Thursday, May 26, 2011

Poor weather putting a real hurt on state park camp site rentals

The cold, snowy winter and (especially) the cool, rainy spring has thus far doomed overnight stays at Ohio state parks.

And with rain forecasted for at least two of the three Memorial Day weekend, don't expect to see many "no vacancy" signs up at state park campgrounds. This, based on figures supplied by the state.

The 2011 do-date campground occupancy stands at 22,585 nights used, a measurement tool employed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Parks and Recreation to determine how many nights of camping have been rented.

That figure represents a 40.5 percent drop for the same period in 2010.

It's a also a crash-and-burn dive from the 39,693 nights used that was seen in 2009 for the same period.

Likewise, this year's to-day nights stay usage is the lowest since at least 2006 and with a total occupancy rate of only 5.6 percent.

Off as well are cottage rentals (down 8.4 percent) and get-away rentals (down 18.9 percent.)

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Magee Marsh dike work to eliminate duck-hunting lottery there this fall

No notes from a well-tuned duck call likely will ring over fabled Magee Marsh during this fall’s general waterfowl-hunting season.

That is because the Ohio Division of Wildlife is working to rebuild the famed duck-hunting location’s wetlands.

The news comes as the Wildlife Division announces that online applications for controlled waterfowl and deer hunting will begin to be accepted starting June 1. These applications will be accepted through July 31.

More than 4,000 Ohioans and out-of-staters annually apply for the opportunity to hunt one of Magee Marsh’s assigned blind locations.

Hunting at Magee is about as close as an Ohio hunter can get to working waterfowl outside of being a member of an exclusive duck-hunting club. Located near Oak Harbor and Port Clinton, Magee Marsh has long been associated with top-notch wing-shooting.

“We are doing a couple of different projects including rebuilding our east marsh and our supply channel dike,” said Patrick Baranowski, Magee Marsh’s area manager.

“I could not guarantee that we’d have the project ready in time for the lottery-style hunt. I’d hate to have people apply when I can’t offer the opportunity but we’ll be back in 2012.”

Baranowski did say that if conditions are favorable the marsh will still host an early teal season hunt. A drawing is scheduled for Aug. 20 at the marsh’s headquarters and is held in conjunction with the annual Lake Erie Waterfowlers Festival.

A late season hunt for the marsh proper may be offered, too, depending upon marsh conditions, Baranowski said.

“My hope is that we can get the marsh dry enough so we can get the job done early so we can do a daily only draw where people can put their name in a hopper,” he said.

If such hunts are done they’ll be held Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and until noon, daily.

“We’ve done that each year after Thanksgiving but we never could guarantee conditions,” Baranowski said. “Hunters also will have to provide their own boats with a no-wake policy.”

For more specific information regarding the potential of day-of waterfowl hunts contact Baranowski at 419-898-0960, ext. 30.

Other popular waterfowl hunting locations are still available for the lottery-style drawing. Among them are Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (Lucas County), Mosquito Creek (Trumbull County) and Mercer (Mercer County) state wildlife areas.

Special deer hunts are also slated for the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (Lucas County), NASA/Plumbrook Station (Erie County), Ravenna Training & Logistics Site (Portage County), as well as Mosquito Creek (Trumbull County), Killdeer Plains (Wyandot County) and Old Woman Creek (Erie County) state wildlife areas.

Changes & Highlights For 2011-2012:

* All applicants, adult and youth, must hold a current hunting license. The new license system will detect whether or not the applicant meets this prerequisite. The DOW believes this change will better identify applicants who truly intend to participate in the event should they be drawn for a permit.

* Online applicants will notice that the lottery application and license purchasing processes are identical. Applicants can purchase licenses and lottery applications in the same transaction. This might confuse some customers in the early going. n The application fee is $3 per hunt regardless of method (online versus mail-in).

* Customers who do not wish to apply online must obtain an official application form by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.

* Application forms are not available on the DOW website (downloadable PDF file), and will not be distributed to DOW offices, license outlets, government offices, libraries, or any other business entity.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why the Firearms denial terrorist watchlist proposal is bad

The National Rifle Association is taking it on the chin for opposing proposed federal legislation intended to keep firearms away from people on the government's terrorist watchlist; at first blush a reasonable measure.

But - as always - there are two sides to every story. Here is the NRA's take:

Last week, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee rejected an amendment by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), which proposed to allow the Attorney General to disapprove the NICS check of a person who has been placed on the FBI's secret "terrorist watchlist."

Similar legislation has been introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).

The NRA opposes all of these proposals for a variety of reasons, chiefly that they propose to deny a constitutionally protected, fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms without due process of law.

While some of the proposals pretend to allow a person to appeal his watchlisting in court, the proposals would prevent the watchlisted person or his lawyer from examining and challenging the government's "evidence," the accused would not be entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers, and the judge would not be allowed to examine the government's evidence in full.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, May 20, 2011

A "Pink" Red Ryder BB gun?

If some California state legislators get their way, soft air gun as well as such items as BB and pellet rifles and handguns would have to come in such exotic colors as pink or orange.

This, in order for the police to distinguish them from the real deal.

Talk about overkill, but that's California where logic and laws are often at polar opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Can you imagine Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" asking his parents for a pink-colored Daisy Red Ryder air rifle BB gun?

For that matter, picture a high-tech Olympic-grade $2,000 air rifle also being painted from stern to bow in hot orange.

No one said that common sense prevails in la-la Land.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Natural Resources to intensify enforcement of laws this up-coming holiday week

If you're planning on visiting a state park between May 23 and June 5 you better remember to slow down and buckle up.

During this period the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' law enforcement officials intend to be a component of the state's "Click It Or Ticket" program. The department's officers will patrol Ohio's 75 state parks in an effort to get drivers to slow down and for motor vehicle occupants to wear their seat belts.

Last year in Ohio for the same campaign the state saw an 84-percent seat belt use of the vehicles that were stopped. The compliance target this year is 85 percent.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has been active in addressing state park motor safety issues since 1990.

Nor is the Natural Resources Department stopping there, either. The Department's Watercraft Division officers will be out in force to ensure that safe boating rules are followed, including against driving a vessel while under the influence.

And if you choose to try and fish without a license be forewarned as well. The state's Ohio Division of Wildlife officers plan on checking for fishing licenses during this period, which includes the always-busy Memorial Day holiday weekend, May 28 through 30.

- Jeffrey L. FRischkorn

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And on a lighter note...

The Alaska Board of Game (which oversees the state's Department of Fish and Game) has enacted a statewide measure that will - believe it or not - prohibit the use of such electronic apparatuses as Tasers while hunting.

Which means that people cannot use a Taser to stun a moose or a bear in a sort of weird "catch-and-release" activity, reports Fairbanks, Alaska reporter Tim Mowry at his site.

According to Mowry's website, the state's game officials say that people can use a Taser to protect life and limb but not as a form of entertainment or hunting activity as it applies to wild animals.

One state wildlife official said the practice is "... ripe for abuse," Mowry's web-based report reads.

Shocking, I say, just shocking.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

UPDATED WED May 18; New Wildlife Division chief picked; in-house dark horse

After considering several high profile candidates like acting Ohio Division of Wildlife chief Vicki Mountz and former State Rep. James McGregor, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has selected a largely dark horse in-house candidate as Wildlife’s permanent chief.

Picked is David B. Lane, 48, currently the acting district manager for the agency’s District One (central Ohio) Office in Columbus. He has held that position since Oct. 2009.

Lane is a West Virginia native and was hired by the Wildlife Division in 2002 as a wildlife officer in Fayette County.

Other Lane background data include being promoted to wildlife officer supervisor in 2005 and then as the agency’s acting district manager.

Prior to his working for the Wildlife Division, Lane spent 14 years with West Virginia-based Appalachian Timber Services, There, he served as vice president where he oversaw marketing and product development, sales training, and establishing budgets.

Also, Lane's brother, Eric, is the Wildlife Division officer assigned to Perry County.

“David’s career reflects a diverse background in conservation and business, as well as experience with law enforcement and proven leadership within the Division,” said David Mustine, the ODNR’s Director, in a prepared statement.

“He will be an asset helping the division fulfill its core mission as well as strengthening our internal and external partnerships to promote outdoor recreation opportunities and management of public lands.”

Doug Miller, manager of the Wildlife Division’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) Office in Akron, said he knows Lane and believes he’ll add much to the Wildlife Division.

Lane also will help "make a smooth transition” for the agency, Miller said.

“He’s great guy, has a super background and knows what the division is all about the importance of the sportsmen,” Miller said.

Larry Mitchell, executive director of the League of Ohio Sportsmen, said that the state's hunters, anglers, trappers and nature lovers all will find Lane “a delight to work with.”

“He’s a good man with solid wildlife management skills,” Mitchell said.

“It is also great that the Natural Resources Department continued to promote from within as a 50-year tradition; that is one reason why Ohio’s fish and wildlife management programs are nationally recognized.”

Mitchell said as well that he and his organization look forward to maintaining a good relationship with the Wildlife Division.

“He’s a stand-up guy,” Mitchell said.

More may come with updates possible.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

New Wildlife Division chief to be named today

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the agency will announce sometime this afternoon (Tuesday) the new chief for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The Wildlife Division has been without a permanent chief for the past few months following the retirement of David Graham who remains under indictment by Brown County Prosecutor Jessica A. Little.

Vicki Mountz - the Wildlife Division's executive administrator for information and education - has been serving as acting chief. She is one of the finalists for the permanent job.

More details will be posted as they become available.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Cool, wet month washes away spring turkey hunting success

A month’s worth of generally cool to cold, wet and windy weather seriously dampened Ohio’s spring wild turkey hunting season harvest.

This year’s kill saw a deep 21-percent cut in the total statewide kill of turkeys. Ohio’s spring turkey hunters shot 18,485 birds whereas the 2010 spring season saw a kill of 23,421 turkeys.

And even though Ashtabula County again led the state in the number of turkeys killed it was a hallow victory. Its kill was way off; down from the 1,030 birds shot in 2010 to just 712 turkeys killed this year for the season that ran April 18 to May 15.

The harvests were typically down everywhere, including in Northeast Ohio.

“Actually, I think we did make up some ground later in the season. The youth-only and first week were hit even harder but I still don’t think these results were surprising to anyone,” said Mike Reynolds, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s wild turkey management administrator.

Reynolds said the low kill should mean “relatively little” to the success of the fall hunting season.

“What we’re most concerned about is the impact of this weather on the up-coming turkey hatch which typically happens in the last week or May and the first week in June,” he said. “That will determine poult survival which in turn will help determine the fall harvest.”

As for the 2012 spring season, Reynolds says that two items may lead to the forefront.

“I think we’re going to see a good number of three-year-old and older birds. There will be more mature birds,” Reynolds said. “Though I haven’t had a chance to look at all of the data yet I am suspecting we’ll have seen a good harvest of older birds this year.”

With a slightly good 2010 hatch there also may be a fair number of two-year-old birds; these are the most vulnerable to hunting pressure because they talk a lot and are more ready to be called, Reynolds says.

As for any surprises, the “usual cast of characters again led the state” in the harvest, Reynolds also said.

“There were no real surprises in the distribution of the harvest but we’ll have to look at various factors like the timing of the harvest and the age make-up,”
Reynolds said.
Counties with a higher amount of open farmland-type country did very well where decoys may have been placed in fields.

“That makes sense because hunters can see turkeys and know they’re out there and will stick with it more but not a whole lot stands out,” Reynolds said. “It was a challenging season.”

Here is the 2011 spring wild turkey-hunting season kill for select Northeast Ohio counties as well as the Top 10 counties, with their respective 2010 harvest figures in parentheses: Adams - 507 (745); Ashtabula - 712 (1,030); Belmont - 444 (563); Coshocton - 447 (522); Cuyahoga - 4 (6); Erie - 52 (57); Geauga - 301 (423); Guernsey - 507 (635); Harrison - 483 (581); Highland - 447 (540); Huron - 164 (219); Knox - 513 (528); Lake - 59 (96); Lorain - 186 (221); Medina - 118 (157); Monroe - 444 (558); Muskingum - 462 (623); Sandusky - 17 (21); Trumbull -416 (584); Tuscarawas - 583 (664).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, May 16, 2011

General Assembly, ODNR getting cold dose of drilling reality

With jobs and the opportunity to make money in their gun sights, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio General Assembly are getting a cold shower as it relates to drilling on state-owned recreational lands.

Among those partials are state forests, state parks and wildlife areas.

The heavy splash of reality is that in many cases - at least as it relates to state park lands - either the state does not own either the land or else does not own the mineral rights.

And when it comes to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, ordering drilling on wildlife areas with the money going into some pot fails the test of the federal government.
That is because a tax on firearms and fishing tackle and distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dictates that such money used now, before and ever-after be used solely for wildlife restoration, hunting- or fishing-related activities.

Anything more, says a 75-year-old federal law, constitutes a “diversion” of funds.

Fail this litmus test and a stet loses its federal-aid-in-restoration grant.

In fact, a failure to observe the federal government’s plain-speaking law language would even require reimbursing Washington for what’s already been spent.

Which isn’t sitting very pretty with the Kasich Administration that would like little more than to begin drilling, pocketing the revenue and saying “oops” when an environmental accident occurs.

“We have to protect for both enjoyment as well as (provide for) the wise use of our natural resources,” said David Mustine, the director for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Mustine addressed the topic last Saturday to the state’s outdoors writers who met at Mohican State Park for their annual conference.

Mustine acknowledged that in more than a few cases Ohio cannot grant the authority to drill, either conventionally or with the highly charged environmentally challenged use of hydro-fracturing, call “fracking.”

The trick is to drill and recover oil and natural gas with the least amount of friction between competing users and also to ensure that recreational advocates are not eye-balling an oil rig and at every turn of the hiking trail or camp site.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility,” he said.

But Mustine’s eyes are still on the money-making potential of drilling on state recreational lands. He said it could create “tens of thousands of job” and see an investment of $1 billion by fossil-fuel recovery companies.
fter all, Mustine says, the “economics have changed dramatically.”

Thus, Mustine noted also that balancing it all “is not an easy task.”

“My pledge is for all interested parties to have a voice,” Mustine said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

River fishing trip floats anglers' hopes

JEFFERSON CITY, TENNESSEE - While the Holston River swished back and forth in exotic whirls, a dense fog ebbed and flowed above the water’s surface.

Below Cherokee Dam and downstream to where the low-hanging cloud arrested any further viewing, the fog also provided a deathly chill to a morning that held promise. And not just for the prospects of a sunny day but also for the expectation of quality time with the stream’s horde of stocked rainbow trout.

Doug Moore - a thirty-something fishing guide - was putting his back into the two massive oars that powers his McKenzie-style drift boat. This vessel is somewhat banana-shaped, wide in the center, upturned a bit in the nose and tail with comfortable platforms for fore and aft positioned fly fishers.

“The water’s pretty cold and when it meets the moist warm air, each morning you can bank on the fog coming,” Moore said. “It will lift in a little while.”

For now, though, the fog remained and we anticipated a good day of casting Moore’s size-20 dubbed-and-wire black-colored nymphs. The “we” being myself, Moore and my son-in-law, Gabe Rathe, of nearby Knoxville.

Ever since Gabe and my daughter Rebecca had packed their kit bags and kids and moved from Wisconsin to Tennessee, my goal was to take him on a guided trout fishing expedition in the Smoky Mountains.

Long on trout fishing legend, the Smoky Mountains attracts anglers for their many miles of fast-flowing mountain streams.

But my back and poorly maintained knees pretty much prohibits me from any long-distance hiking over stream-side boulders. Besides, I’m not much of a fan of ticks and this is serious tick country.

Anyway, few things can beat a drift boat as a fly-fishing venue. They’re comfortable and their shuttling via a river’s current offers an endless array of fly-fishing opportunities.

That, and I wanted to treat Gabe to a possible once-in-a-lifetime treat. So Moore became our hired gun; sort of “have drift boat, will travel” sort of thing.

Our options included several Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) tail-waters. In each case, tall dams hold back humongous volumes of water. At the bottom of the dams the water is icy cold, which is released to turn powerful turbines that create electricity.

This was the entire purpose of establishing the TVA many generations ago. That the water discharge also produces ample cold conditions for a trout fisheries became a bonus. And that unattended benefit is heavily capitalized on by local and visiting anglers.

The choices Moore offered were several, among them being the Clinch River beneath Norris Dam and Lake. That option faded, however, when it was found that two of the dam’s generators were on.

A two-stroke discharge of water at the time of our trip was producing a huge volume that prevented fishing, Moore said.

So we settled on the Holston River below the Cherokee Dam. It may offer a few more slack spots than does the Clinch, says Moore, but it’s still plenty good enough if you want to toss flies at eager rainbow trout.

And Gabe and I did, of course.

“My last group here caught 50, maybe 60, trout,” Moore said. “And they weren’t the best fly fishermen.”

I’ll call myself a modestly fair fly fisher with Gabe only a peg or two to my left.

We started as Moore always begins. That means rigging the fishing outfits with 6x tippets that trail to Moore’s hand-tied black nymph patterns. A couple of feet above the fly is pegged a small, clear, soft plastic bubble-style strike indicator - a fly fisher’s fancy term for a bobber.

With the nymph pattern fly thus suspended it appears to be an emerging insect. At least to the trout, anyway.

“There aren’t many mayflies in the Holston but there are a lot cadis hatches and that’s what the trout feed on,” Moore said.

Sure enough, hardly had we gotten settled in when willing-to-please trout began slurping our nymph flies. A fish would hit a fly and not stop, leaping out of the water and also using whatever current it could find to its advantage.

“Between the Clinch and the Holston the state stocks about 125,000 trout every year and you can pretty much expect to find good fishing any time, including during the summer,” Moore said as he netted a foot-long rainbow.

Most of the trout measured that size, too, the general range being about 9 to 12 inches with a few longer fish stretching the tape to around 16 inches.

Unlike the Clinch - which has also brown trout - the Holston is almost exclusively a rainbow trout fisheries, Moore says.

In all, Moore said as well, we’d travel about six miles between the drift boat’s put-in and take-out spots, a distance that would dish up a good eight hours of fly fishing.

The drift boat flowed with the undulations of the stream and Moore charged the oars to counter-balance the river’s dictations.

Moore would jockey the vessel so that both Gabe and me would find a way to toss our rigs into the choicest looking pieces of water. Best were the places where the river made a serious drop of a foot or two. In these riffles and chutes the cold water also was highly oxygenated.

Miss one chance at casting into a lively enough spot and another one would suddenly appear.

With the morning running long and our tally of caught trout growing even more, we came to our lunch stop. That’s part of Moore’s all-day package deal.

The timing of the dinner coincided with the one-hour start-up of a single Cherokee Dam generator. That produced a so-called “pulse” of discharged cold water that also yielded cloudy conditions caused by suspended grit, mud and debris.

Moore explained that whenever a pulse arrives the trout stop feeding and go into hiding. Sure enough, that proved true as the increased volume of water turned off the fish.

“It only lasts an hour and then we’ll be back to fishing,” Moore said.

With several years of guiding service under his battered fishing hat, Moore has the system down pat. Sure enough, when the pulse of water washed downstream and the water began to clear the trout began feeding once again. Time it was to put away the grub and folding chairs and table and get back to fishing.

The rest of the day went very much like the morning’s half. We’d find fish where they were supposed to be and Moore rowed his way through the dead spots.

“There’s more of them on the Holston than on the Clinch,” he said.

No matter, as Gabe and I were making short work of the rainbows which were ever-happy to challenge our nymph-patterned flies.

“I could get used to this,” Gabe said, enjoying both the comfort of the drift boat’s casting platform and the abundance of trout.

We even pocketed several trout for use later as a meal - a non-objectionable point since this is a put-grow-take fisheries.

When the day drew to a close and the river had begun to lose its zeal we reached our take-out point. In all, Gabe and I had caught and released all but the seven of the 70-odd rainbows we caught.

Yep, I could get used to this, too, I thought.

I guess maybe I need to start saving my pennies. I think I hear the Norris Dam’s generators being turned off. Might as well expand my Tennessee fly-fishing horizons.

Tennessee’s fishing license system includes on-line purchasing with a very inexpensive one-day tag as well as permits good for longer periods. Visit for further information.

For details about a half-day or all-day float trip or else a foot travel guided trip, contact Moore at 865-323-6294, email him at His web site is

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, May 13, 2011

No Wildlife Division chief named today; new Pymatuning cabins

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources appears poised to announce the naming of the new chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

However, its announcement won't come today (Friday).

That's the word from the department's chief media relations officer, Laura Jones.

Asked if that means the Natural Resources Department will name the chief on Monday, Jones said only that it won't be today (Friday).

In other Natural Resources Department matters, Pymatuning State Park officials have demolished three of the park's 59 cabins.

But these demolished cabins will be replaced with two handicapped-accessible cottages, says the park's manager, Phil Vichosky.

"Right now none of our cabins are accessible to the handicapped," Vichosky said. "The new cottages will be available to the handicapped, be modern and well equipped. There's been a great demand for these kinds of units."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Lake Erie walleye kill "not a major event," state says

Concern over the death of thousands of Lake Erie walleye has anglers on edge but the Ohio Division of Wildlife remains satisfied that the situation is not a disaster.

The fish have been discovered in the lake's Western Basin and show signs of both bacterial and fungal growth.

However, the die-off is a normal part of the post-spawning condition of young walleye, says Kevin Kayle, manager of the Wildlife Division's Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.

"When people see dead walleye they push the panic button," Kayle says. "But we've had our people look at the situation and they've determined it's not a major event."

Kayle says that the number of dead walleye totals only a couple to a few thousand fish.

Most likely these fish had just undergone either their first or second spawning season and were thus under stress, Kayle says.

Coupled with a severe winter the fish simply were overwhelmed environmentally, Kayle says.

"They also appeared to have been dead a while and many are just now coming to the surface," he said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, May 12, 2011

New Wildlife chief may be named Friday

On Friday one individual will likely see a career-changing opportunity.

Or - given the low morale seen with the Ohio Division of Wildlife along with confronting belt-squeezing state budget - more of a curse than a blessing.

Regardless, it is being said that David Musting will announce his selection as the new chief of the Wildlife Division.

Mustine is the director of the parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The Natural Resources Department has looked both internally and externally at potential candidates for the chief's job.

Whether the director will cling to tradition and pick acting Wildlife Division chief Vicki Mountz or the agency's fish management administrator Ray Petering is one of the several unanswered questions regarding the much-anticipated selection.

Among other candidates is at least one former Ohio state representatives with a long history of conservation and wildlife activities both in the public and private sectors.

The state's outdoors media will also have an opportunity to examine Mustine's choice on Saturday. That is, if the director makes his pick known the day before. If he doesn't then the outdoors media will use part of their annual conference to inquire about the delay in naming a new chief.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sometimes a gobbler can come too close

With first a deep sucking in of air and followed by a cheek-puffing exhale, I expressed my supreme disappointment.

This is why, I told myself as a reminder, I hunt turkeys from a blind instead of “gun and run.” My ears have gone kaput and I am unable to hear in stereo with no ability at all to detect sounds in the right ear.

Of course, when you’re after a gobbler having an ability to master the direction from which the tom is coming is close to mandatory. Consider myself thoroughly handicapped in that regard.

Which explains in part why for the past two spring turkey seasons I’ve spent a good portion of my hunting time sequestered in a pop-up blind.

Yet that tactic has not gone well this season any more than it did during the 2010 spring season. Try as hard as I could I just could not talk the turkey talk to even a few semi-interested gobblers.

That all changed this morning. Switching gears and changing locations, I figured that the two might make a difference. With only five days left in the four-week-long spring season I really didn’t have much to lose.

Not counting my ego and hunting pride, of course.

So I visited a small plot of land I have written permission to hunt on and hard pressed to the Grand River in Ashtabula County.

In fact, I have sole permission though you could not tell that from the boot tracks left in the muddy, winding trace through the woods.

My concern was that someone has gotten a jump on me. Those fears heightened the further along the narrow foot path I traveled. Repeated - but still delicate - yelps, clucks and purrs from my mouth call did nothing except break the silence.

Skirting a ravine that breaks toward the Grand River, I clamored over a tree that had fallen across the path. Here, stretching before me was one of the prettiest glades of tall trees imaginable. Included was a carpet of giant white trilliums with a peppering of their red brethren; wake robins.

I called again and immediately received a reply. That got my juices flowing.
Scrambling to dig out my other two calls, I also opened a hinged, low-boy hunting seat with the intent of a comfortable sit.

Placing a face mask above my nose and adjusting the cap’s bill to shield me even more, I took a deep breath and began to call.

Ever so slowly the gobbler would sound, each time his notes appearing closer.

With a large tree as my back rest I was able to comfortably point my shotgun toward the ravine and the rest of the trail as it snaked to wherever it went.

I thought for sure this would be the direction the turkey would come. But my ears were telling a different tale. More to the left, they said, the left ear enhanced by a digital sound enhancer/shotgun blast reducer.

So I slowly arched about 45 degrees to port, facing the forest’s wide girth.

Calling only sparingly I wanted to entice the tom and not appear overly eager. That worked like a charm. Problem was, it worked too well.

“Nuts,” my mind whispered to itself.

There - way to the right - appeared the neck and head of a gobbler, all of maybe 30 feet away. It had just inched over the ravine’s top knot.

Had I remained in my initial position my general firing direction would have presented a true course to the turkey. But would haves, could haves, and should haves don’t put a turkey in the freezer for Thanksgiving.

The turkey - along with a hen - took note of the danger and skedaddled down the ravine and up the other side, taking wing once they were a good 50-60 yards away.

All I could do, of course, was curse my luck, suck in air and exchange it for another fresh gulp.

Oh, I’ll be back tomorrow morning, you can be sure of that. At least as long as I don’t hear any thunder or see any streaks of lightening.

It was all so very close today and I reckon that at some point it will be closer still. Maybe around daylight tomorrow.

Visit The News-Herald’s main page and videos for a visual and audio wrap-up of this frustrating day of spring turkey hunting.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interviews still on-going for Wildlife Division chief's job

Some had thought that the Kasich Administration would have named a new chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife by April's end.

That month has come and gone and the calendar is one-third of the way through May.

However, the Natural Resources Department continues to interview candidates for the position, though it is believed the finalists are now down to five or six individuals.

Among those said to still be in contention are the Wildlife Division's acting chief Vicki Mountz and its fisheries administrator Ray Petering.

Another said candidate is former Ohio State Rep and mayor of Gahanna, James McGregor, sources say.

McGregor has prior natural resources experience, including with the ODNR where he held a top post with the now-endangered Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves and also with a private conservation group.

It is being suggested also that the Kasich Administration is keen on the idea of hiring from without the ODNR in an effort to "shake things up" within the Wildlife Division.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Seeking the seemingly unattainable in turkey hunting

It was a fine morning for turkey hunting, even a very good one.

On a scale of 1 to 10 I’d give it a solid “8,” maybe a shade under a “9.”

But not a “10.” That’s perfection. And the last time I achieved perfection as far as turkey hunting is concerned was at least two years ago, maybe three. I’m not sure.

The only thing I am certain of is how much more difficult the turkey hunting’s become for me, and I have no clue to understanding why, either.

Problem is, the Ashtabula County woodlot that was so darn dependable for years has gone dry. Clearly, I’m neither hearing anywhere close to the number of birds that I did four or five years past.

Nor am I seeing many turkeys here swoop down from their roost trees just before daylight arrives.

Oh, I’ve tried visiting a few other plots; sometimes with a hunting companion and sometimes alone. We’ve heard an occasional gobble or watched an odd tom or two sail out of their roost trees, though it’s all been few and far between.

By all accounts this morning was ripe with promise, however. The skies were fair and the weather followed the passing of a cold front that saw rain the day before.

Tempering was the wind, too, and that always helps in turkey hunting.

Best of all the night before saw the roosting of two gobblers, noisy fellows who crowed their superiority before settling in for the night. Few things beat roosting gobblers to assure a good chance of calling them in the following morning.

Not these two gentlemen; not this morning anyway. They voiced their supremacy while still on the roost and then shut up when they came to earth. Compounding matters, the toms wandered off elsewhere.

Sure, I enjoy the extra fruits of a good morning as well as any hunter. This year I’ve had the honor of greeting any number of pileated woodpeckers - more than I’ve seen in decades.

And I was thrilled to have captured the glory of north-bound warblers and was equally pleased to watch a pair of wood ducks scout out potential tree denning sites.

Those perks are the icing on the cake, though. At least for those turkey hunters like myself who are experiencing a protracted string of bad luck.

I guess what I’m going to do is give the turkey hunting a few days rest. As nasty as the weather’s been and as poor as the water conditions remain, there are still fish to be had, and had them I will try.

Maybe that’s the best way to get through the remainder of this spring’s turkey hunting season. At this point I’m willing to try anything that’s legal. If that means a short time out at the tail end of the season, so be it.

I’d just like a few answers as to whether I’ve unintentionally walked underneath a ladder or crossed paths with a black cat. All I know is that this can’t continue.

Not when May has so many other possibilities.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ODNR blocks access to Tuesday's "Brown County Five" Blog item

A body can’t help but wonder just how paranoid is this Administration and its hand-picked crew over at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Yesterday - Tuesday - I filed an straight-up-and-down Outdoors Blog news item on the on-going legal issues involving the five current and retired Ohio Division of Wildlife officials who are under felony indictment by Brown County Prosecutor Jessica A. Little.

It’s not an opinion piece since I have none and refuse to express one until (even if then) the matter is finally resolved in the courts.

But you’d have thought I had touched an electrified third rail.

An agency official attempted to access the Blog site to read the story.

However, that person’s efforts were rewarded with an ODNR message that it was blocking access to the story. The ODNR block is directed specifically at my so-named "Brown County Five" matter blog item.

While this episode may be good for a chuckle, it also sends a chilling reminder that this is a team that appears willing to go to extremes to control its message. Whatever that message may be.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Brown County Five" case becomes more complex

The matter involving the so-called “Brown County Five” has taken another legal turn.

Ohio’s powerful law enforcement union has weighed in to support the defendants, who consist of current and now-retired Ohio Division of Wildlife officials. The officials include now-retired agency chief David Graham; now-retired assistant chief Randy Miller; current agency law enforcement administrator, James Lehman; its human resources manager, Michelle Ward-Tackett; and the Wildlife Division’s District Five (southwest Ohio) director, Todd Haines.

These officials were charged over one year ago with two felony counts each in a matter related to the conduct and subsequent punishment of Allan Wright, state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County.

At issue remains whether the defendants properly disciplined Wright by doing so administratively instead of - as charged by Brown County Prosecutor Jessica A. Little - criminally.

The matter went to the Brown County Common Pleas Court when in September the defendants won a favorable legal technical point before the court’s judge, Scott T. Gusweiler.

However, Little indicated her intent to file an appeal before the state’s 12th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. This she has done.
Which triggered a response from not only the defense attorneys but also from the Fraternal Order of Police - the FOP - and one of Ohio’s most influential unions.

“All of the briefing is finished so what we are waiting for is the court to set a date for oral arguments. All of the parties have requested oral arguments,” Little said today.

While not totally unheard of, oral arguments are a lesser-used appellate tactic, Little said.

“I wasn’t going to request oral arguments but the other side did so I didn’t want to be left out. I would have been happy to just submit it on brief,” Little said.
Little said also that she filed her initial brief before the Appeals Court on March 10. This action was followed by the defense’s written arguments being filed April 22: The same date that the FOP submitted its Friend of the Court brief in support of the defendants, Little said.

In turn, Little had an opportunity to score a rebuttal, which she did on Monday.

“It will probably be a couple of months before they (oral arguments) are heard, but that’s just a guess and I have no idea,” Little said.

Though the case is now over one year old, it’s longevity does not come as a complete surprise to Little, she said.

“What I didn’t anticipate (was) that it would be this complicated but it is what it is. There is a great deal of interest in this,” Little said. “Obviously, the more parties that are involved the more complicated and longer the case is.”

In another, tongue-in-grove matter, Little said today that she has not heard of any activity regarding any possible, second, special investigation as it relates to Wright.

Last year Little appointed as special prosecutor the now-Adams County prosecutor David Kelly. Subsequently, Kelly dropped charges against Wright and stated that he intended to perform his own independent investigation.

But Kelly has not informed Little of whatever action he has, or is currently, undertaking, Little said.

And Kelly has not returned a series of telephone calls that sought an update as to the status of his efforts, if any.

Wright has been reinstated to his position as the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County where he continues to perform his duties.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Public lands vital for wild fowl survival

Don't let any Tea Party fanatic or anti-government zealot say that public ownership of land is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Far from it, in fact.

Public lands - be they federal or state - are critical for bird species survival. Then again, so too are the properties owned by such agencies as Cleveland Metroparks, the Geauga Parks District and Lake Metroparks.

Toss in such locally owned lands as Mentor's Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve and those lands owned by the Holden Arboretum and you have the makings of not only birthing centers for baby birds but also important rest stops and wintering homes for migrating bird species.

This is the word from a group of concerned conservationists. Their official pronouncement came acroos as thus:

"A coalition of groups coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and including American Bird Conservancy (ABC) today released the 2011 State of the Birds Report, which finds that public lands provide essential habitat for the survival of hundreds of bird species. More than 300 of the 800 bird species inhabiting the United States have at least 50% of their distribution on public lands and waters. These findings underscore the importance of a number of pending policy and spending decisions affecting public lands that the Obama Administration is now weighing, and which could have far-reaching effects on bird populations.

“State of the Birds 2011 reveals the benefits of conserving public lands and the importance of how these lands are managed. The Administration now has multiple opportunities to conserve bird populations by promoting bird-smart land management policies and prioritizing spending,” said Steve Holmer, Senior Policy Advisor for American Bird Conservancy.

“Protecting birds and their habitats also protects recreational opportunities, clean water supplies, and many fundamental ecosystem services such as pest control and crop pollination that people often take for granted.”

“The State of the Birds Report describing the importance of public lands to our birds comes at a time of tremendous budgetary challenges and underscores the importance of maintaining support for the management of our precious public lands,” said George Wallace, Vice President of American Bird Conservancy.

“For example, in the state of Hawai'i and in the U.S. Pacific island territories, some of the country’s most imperiled bird species depend almost exclusively on public lands managed by federal, state, and territorial agencies. Especially in Hawai'i, it is an ongoing challenge to ensure that management of extensive public lands is focused on the conservation of unique bird species in imminent danger of extinction.”

Tough to argue with these thoughts, though you can expect to here "foul" from the people who don't give a hoot about owls, bluebirds or robins, let alone falcons, eagles, cranes and other avian species.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Saturday's Jay, Michelle Reda benefit draws more than 1,000

It was amazing event for an amazing man - and and equally amazing woman.

While Saturday's fund-raiser in Eastlake for Reno "Jay" Reda and his wife Michelle was supposed to have cut off at the 800 registered guests and additional 500 people reportedly showed up.

Regardless of the official head count the party at the Croatian Lodge ran for more than six hours. Literally hundreds of items were available under live auctions, silent auctions and Chinese auctions.

The proceeds are intended to help pay for Jay Reda's cancer-fighting treatment. Jay's been diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer and his original troupe of doctors had given him just six months to live.

But the Reda's found an experimental program at Ohio State University and Jay was able to become enrolled in the expensive project, one that health insurance companies are not so inclined to fund.

Making matters even more complicated Michelle has undergone treatment for cancer as well. Her efforts appear to be paying off with conventional therapies.

To aid the Reda family in its life-threating ordeal, a group of their friends came together and determined to raise funds; an enabling that resulted in Saturday's outpouring of financial and humanitarian support.

All of which touched both Jay and Michelle.

"This is phenomenal; it's a tremendous show of love," said a teary-eyed Jay Reda.

Michelle echoed her husband's assessment when she said that the massive turn-out and the wall-to-wall donated items used as fund-raising tools was "absolutely amazing."

"Wow," was about all that Michelle could say.

The several hundred-strong extended Reda family took it all in stride on Saturday, noting that Jay's and Michelle's community-minded spirit and works deserved a rightful interest payment on the couple's deposit.

"Jay's touched and helped a lot of people from working with kids, his help with the Women in the Outdoors and his work at the Geauga County Fair," said Renee O'Brotka, a National Wild Turkey Federation WIO official

Having retired from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife, Jay Reda had developed many friendships with fellow officers, biologists and wildlife area technicians.

And many of these former co-workers never wavered in donating items for the auction and raffles. Likewise - and perhaps more importantly - they yielded their time to attend to the fund-raiser's many needs when they could have been out turkey hunting, enjoying a seemingly rare sunny Saturday or perhaps catching up on agency issues.

"I've known Jay for at least 20 years and this gathering is a celebration of all that he's done. To see it all come back as this, it's unbelievable," said Dennis Malloy, a former Wildlife Division officer and now an official with Whitetails Unlimited "We should all be so blessed."

Scott Denamen, the current state wildlife assigned to Geauga County, said Jay Reda left such an imprint on sportsmen and residents of that county filling his shoes has proven all but impossible.

"People still ask about Jay and some of them don't even know that's he been gone as their wildlife officer for 10 years," Denamen said. "Jay's certainly left a legacy in Geauga County."

And now the Reda's are facing the highest hill they've ever met. But with prayer, Jay Reda says, and the support of hundreds of friends it's a battle the couple say they are up to fighting together.

"I absolutely refuse to quit," Jay Reda said. "It's not over."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn