Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wildlife Division-related loose ends

Some loose ends involving the Ohio Division of Wildlife that need wrapping up before the holiday weekend:

A pair of the state’s top wildlife biologists are moving up the chain of command.

Mike Tonkovich, the go-to point man on all things white-tail deer, will see his Ohio Division of Wildlife duties increases.

Under his new duty-expanding role, Tonkovich becomes the agency’s Deer Program Coordinator.

His more broad role will now include coordinating all aspects of the Wildlife Division’s deer management program, chairing a new deer management working group, develop a statewide deer management plan, establish new deer management units, and help establish deer population goals through a stakeholder-based process, as well as develop new strategies/programs to increase access for deer hunting on private lands in Ohio.

Also being promoted is wildlife biologist Dave Sherman who is being promoted to the position of the Wildlife Division’s wetland habitat coordinator.

This position has remained unfilled since 2009.

Sherman’s new duties will include working to implement the Wildlife Division’s wetland habitat tactical plan, provide technical guidance and planning assistance regarding wetland habitat projects to the agency’s five districts, coordinate statewide wetland habitat initiatives with Ducks Unlimited and other partners, serve as management board representative to the Upper Mississippi River/Great Lakes Joint Venture, and annually working with DU Canada to identify projects to spend Ohio wetland habitat stamp funds in Ontario.

Other Bits: In spite of rumors to the contrary, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division is not revising the methods for scheduling, documentation, etc.” for managing the agency’s field officers.

Instead, says a Natural Resources Department spokeswoman, the agency will simply reinforce “the process of approval up the chain of command and ensuring that our supervisors take responsibility for ensuring absolute accuracy.”

Also, sportsmen may note that the same of the wildlife officers assigned to each county are not listed in the current hunting law digest.

The reason is simple, says the Natural Resources Department.

With the recently graduating class of officers along with several switches to county assignments, there was not enough time to print a version with the correct assignments.

“We will resume including the names next year,” said Natural Resources Department spokeswoman, Bethany McCorkle.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Five letter-writing state wildlife officers punished for their actions

Discipline was metered out to the five Ohio Division of Wildlife officers who each sent letters last winter to a federal judge requesting that the jurist exercise compassion when he sentences a former colleague on federal wildlife law violations.

Determining that the officers’ personal letters to the judge “brought discredit to the agency,” the Ohio Department of Natural Resources delivered identical letters of reprimand to each of the five officers, said a Natural Resources Department official.

These letters will remain in the officers’ personal files for one year, after which the documents will be expunged, the official said as well.

The five officers given the letters of reprimand were Eric Lamb, state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County and who replaced Wright; James Carnes, state wildlife officer assigned to Highland County; Chris Gilkey, one-time state wildlife officer assigned to Adams County and now assigned to Meigs County; Rick Rogers, state wildlife officer assigned to Warren County; and Michael Ohlrich, state wildlife officer assigned to Clermont County.

Each officer was required to sign their respective document. And each of the five letters of reprimand were then witnessed by Thomas J. Donnelly, acting manager for the Wildlife Division’s District Four (southeast Ohio) office in Xenia.

The letters of reprimands also include a caveat that any future, similar, conduct will not be tolerated where “more severe discipline may be administered.”

The matter stemmed from the officers’ actions whereby they sent letters to Federal Court Judge Michael R. Barrett over a seven-day period in February.

Each wildlife officer requested of Barrett that he demonstrate leniency when sentencing Allan Wright, 45, the defrocked state wildlife officer who had been assigned to Brown County in southwest Ohio.

An internal investigation was launched once the letters of support became public knowledge.

At issue then was whether it was appropriate for the five officers to take it upon themselves to write letters on Wright’s behalf.

Along with this, was whether it was a breach of employee conduct to either identify that they had worked with Wright, were themselves a state wildlife officer, and with Ohlrich also using agency letterhead/stationary to make his plea to Barrett.

Wright pleaded guilty to violating the federal Lacey Act, the nation’s leading wildlife-protection law. He was sentenced July 17 by Barrett.

ODNR Notice of Written Reprimand

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Discovery of Asian carp eDNA in Sandusky Bay renews call for permanent barier

The discovery of Asian carp environmental DNA (eDNA) in the waters of Sandusky Bay and the Sandusky River has prompted at least one Ohio elected official to renew his call for a permanent barrier between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

Joining with their Michigan counterparts, officials with the Ohio Division of Wildlife said today that 150 water samples lifted from the Sandusky Bay and Sandusky River indicated that 20 of them have tested positive for the presence of silver carp eDNA.

The eDNA samples were collected as part of extensive sampling effort conducted earlier this summer for Asian carp in Sandusky Bay and Maumee Bay in western Lake Erie, said Rich Carter, the Wildlife Division’s Executive Administrator of Fish Management and Research.

However, says Carter, no Asian carp were found through intensive electro-fishing and test netting.

At present, eDNA evidence cannot verify whether live Asian carp are present, whether the eDNA may have come from a dead fish, or whether water containing Asian carp eDNA may have been transported from other sources such as bilge water, storm sewers or fish-eating birds, Carter says.

None of which is pleasing to the ears of Ohio’s senior U.S. Senator, Sherrod Brown.

Brown is pushing for a permanent hydrological separation as the best solution for keeping Asian carp out of Lake Erie.

“Though the summer boating and fishing season will come to an end soon, the threat of an Asian carp invasion still looms over Lake Erie,” Brown said.

Noting that an “invasion” by any of the various Asian carp species into the Great Lakes in general and Lake Erie in particular would become a serious blow to the region’s sport fishing industry, Brown all but wants to take hold of a welding torch himself and seal once and for all Chicago’s sanitary and transportation canal system.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must carefully study every option for permanently blocking this invasive species from entering the Great Lakes, including hydrologically separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River,” Brown says.

While Ohio and Michigan state officials aren’t prepared to pursue a declaration of war with either Illinois or Chicago, they will “continue to address the uncertainties about the status of Asian carp in Lake Erie,” Carter says.

Carter says as well that the Wildlife Division and its Michigan counterpart are analyzing whether or not any eDNA exists in Maumee Bay.

“This includes ramping up our search efforts for live fish or other sources of eDNA,” Carter said. “We will keep working with our angling public to be vigilant in watching for these species.”

“All parties continue to work together to assess the current status of bighead and silver carp within western Lake Erie bays and select tributaries,” Carter said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Monday, August 27, 2012

Don't take a pass on this New Mexico desert

LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO - For roughly 500 years the sky above to the earth below has shaped how Europeans use and live in this corner of the vast and imposing Chihuahuan Desert.

Indeed, for millennium before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th Century the forces of wind, brutalizing temperatures, generally poor soils and a dearth of rainfall molded how the indigenous people scratched out an existence with whatever resources they could plumb.

Yet even today people still manage to make do, in ever increasing numbers, too.

Then there are those folks just passing through on their way to better-known outdoors destinations in places likes Albuquerque or (worst of all if you’re a New Mexico patriot) Arizona.

However, they shouldn’t slide past New Mexico’s second most populous city as they zip along I-10 and I-25 at 75 mph.

For just on the cusp of the "City of  the Crosses” the wild things grow; all in spite of untold centuries of buzzing human activities.

“You know, it’s amazing that so many just use Las Cruces as an overnight stop. There really is a lot of things to do here,” said Ben Gabriel, New Mexico State University’s Outdoors Recreation Program administrator.

If anyone should know it is Gabriel. After completing his own college stint at Ohio University, Gabriel uprooted himself from his Zanesville home.

Gabriel would go and try his hand at white-water river rafting in east Tennessee. Somewhere along his own walkabout, Gabriel found the high-ground Chihuahuan Desert much to his liking.

This ecologically important sphere is a 140,000-square mile complex of sand, rock, mountains, depressions, flats, and even an odd river or two like the Rio Grande.

Oh, and it’s the Western Hemisphere’s third largest, too.

Among the desert’s mountain ranges are the Organs, so-named because of their geological resemblance to organ pipes that poke themselves up to a height of around 9,000 feet.

Don’t be fooled by the starkness of these bare-bone fingers of ancient rock, though. They may very well be the most botanically diverse range of mountains in all of New Mexico.

And there are lots and lots of mountain ranges in New Mexico, all of which are coinage for the greater sum of the Rocky Mountains.

“When I’m in town I can always tell where I am because I can look up and see these mountain spires,” said Gabriel. “But I can come up here and know that I’m on my own.”

Still, a person standing at the Dripping Springs Natural Area's visitors center can see Las Cruces oozing out from the desert plain 10 miles away, the park-like natural area sees fewer than 20,000 visitors annually.

A sliver of the BLM’s Organ and Franklin Mountains Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) Recreation Lands, Dripping Springs encompasses no actual set boundary dimensions though the larger area uncoils to 56,480 acres.

With over four miles of hiking trails of various lengths and challenges available, the one-half mile up-and-back La Chueva Rocks Trail was Gabriel’s choice for the day. This trek begins at the natural area’s visitors center, skirts the base of La Chueva Rocks and past Hermit’s Cave, finishing up at a picnic area.

Straddling the trail system is queue of endemic plant species that are the signature fauna for desert shrub and arroyo environs: Creosote, mesquite, desert willow, fish-hook barrel cactus, banana yucca, and plains prickly pear cactus, among others.

Gabriel also pointed out a trove of prickly pear cactus plants that had seen better days. It seems that an unseasonably long stretch of winter cold chilled the life out of the plants.

Then again, other cacti bore the worrying mark of the javelina, a largely nocturnal swine-like critter that harbors no qualms about eating plants bristling with thorns.

At least a few of the cactus plants welcomed the trail’s travelers with a showy display of colorful flowers. I know because I took the time to “ooh” and “aah” at flowers creeping out from between cactus thorns to others more delicate than a whisper.

Impacted with stenosis that has entwined my back and neck along with the stress of dealing with prostate cancer, I am more than always willing to slow my pace to a crawl.

Which, in the case of this hike, was a good thing. I could call a halt at any time during the hike’s progress, using the layover as an excuse to inspect something of interest.

My eye caught a flick of motion at the tidal edge of the trail and desert. Looking down I saw a New Mexico whiptail lizard. Further along the trail ran another jackrabbit-quick lizard, an animal that moved so swiftly that making a positive I.D. on the species was all but impossible.

Which also was a good thing, especially for the lizard.

“Roadrunners love to eat lizards; it’s their favorite food,” said Nancy Stotz, a volunteer birding guide for New Mexico’s 300-acre Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park.

This park teeters on the knife edge between populated Las Cruces and an agronomist’s brew of farming and ranching.

Along one side of the park slides the walnut-brown-colored Upper Rio Grande River which divides the U.S. from Mexico about 30 miles downstream.

Up here, however, the river has helped to create a lush serpentine oasis less than a rifle-shot in width. In fact, the word “bosque” means “riverside forest.”

Filled with all sorts of interesting stuff, the park is relatively new for the state. It was acquired through a series of hand-offs until its title finally docked in New Mexico’s land-holding vault. That was in 2008.

Another 600 acres are expected to fall into the park’s purview as well, opening up all kinds of opportunities to expand the unit’s current cache of 1 1/2 miles of graveled foot paths.

Here there are lots of arresting nature visuals. Gawk, if you like, at the park’s many diminutive Rufus hummingbirds. Then seek out the unit’s Gamble’s quail before moving on up the desert’s chain of command to include bobcats, coyotes and - yes - the ubiquitous greater roadrunner, a bird species that would much rather run than fly.

In all, more than 250 bird species are known to have visited Mesilla Valley at least once. That tally includes 60 year-round residents which share their narrow watershed neighborhood with a host of migrating distant avian kinfolk.

And one of those largely former visitors has now taken up residence in and around the park. The white-wing dove has made something of a name for itself, its population bursting at the seams in this valley.

Asked why the white-wing dove has found much to like about the Upper Rio Grande watershed, Stotz says it’s because of the area’s heavily irrigated and neatly maintained pecan groves.

It seems that white-wing doves enjoy feasting on pecans the way their long-since extinct cousin, the passenger pigeon, relished eating the mast produced in uber-abundance by the-then East’s seemingly endless forests of nut-bearing trees.

Of course, not all strangers are welcome. The salt cedar is one such thief, stealing nutrients and the valley’s incalculably valuable water.

Efforts are underway to engage the enemy in combat, however, Stotz says.

The attack plan calls for eradicating as much as possible the fast-growing cedar, an invasive pest that likes nothing more than to elbow out native plant species.

“It’s going to be a never-ending battle to keep salt cedar at bay,” Stotz says.

Being attached to the Upper Rio Grande’s hip has helped, Stotz says, allowing the state park to use the stream’s water “to our advantage, which is so important to wildlife.”

Important for wildlife, of course, but equally valuable to humans. Just not that many of the latter, though.

Fewer than 10,000 people visit the park annually, in spite of the fact that it belly-ups to Las Cruses and is an easy, short detour from the interstate system.

“It’s sort of a hidden treasure,” Stotz said.

Yep, and while the Spanish Conquistadors did not find much in the way of silver and gold here they did leave behind - naturally speaking, anyway - just too much of a good thing to leave behind in a car’s rearview mirror.

For further information about Dripping Springs Natural Area, visit the Bureau of Land Management web site at or call, 575-525-4300.

For information abut the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, visit its web site or call 575-523-4398.

For information about Las Cruces and its links to its various, related, associations, amenities, outdoors recreational opportunities, visit the Las Cruces Visitors and Convention Bureau’s web site at or call 575-541-2444.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Latest update on Warner/Roberts cases

The cases against two Ohio Division of Wildlife officers are following their respective - and expected - winding roads through the legal system.

Wildlife Division field supervisor David Warner appeared today in Brown County Common Pleas Court for a hearing.

That meeting was for an exchange of evidence discovery between the defense and Brown County Prosecutor Jessica Little, the court officer said.

Warner’s next court date is scheduled for 11 a.m., Sept. 19, a routine legal process, Little told The News-Herald.

And Matthew Roberts, state wildlife officer assigned to Clinton County, will have a hearing in the same court tomorrow (Wednesday) with almost certainly the same outcome expected.

Both men work out of the Wildlife Division’s District Five (southwest Ohio) office in Xenia.

Warner and Roberts were indicted in the Brown County Court of Common Pleas for theft in office, a fifth degree felony, and tampering with records, a third degree felony.

Warner was also indicted for dereliction of duty, a second degree misdemeanor.

A fifth degree felony is punishable by a jail term of six to 12 months, a maximum fine of $2,500 or both. A third degree Felony is punishable by a jail term of one to five years, a maximum fine of $10,000 or both.

A third degree misdemeanor is punishable by a jail term of not more than 60 days, a maximum fine of $500 or both.

The charges stem from the pair’s alleged activity of hunting while on duty, and for allegedly turning in bogus time slips that supposedly showed they were on duty when they were allegedly hunting with former state wildlife officer Allan Wright, who had been assigned to Brown County.

The indictments were handed down by Brown County Prosecutor Jessica Little. It was Little who in 2010 brought charges against five current or former Wildlife Division officers.

Wright has agreed to testify against Warner and Roberts in exchange for the reduced sentence he received after pleading guilty to violating the federal Lacey Act.

 Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Results available for Ohio controlled deer/waterfowl hunts

Okay, so it looks as if I'm going to have to be extra nice to my wife, Bev, for at least the next couple of months.
While my name was not drawn for any of Ohio's controlled deer or waterfowl hunts, Bev's name was selected: For the November 17 women's firearms deer-hunt at the Ravenna Arsenal training complex.
 A selected female can take either another woman or a man. Fortunately for me, Bev has said this is going to be a "date" for us.
And while Bev can shoot a deer of either sex the rules say that I can only shoot an antlerless animal. Works for me.
Anyway, to see if your name was selected for the annual lottery drawing for the controlled hunts, note the following that has been provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife:
 Ohio Lottery Results are now Available
Please visit to view the recently completed lottery results. Click on "Wild Ohio Customer Care Center", then click on "Manage Your Account".
After logging in, you can check the status of your lottery application.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twiter: @Fieldkorn

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wahoo-ee! Virginia Beach blue-water angling adventure

VIRGINIA BEACH - “Battle stations.”

That’s all Virginia outdoors writer and angler Charlie Coates needed to say.

It was also a tad obvious. The reason being, the skipper of the 57-foot, 30,000-pound “Waterman” had throttled back on the vessel’s 1,000-horsepower Caterpillar diesel engine after making a 2 1/2-hour run.

The “Waterman” was now 60-plus miles off the Virginia coastline, at the edge of the Continental Shelf where the Gulf Stream’s current cruises by on its way to the British Isles and beyond.

Underneath the boat was 25 fathoms of water, or in the Queen’s English; about 150 feet.

And just a few miles further east the depth plunges to the ink-black depth of around 1,000 fathoms. Again, in the Queen’s English, about 6,000 feet. It is here where the shelf just drops away into virtual nothingness.

Well, not entirely nothingness.

This is where a brew of cold Atlantic Ocean wrestles with the warmer Gulf Stream current, and where the edge of perpetual darkness slaps the face of the much shallower Continental Shelf.

Secure these conditions and you’ll knock on the door to a plethora of salt-water game fish species.

“We’ve got a really remarkable variety of fish out here,” said the “Waterman’s” first mate, Jason Carroll.

“There’s wahoo, dolphin (mahi-mahi), white marlin, blue marlin, shark; just a lot of different fish.”

And to catch this trove of creatures which are typically more great than small, Carroll and boat pilot Jimmy Grant work in smooth tandem.

While Grant steers the “Waterman” with one eye on the vessel’s array of electronics and the other for signs of surface fish activity, Carroll rigs the lines, maintains the outriggers and wraps dead ballyhoo baitfish unto the hooks.

Except for the super size-me dimensions of the boat and equipment, the fishing’s pretty much what any Lake Erie walleye troller could identify with as being held in common.

Of course, the water is salty and not fresh, the water’s depth drops to more than one mile, the Atlantic Ocean could swallow a whole bunch of Lake Eries, the gap between the coast and the fish-proving grounds is greater than the distance across Lake Erie, the fish are bigger and meaner and some can even bite back; so it’s sort of the same thing, only different.

“It’s been a really good season so far but every day you never know what you’re going to catch,” Carroll said as he made one of countless tackle adjustments. “At least we haven’t broken anything.”

Working in swells that topped out at eight feet or so the ocean was being stirred by winds of up to 30 knots; again in Queen’s English, around 35 mph, give or take a gale or two.

“It’s a good chop,” Carroll said.

We weren’t sure if Carroll was joking though he had earlier mumbled as to how the National Weather Service had gotten the forecast so wrong once more.

No matter, for between strikes from fish, the need to shoot a digital photograph or to jot down a worthy quote, Coates, fellow Ohio outdoors writer Paul Liikala of Cuyahoga Falls, and myself would relax in the “Waterman’s” opulent salon.

This specious cubicle of fiberglass is air-conditioned and some rather well-padded benches suitable for stretching out between innings. One almost hated to be stirred when some fishing needed our attention.

Almost, but not entirely.

At least twice lines were snatched, their tough 300-pound test shock leaders bitten through by what was believed to be from sailfish, or white marlin.

More than anything, the five-person ensemble was praying for a hook-up from a billfish/sailfish.

And most of all, a blue marlin, which can tip the scales at up to several hundred pounds. Even one-half a ton in some exceptional cases.


By mutual agreement I was elected to be the first to claim the fighting chair in order to worry a fish that would hung on to the bait. That will work, I figured, and it did, too.

Directed to sit, hold tight and not let go of the $2,000 worth of rod and reel, I manned my personal battle station.

The rod’s stout butt was pegged in the fighting chair’s central rod holder, giving me some leverage to work the fish.

“Keep the rod pointed in the direction of the fish,” yelled Grant from his second-story perch.

Then Carroll added to the instructions by saying “keep the line moving across the reel’s spool.”

Oops, forgetting that with such a massive reel that has no level wind mechanism, I could see that the 800 yards of 130-pound test plastic cord was bunching up in the spool’s center.

While an angler reels in line he (or she) must also at the same time manhandle the fishing line back and forth evenly across the spool. Otherwise, the line pinches itself between the spool and the reel proper, arresting any further retrieval.

Reel, pump, reel, pump; it was a bit of work, especially with orders being barked from all angles that were threatening to short-circuit my ability to process them all.

Finally, I was able to scroll the fishing line back onto the reel’s massive spool but only after the fish had several times ripped off more than I immediately could chew.

At that point Carroll reached over the boat’s transom, snatching with a massive gaff whatever I was fighting.

He then quickly but deftly deposited the catch onto the vessel’s deck.

Here the large (make that, very large) wahoo began its death dance, shimming around the fighting chair, sprouting a bloody trail as it slithered about the platform.

“Don’t get down!” I was ordered by more than one person.

No problem there as the wahoo looked dangerous enough from the safety of the fighting chair. The last thing I wanted was to test just how serious the creature was in desiring to do me harm.

The wahoo - all 39 pounds of it - was finally secured in the boat’s fish hold, which was filled with crushed ice.

Satisfied, I stepped out of the fighting chair and gave an ever-so-broad grin. Enough so that no one needed to say “congratulations.”

They knew, as I did, that the wahoo may very well have represented my first, last and only big-game, blue-water Bucket List adventure.

Yep, I’m more than sufficiently happy, especially now since there’s a whale amount of wahoo fillets occupying space in my freezer.

For information about fishing aboard the “Waterman,” call 757-753-3113; the Virginia Beach Fishing Center at 800-725-0509; and also the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-VA-BEACH. Also, visit, and

Virginia Beach is a popular tourism destination, including with visitors from Ohio which contribute large numbers of folk eager to sample the resort community’s many attractions, hotels, businesses and the like.
Including the not-as-well-known salt-water sport fisheries.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twiter: @Fieldkorn

EHD beginning to appear in Ohio

Ohio is beginning to see the arrival of the drought-driven Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) with 13 captively raised deer in Middlefield Township having recently died from the almost-always fatal disease.

Mike Tonkovich, the Ohio Division of Wildlife's deer management administrator, says that the Ohio Department of Agriculture has confirmed the 13 deaths from a herd of about 120 captively raised animals.

This herd is located in Geauga County's Middlefield Township.

It is the state's Agriculture Department which now administers captive deer-breeding operations.

What's more, says Tonkovich, a northern Portage County landowner has reported seeing several dead deer along the Upper Cuyahoga River, just downstream from Geauga County.

Other dead deer have been found along a water course in Monroe County as well, says Tonkovich.

"That would be a good indicator of the presence of EDH though not for certain," Tonkovich says. "We need a freshly dead deer to confirm this."

EHD is a typically fatal viral disease. It is found in wild ruminants like deer, causing extensive internal bleeding and is transmitted solely by a midge, a flying critter about the size of a course-ground black pepper flake.

A characteristic of the disease is its sudden onset. An infected deer loses its appetite and fear of humans, grows progressively weaker, salivates excessively, and finally become unconscious.

Due to an accompanying high fever, an infected deer is often found sick or dead along or in bodies of water. And it is here where the disease is carried by midges, super-tiny insects that need a blood host.

Importantly, however, biologists also say, there is no evidence that humans can contract the EHD virus.

The previous serious EHD outbreak that happened in Ohio were in 2005 and 2007, Tonkovich said in an earlier posting on the subject.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Walleye date night for Old Men and Liars Club

The meeting of the Old Men and Liars Club was called to order at 6 a.m. amongst the thunderous applause of, well, thunder.

Bright flashes of lightning played across the sky to the north, over Lake Erie, threatening the cancellation of the meeting. This in spite of the fact a quorum was present.

A roll call was requested and found to include long-time members Steve Pollick (recently retired), Paul Liikala (retired), Ed Moody (retired ages ago), Mike Mainhart (not officially retired but might as well be),  and the group’s underpaid, underappreciated, and still officially working, recording secretary.

All are likewise affiliated with outdoor writing, each perfecting their craft through expressions in one venue or another.

Joining the group was club initiate, Mark Winchell, the executive director of the Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The club had been called together to discuss the relative merits regarding the fine walleye fishing found off Geneva State Park. A fact-finding mission was therefore deemed necessary; Mainhart had said when he organized the meeting.

Reading of the minutes from the club’s last session was dispensed with since everyone other than the recording secretary wasn’t interested in them anyway.

To guide the troupe of Old Men and Liars Club members was John Gribble, owner/operator of DB Charters and a heralded Lake Erie charter skipper of some renown.

Gribble decided to pilot his Baha fishing boat north, hoping to get as far away from land as possible. In this case, not setting up until the vessel’s array of electronics displayed 70 feet of water and was marking clouds of colorful blips that would indicate schools of walleye.

Setting the planerboards and snapping fishing lines to them, Gribble ensured that each rig came complete with a Contender spoon. It was one of these very same spoons that foiled the new Ohio state-record brown trout, taken aboard Gribble’s boat last month.

“These are heavier than Stingers and come in only 10 colors,” Gribble said.

Gribble’s “dark days/dark lures, bright days/bright lures” mantra was on this meeting’s agenda, too.

Yet even before all of the lines were set the meeting was interrupted. One of the starboard side planerboard lines became unhitched and swung to the stern of the boat. Being the gracious and magnanimous gentlemen that they are, the club's members permitted plebe Winchell to winch in the day’s first fish.

A handsome walleye, the fish was deposited into the cooler with a little fanfare.

However, distracted by something or another, Liikala missed out on what species it was that Winchell had caught.

“Sheepshead,” Winchell said.

And with that, Winchell immediately qualified as a member of the Old Men and Liars Club.

Of course, truth-slaying is an art form that must have regular maintenance and honing. And no one is better at oiling and greasing the truth than is Liikala who took Winchell under his wing in order to fine-tune the latter’s fledging abilities.

Liikala also knows how to reel in a fish or two when given half a chance. And during this meeting Gribble ensured that each of the members had several chances.

When Liikala finally managed to recover a walleye a few kind remarks passed the lips of one or two members. Even so, those statements of encouragement  were drowned out by an even louder call for an authenticity check.

After all, membership in the Old Men and Liars Club requires truth-stretching as well as poking holes in everyone else’s ego. Otherwise a suspension in rights and privileges is required.

Gribble had his hands full, and not just baby-sitting a bunch of old geezers, either.

Lake Erie was rough, with seas swelling from around three feet to approaching four to six feet.

No way could Gribble turn the boat around in order to pilot the vessel back over the pods of walleye now receding in the distance.

“In the troughs the speed of the lures is about 2.2 to 2.4 miles per hour, which is optimum for walleye,” Gribble said. “On the peaks the speed is more like 2.8 miles per hour. Walleye don’t like that; they want consistency.”

Still, exceptions can prove the rule. And the rule was broken 15 times before Gribble said the winds and waves were at the point a decision was needed whether to continue or else end the meeting.

A vote was taken and the recording secretary’s “go for it” vote was overruled by the rest of the membership. Bunch of ‘fraidy cats, if you ask the recording secretary.

The boat trip back to the Geneva State Park marina was not a joy ride by any stretch. Waves repeatedly crashed over the vessel’s bow and washed its windscreen during the two-plus-hour return.

All the time the Old Men and Liars Club members were polishing their art. Not as outdoors writers, however, but as persons of some advanced age and of some advanced fibbing.

Back at port the (and only after the members had extracted themselves from the boat with some age-related difficulty) walleye were divvied up and placed in their respective coolers.

It had been a fine day. In fact, a great day. And not just about the fishing or the catching.

Once again the Old Men and Liars Club had met without any body blows being struck besides some hearty handshakes and back-slapping.

About the most serious injuries were to several overly sensitive egos.

But, when all things are considered, that’s really why the meetings are held in the first place.

Respectfully submitted,

Recording Secretary, Old Men and Liars Club.

P.S.: The membership was mindful that the last time it met the meeting took place aboard “Thumper,” a charter boat operated by Ron Johnson, who died of cancer a few months later. Fair skies and following seas, Captain Ron. The Old Men and Liars Club misses you.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wildlife chief says more officers' investigations are posible

Ohio Division of Wildlife Chief Scott Zody is expressing concern that more investigations into alleged misconduct by state wildlife officers may be forthcoming.

Zody made the remarks in an informal August 3 memo to a number of Ohio pro-sportsmen organizations.

The agency chief noted that Ground Zero for much of what has surfaced has originated in Wildlife District Five (southwest Ohio.)

Zody also reviewed some of the Wildlife Division's other activities, such as the appearance of Asian carp in the Ohio River and the status of this spring's wild turkey poult production.

Yet it is the matter of the affairs in Wildlife District Five that has garnered the most attention by sportsmen throughout the state.

Indicted July 19 were Wildlife Division field supervisor David Warner and Matthew Roberts, state wildlife officer assigned to Clinton County. Both men work out of the Wildlife Division’s District Five office in Xenia.

Warner and Roberts were indicted in the Brown County Court of Common Pleas for theft in office, a fifth degree felony, and tampering with records, a third degree felony. Warner was also indicted for dereliction of duty, a second degree misdemeanor.

The charges stem from the pair’s alleged activity of hunting while on duty, and for allegedly turning in bogus time slips that supposedly showed they were on duty when they were allegedly hunting with former state wildlife officer Allan Wright, who had been assigned to Brown County.

Both men pleaded not guilty this week with a second court hearing scheduled for each officer later this month.

Here is the full text of Chief Zody's August 3 comments:

"Guys –

"I hope this will be the beginning of regular updates that I provide to you.  It has been brought to my attention by a couple of folks that the Division (meaning me) needs to do a better job of communicating with our stakeholders and keeping you informed of happenings in Columbus and around the state.

"My apologies if I have not met your expectations in this regard, and I will do my best to rectify the situation moving forward.

"As you all probably are well aware, we continue to face internal challenges with a few staff, particularly in Southwest Ohio in District 5. 

"I have attached a copy of an email I sent out last week to the troops following the latest.  Not much more to say there other than the investigation continues and unfortunately there may be more to come.

"I do ask that you and your organizations continue to support our officers and staff in our efforts to stay focused on fulfilling our mission and restoring honor and integrity to the Division.  It will be a long road, but we will get there.

"Duck and Goose season regulations will be announced soon, but I can tell it is looking very positive for both this year.

"Turkey hatch is looking good, but we were expecting better – right now, according to surveys and observation reports, the average poult to hen ratio is 3-1.  Like I said, good, but expected better.

"Legislative activity has been slow with summer recess and this being an election year, but I do want to bring to your attention HB 575, which would require the Division to issue free hunting and fishing licenses to any honorably discharged veteran, regardless of disability status (currently we issue free licenses to permanently and totally disabled vets). 

"Our conservative estimate is that this legislation could result in a loss of revenue to the division of between $4-5 million per year.  Thanks to USSA and the League for their early opposition and contacts with legislators.

"The State Fair has been very successful this year with big crowds and lots of interaction with the public.  We have an internal team working on a Marketing Plan that we should have in draft form to roll out to our stakeholders for review and input later this year. 

"Your participation will be welcome and critical to our success.

"We continue to a see a lot of turnover in Senior positions due to retirement – John Daugherty in D-2, Mark Hemming in D-4, Roger Knight from Lake Erie, and Dave Scott is leaving to go to the USFWS in Minneapolis next month. Lots of big shoes to fill.

"Those are some of the hot topics right now – just wanted to try to give you a quick update.

"As always, anytime you have a question or concerns – DO NOT hesitate to call me.  Trust me, I would welcome it.

"Take care,

"Chief Z."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lake Metroparks picks controlled archery hunt participants, announces hunt changes

Lake Metroparks’ controlled archery deer hunt at its River Road property in Madison Township will this year feature fewer stands and hunters in an effort to increase the number of animals the agency wants to see taken.

While that course of action may seem to be a contradiction, it’s really not, says Tom Adair, Lake Metroparks’ natural resources manager.

“We decreased to number of stand sites from 10 to eight because we’ve increased the area that each existing site will have; we believe this will make it safer and more comfortable for the selected hunters by supplying them a larger area,” Adair said, who noted that last year hunters shot 15 deer.

Last year assigned hunters had to stay within 20 yards of their supplied ladder stand and game feeder.

New this year is that each selected hunter can place either a ground blind, a ladder stand or climbing stand within 50 yards of the agency-supplied feeder/two-person ladder stand site.

“We’re hopeful that this change will better enable the selected hunters to shoot deer, which is our ultimate goal,” Adair said.

In all, Lake Metroparks has selected 72 hunters who will participate in nine two-week segments and gleaned from a field of 312 applicants. This compares to the 90 hunters who were selected for the same nine, two-week period last year in which 412 people applied, Adair said also.

The listing of those persons selected is slated to be posted Friday, Aug. 10, on Lake Metroparks web site:, and then to the “wildlife management” link.

Removed were stands Number One and Number 7. The first stand was located at the eastern most portion of the 492-acre reserve. Meanwhile, stand Number 7 was situated about three-quarter of a mile west of the maintenance building complex.

“These stands were not very successful anyway, with only one deer being taken from stand Number 1 and no deer taken from stand Number 7,” Adair said. “Actually, stand Number 2 was the most successful with four deer having been taken there. This also is our handicap-accessible stand and might even be better because of the change.”

Other new rules include that hunters must shoot an antlerless deer before shooting a buck.

“We believe that based on the feedback from hunters that others were passing up on does, a change was warranted,” Adair said. “We’re hopeful that this change will reflect the need of reducing the deer numbers at River Road.”

The other significant change is allowing the selected hunter to choose a substitute to hunt in the selectee’s place.

That is, so long as the partner completes an application, pass the same proficiency test and attend one of the two required pre-hunt meetings, Adair said.

“There will be a sign-in sheet that everyone will be required to complete,” Adair said. “Our rangers will be patrolling to help ensure that hunters don’t abuse this privilege.”

The required pre-hunt meetings are set for 2 p.m., Sept. 16 for those assigned to groups 1 through 5, and 2 p.m., Nov. 11 for those hunters selected to participate in groups 6 through 9.

Also, this year the meetings will be held at the agency’s headquarters, Concord Woods Nature Park, 11211 Spear Road, Concord Township.

“After each meeting, participants will be allowed to access the River Road property so they can become familiar with their area,” Adair said.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Two indicted Wildlife Division officers plead not guilty as agency appoints new southwest law enforcement administrator

The two Ohio Division of Wildlife officers indicted last month on state felony charges have each pleaded not guilty to the charges in Brown County Court of Common Pleas.

Indicted July 19 were Wildlife Division field supervisor David Warner and Matthew Roberts, state wildlife officer assigned to Clinton County.

Both men work out of the Wildlife Division’s District Five (southwest Ohio) office in Xenia.

And it is this office which also saw the appointment last week of the Wildlife Division’s first-ever female law enforcement administrator.

Warner and Roberts were indicted in the Brown County Court of Common Pleas for theft in office, a fifth degree felony, and tampering with records, a third degree felony. Warner was also indicted for dereliction of duty, a second degree misdemeanor.

A fifth degree felony is punishable by a jail term of six to 12 months, a maximum fine of $2,500 or both. A third degree Felony is punishable by a jail term of one to five years, a maximum fine of $10,000 or both. A third degree misdemeanor is punishable by a jail term of not more than 60 days, a maximum fine of $500 or both.

The charges stem from the pair’s alleged activity of hunting while on duty, and for allegedly turning in bogus time slips that supposedly showed they were on duty when they were allegedly hunting with former state wildlife officer Allan Wright, who had been assigned to Brown County.

The indictments were handed down by Brown County Prosecutor Jessica Little. It was Little who in 2010 brought charges against five current or former Wildlife Division officers.

Wright was sentenced July 17 in federal court for violating the federal Lacey Act, and will be called by Little as a prosecution witness against Warner and Roberts.

For his part, Warner pleaded not guilty Aug. 1 and is being represented by attorney David P. Mesaros who also requested a pretrial conference. That meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., Aug. 21, according to Brown County Court of Common Pleas’ records.

Warner’s bond was posted at $20,000 but was released on his own recognizance.

Roberts entered his not guilty plea Monday and is represented by attorney Niroshan Wijesooriya. A second hearing for Roberts is set for 1 p.m., Aug. 22, said a court official.

The officer’s bond was set at $10,000 but Roberts was also released on his own recognizance.

In a related matter, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has appointed Michelle Welsh as the Law Enforcement Supervisor for the Wildlife Division’s District 5.

As such, Welch becomes the first-ever female appointed to a Wildlife Division law enforcement administrator position.

Welch began her career with the Natural Resources Department as an intern with the Division of Watercraft in early 2001. She then served as a seasonal Parks Division officer before becoming a Watercraft Division officer stationed in the Akron area in early 2002.

In Dec. 2002, Welch was accepted into the Wildlife Division’s Officers Academy.
Upon graduation, Welch was assigned to Clinton County in 2003. There she served for two years before being promoted to an agency Wildlife Investigator in 2005.

“Michelle has served with distinction in every position she had held with the Department, and we are pleased to have her leadership and integrity in District 5,” said Bethany McCorkle, the Natural Resources Department’s deputy director for communications.

“Michelle is also an avid and accomplished hunter and angler, and is an excellent ambassador for women in the outdoors.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Monday, August 6, 2012

Your house cat is a killer

Fluffy and Tabby may like to play with balls of yarn when they're in the house but once outside they return to their killer ways.

The American Bird Conservancy has repeatedly warned about the destruction nature of cats left or placed outdoors. Now the group has a new study to back up its claims. And this report received partial funding from the National Geographic Society and conducted by a well-known state university.

Here is the take by the Conservancy:

 Washington, D.C., August 6, 2012) A new study of house cats allowed to roam outdoors finds that nearly one-third succeeded in capturing and killing animals.

The cats, which wore special video cameras around their necks that recorded their outdoor activities, killed an average of 2.1 animals every week they were outside, but brought less than one of every four of their kills home.

Of particular interest, bird kills constituted about 13 percent of the total wildlife kills. Based on these results, American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society estimate that house cats kill far more than the previous estimate of a billion birds and other animals each year.

The study was carried out by scientists from the University of Georgia and the National Geographic Society's Crittercam program.

“The results were certainly surprising, if not startling,” said Kerrie Anne Loyd of the University of Georgia, who was the lead author of the study. “In Athens-Clarke County, we found that about 30 percent of the sampled cats were successful in capturing and killing prey, and that those cats averaged about one kill for every 17 hours outdoors or 2.1 kills per week.

It was also surprising to learn that cats only brought 23 percent of their kills back to a residence. We found that house cats will kill a wide variety of animals, including: lizards, voles, chipmunks, birds, frogs, and small snakes.”

Loyd and her colleagues attached small video cameras (dubbed Crittercams or KittyCams) to 60 outdoor house cats in the city of Athens Georgia, and recorded their outdoor activities during all four seasons. Loyd said the cats were outside for an average of 5-6 hours every day.

“If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds. Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, the only organization exclusively conserving birds throughout the Americas.

“I think it will be impossible to deny the ongoing slaughter of wildlife by outdoor cats given the videotape documentation and the scientific credibility that this study brings,” said Michael Hutchins, Executive Director/CEO of The Wildlife Society, the leading organization for wildlife professionals in the United States.

 “There is a huge environmental price that we are paying every single day that we turn our backs on our native wildlife in favor of protecting non-native predatory cats at all cost while ignoring the inconvenient truth about the mortality they inflict.”

Volunteer cat owners were recruited through advertisements in local newspapers, and all selected cats were given a free health screening. Each cat owner downloaded the footage from the camera at the end of each recording day.

The new study does not include the animals killed by feral cats that have no owners. A University of Nebraska study released last year found that feral cats were responsible for the extinction of 33 species of birds worldwide, that even well fed cats in so-called “managed” cat colonies will kill, that feral cats prey more on native wildlife than on other invasive creatures, and that most feral cats (between 62 and 80 percent) tested positive for toxoplasmosis (a disease with serious implications for pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems).

This study was collaboration between Kerrie Anne Loyd and Dr. Sonia Hernandez from the University of Georgia, and Greg Marshall, Kyler Abernathy, and Barrett Foster of National Geographic’s Remote Imaging Department and was funded in part by the Kenneth Scott Charitable Foundation.

View video and photos from the KittyCam at the University of Georgia's website.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

Friday, August 3, 2012

UPDATED: Ohio's Hocking Hills State Park named nation's "Best Campground."

Ohio can now boast of having the country's best campground, Hocking Hills State Park finishing ahead of such other go-to camping destinations as Yellowstone National Park.

The honor was awarded by, an Internet camping/hiking portal that features campground reviews, caving reviews, camping equipment reviews, and other related subjects. listed the 2,356-acre Hocking Hills State Park in southeast Ohio's Hocking County as the best of the best of 100 public and private campgrounds in the U.S.

Thus, Hocking Hills' camping features and amenities climbed over a host of national parks for the coveted Number One spot. Such national treasures as Yellowstone, Mt. Rainier, and  Glacier all ranked below Hocking Hills.

Specifically, Hocking Hills State Park has 156 campsites with electricity and 13 without, 40 deluxe cabins, three rental “camper cabins” with fewer amenities, nine hiking trails of various lengths and difficulties, two mountain bike trails, a dining lodge, along with five picnic areas.

Among the park’s famous features is Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave Gorge, several waterfalls while the 9,238-acre Hocking State Forest is adjacent to the park.

Also included in its Top 100 Campgrounds, listed Indian Lake State Park (Lakeview) in 42nd place, Paint Creek State Park (Hillsboro) in 44th place, and Tappan Lake (Cadiz/Deersville) in 45th place.

Tappan is owned and operated by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District while the other three locations are owned and operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Parks and Recreation.

"We've ranked the best places to camp in the United States using our unique campsite popularity algorithm that accounts for the average rating and number of reviews for a campground, the number of people who have camped or wish they could camp at that campground," says's web-site lead-in to its Top 100 Campground listing.

In describing its selection of Hocking Hills, is quoted by ( thusly:

"Located in the heart of Ohio's stunning Hocking Hills region, the campground beat out hundreds of camping sites across America, including the famed Yosemite National Park, which came in second, and Mt. Rainier National Park, which is ranked  Number 14.

" describes Hocking Hills State Park Campground as offering 'a variety of recreational opportunities in a splendid natural setting. Towering cliffs, waterfalls and deep hemlock-shaded gorges lure the hiker and naturalist and serve as a backdrop to popular facilities and accommodations.' "

No one agrees more with's assessment than does Ohio's Natural Resources Department.

 This award is no surprise; we've always known that Hocking Hills is the best campground in the nation," said James Zehringer, the Natural Resources Department's director. "I am proud of the dedicated men and women who work to make our state parks a national treasure. They have worked countless hours helping visitors and showcasing Ohio’s natural beauty."
 Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn