one-room cabin. You won’t see an “At The End Of The Road Camp,” “Big Buck Camp,” or “Trophy Quest Camp,” sign stuck anywhere though each of these monickers certainly would apply. Nope, it’s just “The Camp,” plain and simple and true to form.

“Welcome to our paradise,” said Schmid’s son, Paul, a personal trainer who operates his own business (

That part is also true. Even in the stark nakedness of winter this place speaks of a quiet repose. Nestled into between the cleavage of several tall hills the 90-acre Coschocton County property tilts what seems to be westward. The plot of land is also caked in a ragweed field that has an one-acre or so fishing pond sunk into the earth.

“It’s got a lot of really big catfish,” Paul said.

An opportunity to test that claim hopefully will come at a later date. For now, at the beginning of Ohio’s four-day statewide muzzle-loading season, my goal was launch a .45-caliber bullet from my Knight rifle and hope it squares up with an animal. That way I can have the deer processed for my daughter’s family freezer.

The Schmids and I would not be hunting alone, which is a good thing. The more the merrier when you’ve got a hunting linchpin as secure as is The Camp.

Frequently joining in the hunts and the associated festivities are Ron McLelland and his teenage son, Ian, both of Kirtland Hills, along with Dan Jones of Cleveland.

The two men prove particularly useful. Both are skilled craftsmen who help keep The Camp’s superstructure in working order. Importantly too, each owns a go-almost-anywhere ATV; a necessary vehicle for clambering up the hills’ sharp cants and along the narrow trails hacked from the woods.

Every camp member had stories to tell and recollections to ruminate on. That’s part of camp life, especially when you’re dealing with a cabin as impressive as the one the Schmids’ built.

Jokes were told, and as often as not at the expense of another camp member. That included Jones who poured an uncountable number of muzzle-loading widgets and do-dads in his belief they would make camp life more simple and hunting more successful.

“Money is no object for Mr. Gadget; not when he has to have one,” opined the elder Schmid when Jones emptied his bottomless muzzle-loading possibles box.

As for the four-day season’s opening round, well, that was a tough go, particularly for a noted deer-hunting reserve with the reputation of Coschocton County.

Ian, Mr. Gadget and Dave didn’t see any deer during their morning stint. Paul saw two animals. I reckon that if my notes are correct, I spied one doe. Unfortunately for me but fortunate for her, the doe was engaged in a good trot at a distance of perhaps 125 to 150 yards with more than few sticks of oaks between us.

Ron, on the other hand, said he saw about 20 deer. Among them was a group of seven does and fawns. As these things so often go in hunting, Ron happens to be a horn-only hunter, not even caring for the flavor of venison. Stands to reason that the guy who least desires to shoot just any old deer is the one person who has the best chance.

But really, it didn’t matter when everyone reassembled back at The Camp for a lunch break. No one complained any. Nor did it have much impact when we all mustered for
the evening roll call after a three-hour unsuccessful late afternoon hunt.

Come to think about it, you couldn’t count any long faces the next morning either when the only person who didn’t turn over in their sleeping bag was Paul. That’s because after viewing the thermometer’s reading of near zero degrees the group thought the wiser of leaving the cabin’s insulated snugness. We all wanted to kill a deer though not so much to take a stand in such bitter cold.

Except for Paul, a health nut who bundled himself up, climbed the closest hill and came back down two hours later; chilled, hungry and with a taste for bragging how he saw six deer.

That’s the way camp life comes and goes, of course. It is part of the ebb and flow of memories forgotten and new ones formed and stored for future recollection and subsequent lies.

It had been the better part of 10 years since the last time I took up with a group of guys and enjoyed a stint in a genuine hunting Mans’ Cave. My hope is that it won’t take be long until the next opportunity arrives.

I had almost forgotten that the best part of camp life isn’t always about the killing but about what comes bundled as the total package. The Schmids understand this detail most of all.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, January 10, 2011

First woman Wildlife Division chief reacts to appointment

It took less than one day for the new Ohio Department of Natural Resources director and his assistant director to make history for the agency.

ODNR head David Mustine and his second-in-command Scott Zody today appointed Vicki Mountz as the acting chief of the beleaguered Ohio Division of Wildlife.

A 25-year ODNR veteran, Mountz has an associate degree in law enforcement from Akron University. She began her ODNR tour in that department’s Division of Watercraft.

Most recently Mountz has served as the Wildlife Division’s executive administrator for information and education.

Now Mountz is atop the Wildlife Division’s food chain, a position the public relations-savvy official says “I am pretty darn excited about.”

Even in a temporary status the 59-year-old Mountz becomes the first woman to hold the Wildlife Division’s top spot; and ultimate hot seat.

“The only thing I can say is that we we’ve had a rough year and we want to see our people back on the right track,” Mountz said. “We’ve been on hold for a year now and it’s time to move forward.”

On that mater the Wildlife Division has been beset by challenges as five former or current top officials remain under felony indictment. Their cases are pending before the state’s 12th District Court of Appeals with the matter first surfacing last spring.

Among those indicted - and fired by the in-coming John Kasich administration - is David Graham whom Mountz replaces on at least a temporary basis.

Mountz said she is working well with the Wildlife Division’s two acting assistant chiefs, positions that likewise lack permanent administrative fixtures. Those attending to the acting chief duties include Wildlife Division administrators Susan Howard and Ray Petering, each bringing to the table their respective talents, Mountz says.

“We’re a great team and we work very well together,” Mountz said.

Mountz said as well that her initial meeting with Mustine went well, too, she being impressed with her new boss, though Mountz did say she’s worked with Zody during previous Republican administrations.

Asked if she would like the “acting” part of the title to go away, Mountz said that caveat is allowing her the opportunity to “get my feet wet” and determine if permanency would make an even better fit.

“Gosh, they haven’t even named a deputy director yet,” Mountz said.

A second question was whether Mountz will see a heftier paycheck - even if only for a short time - or keep the one due a long-time Wildlife Division administrator.

“You know, I didn’t even ask when Scott asked me if I wanted the job,” Mountz said reflectively. “I just thought the decision was the right thing to do.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, January 7, 2011

What?! No Twiggie?!

Yep, you read correctly. Twiggie- The Water-Skiing Squirrel - will not be doing her thing at the up-coming Mid-America (Cleveland) Boat and Fishing Show. The event is scheduled for Jan. 14 through 23 at the massive I-X Center in Cleveland.

Long before Twiggie became a national star that appeared on just about every morning television show there is, she water-skied her way to fame at the Cleveland Boat Show, brought there by now-retired Lake Erie Marine Trades Association president, Norm Schultz, formerly of Mentor.

Schultz knew a hit when he saw one, and Twiggie won over the hearts of many Boat Show visitors. So much so that she became a Boat Show fixture; possibly even an icon.

Pity the fishing seminar speaker whose stage time conflicted with that of Twiggie. The seats for the seminar were nearly empty while throngs of visitors flocked around the shallow pool where a remote-controlled boat pulled the little gray squirrel around. I should know since during many of my speaking engagements at the Boat Show were upstaged by Twiggie.

Her appearance even drew the wrath of the rabidly anti-hunting/fishing/water-skiing squirrel group, PETA.

And this year she's not a Boat Show staple. Instead, the Boat Show promises that visitors will be enthralled by the two-day static appearance of the Time Bandit Super V Lite offshore raving boat.

Yeah, if that's going to happen.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fishing law violations on decline in Ohio

In spite of an economy still chained to hard times, improvement is being seen in the number of fishing-related arrests.

And while the statistics provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife do not discriminate between the various violation possibilities the agency’s law enforcement administrator says most of the tickets issued are for failure to buy and show a necessary fishing license.

“I looked at our annual reports, which are organized by fiscal year. We do not break down the arrests specifically for fishing without a license, but have all sport fishing violations counted together,” said Ken Fritz, the agency’s law enforcement program administrator.

“From personal experience, I would say the vast majority of these are fishing license violations.”

Fritz’s caveat includes the fact that during the period when the Wildlife Division is conducting a wildlife officer academy often times field personnel are called in as instructors. This action pulls these officers from scouting streams and lakes for fishing law violators, Fritz says.

“Retirements will then cause this to taper off as they are assigned to counties and pick up other responsibilities,” Fritz said. “Of course, the greatest variable is the weather, as it affects the water level and the participation level, especially amongst the more casual anglers.”

Here is a brief outline for the past four years as to the number of anglers contacted by Wildlife Division officers and the number of violations they recorded:

Fiscal Year Anglers Contacted Sport Fishing Violations
2007 43,630 2,144
2008 41,563 2,184
2009 44,535 1,986
2010 42,356 1,872

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wildlife Division chief sends e-mail farewell to agency staff

In his farewell comments to his troops, out-going Ohio Division of Wildlife chief David Graham praised their professionalism in what he says “...may well be one of the toughest periods of time that the Division has ever endured” but noting that "Change is healthy."

Along with the chiefs of the Forestry and Soil and Water divisions, Graham was ousted by the in-coming John Kasich administration. All three officials were notified Monday that they would not be retained once the administration takes over on Monday, January 9. Friday is their last day on their respective jobs.

Using the electronic media, Graham sent his good-byes to the agency’s staff up and down the line. This is the text of the e-mail that Graham sent Tuesday:

From: Graham, Dave
Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2011 4:48 PM
To: Wildlife, Employees
Subject: Program and Operations

This information is to advise you that until possible further direction from the incoming ODNR administration, Ray Petering will be serving as the Acting Assistant Chief over Program areas, and Sue Howard will be serving as the Acting Assistant Chief over Operations areas. Information and concerns should be forwarded to them through normal procedure as in the past. My personal thanks to both of them for assuming these additional duties to help keep the Division of Wildlife running efficiently and smoothly.

Also, as most of you are probably aware of by now, the new administration has elected not to retain me as Chief of the Division of Wildlife. I will be retiring from state service at the close of business on Friday January 7, 20ll. I ask each of you to embrace the new administration, the changes, the ideas and direction that they will bring and to not fear this transition. Change is healthy. It can offer so many opportunities and challenges that will create new partnerships and alliances. The potential to find new and different ways to fund our mission, provide greater service to our constituents and utilize our natural resources responsibly are almost limitless due to your collective vision and passion. The Division of Wildlife is an incredibly strong organization, a team member of a very important group of divisions that are the Department of Natural Resources. Never forget that fact. You will always be more effective in accomplishing your mission as a part of that team.

2010 has been a tremendously difficult year for you. It may well be one of the toughest periods of time that the Division has ever endured. Your professionalism, dedication and your commitment to your chosen field of endeavor has proven that you have the ability to survive and overcome any adversity that you are faced with now and in the future. I am so proud of all of you in what you have accomplished for the people of Ohio. I have enjoyed a fantastic 34 year career with this agency. Few people ever get the chance to spend their life doing what they love, working with the best people in the business and make the lifelong friendships that last beyond a career. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve with you.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

WED UPDATE: Wildlife Division chief Dave Graham, other heads, axed

This blog posting was updated, corrected, Tuesday evening and again Wednesday around noon with material supplied by governor-elect John Kasich's press secretary, Rob Nichols.

David Graham has until Friday to clean out his desk at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Fountain Square headquarters in Columbus.

Friday marks the end of Graham’s tenure as chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The departure comes at the behest of in-coming governor-elect John Kasich who takes office Monday.

Graham was notified Monday via a letter circulated by the in-coming Kasich administration. Also given their pink slips were Ohio Division of Forestry chief Dave Lytle and Division of Soil and Water chief David Hanselman, an agency official said.

Asked if Graham's indictment status contributed to his dismissal, Kasich's press secretary Rob Nichols said that the charges "didn't help" the departing chief.

Also, currently not only is Graham’s job vacant so too are both of the agency’s assistant chiefs' positions. Each of these assistant chief vacancies are due to retirements, though former assistant chief Randy Miller is one of five felony-indicted current or former Ohio Division of Wildlife officials.

Besides Miller the other top agency officials under indictment are Graham; Todd Haines, District 5 (southwest Ohio) director; the agency's law enforcement supervisor James Lehman, and the agency’s human resources manager Michelle Ward-Tackett.

All five were charged last spring in Brown County Common Pleas Court with two felony counts each and as argued by Brown County prosecutor Jessica A. Little.

Their cases are now pending before Ohio’s 12th District Court of Appeals as requested by Little following a successful defense presentation before the Brown County Common Pleas Court.

In discussing Graham's status and governor-elect Kasich's plans for the Wildlife Division, Nichols said the matter was of one administration replacing another.

"Non-classified employees are political employees and that's not just with the ODNR but with all state government," Nichols said.

Nichols said also that the in-coming administration team hopes to fill the vacancies "sooner rather than later" in an effort to "modernize that department."

"We hope there will be an announcement shortly," Nichols said.

Asked to comment on rumors that the new Kasich administration will go outside the Natural Resources Department or the Wildlife Division to secure a new agency chief, Nichols said he too understands that "there's a lot of chatter out there."

"We want to get the right person in the right spot," he said. "When we're ready to announce that decision we'll do it."

A telephone call has been placed to Graham seeking comment.

This blog will be updated as any additional information may become available.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn