Friday, December 27, 2013

New Ohio muzzle-loading deer season record harvest possible

With one week and one day to go before the start of Ohio's four-day muzzle-loading deer-hunting season the state's white-tail harvest is 12 percent behind where it was at this time last year.

Yet Ohio Division of Wildlife officials anticipate that black-powder hunters will make up a lot of ground when that season begins next Saturday, January 4.

The to-date deer harvest as of Dec. 24 – or 87 days into the all-seasons' total – stands at 165,820 animals.

When stacked up to the same 8-day, to-date total in 2012 of 188,409 deer, hunters are off the mark by 22,589 animals, or 12 percent.

Only eight of Ohio's 88 counties show gains in the kill with nearly all of these counties typically being located at the back of the deer-harvest pack. Exceptions include Ashtabula County (the to-date harvest here being up 2.73 percent) and Trumbull County (the to-date harvest here being up 4.81 percent).

Still down are the traditional go-to deer-hunting counties in southeast and southwest Ohio.

Such counties as Guernsey, Muskingum, Licking and Tuscarawas are down 12.4 percent, 12.99 percent, 18.04 percent, and 15.24 percent, respectively.

However, no need exists just yet to panic and in the process jettison the Wildlife Division's current deer management strategy, says the agency's chief white-tail biologist.

If anything a good recovery is very likely following the four-day muzzle-loading season as hunters recharge each county's deer harvest figures, says Mike Tonkovich.

“If we see snow on the ground and reasonably cold temperatures I would not be at all surprised to see a new muzzle-loading season harvest record set,” says Tonkovich, the Wildlife Division's deer management administrator.

That muzzle-loading season harvest record, by the way, now sits at 25,006 deer, established in 2009. Last year's four-day muzzle-loading deer-hunting season tally was 21,555 animals.

In the upcoming season's favor, says Tonkovich, is that Ohio did not have a two-day so-called “bonus” weekend-only firearms deer hunt in the middle of December.

Thus the deer will have gone through five or so weeks of relatively undisturbed conditions, says Tonkovich.

“Part of the means is we'll likely see pretty good hunting pressure,” Tonkovich says. “This muzzle-loading season could see upwards of 250,000 participants.”

And hunting pressure as often as not translates into deer being spooked out of their hiding holes where they become more vulnerable to hunters looking to finish topping off their freezers with venison, says Tonkovich.

“There's a lot more 'Hail Mary' effort during the muzzle-loading season,” Tonkovich said with a chuckle.

Bundle everything together then and almost certainly the rules that hunters encountered – excuse me, are encountering – this season will apply to the 2014-2015 Ohio deer-hunting season as well, says Tonkovich.

Consequently hunters who were less than thrilled with Ohio's first-ever two-day antlerless-only/muzzle-loading deer-hunting season in October again will grumble come October 2014. And perhaps even 2015, says Tonkovch.

“We're not going anywhere for the next couple of years,” Tonkovch says. “We will be looking at a couple of things (for the 2014-2015 season) but there won't be any surprises.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Venison donations for Ohio's Feeding the Hungry program off by six tons

With a nearly to-date six-ton shortfall in donated deer, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is encouraging the state's sportsmen to participate in the annul Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program.

So far the program has seen 1,170 deer donated with a total processed weight of 58,500 pounds of venison.

Similar to-date totals last year included 70,250 pounds of processed venison while the all-season's contribution amounted to 104,400 pounds of venison.

Vicki Ervin, Wildlife Division spokeswoman, says donations are down from 2012, not only in Ohio but across the country.

“No one is sure why, either,” says Ervin.

Obviously Ohio's deer hunters have some ground to make up. Which is possible given that the remainder of Ohio's lengthy archery deer hunting season - which runs through Feb. 2 this year – as well as the statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season - set for Jan. 4 through 7 – are still in play.

Each contributed deer provides about 60 pounds of venison which offers around 200 meals, also says the Wildlife Division.

The program is national in scope but is run and coordinated by chapters within each states.

Ohio ranks fifth nationally in venison donations and has 33 Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry chapter coordinators. Each of these chapter go-to volunteer program managers work with a total 77 venison processors located across the state, typically butcher shops.

Ohio's involvement with the program began four or five years ago, Ervin says also, with the plan's floor plan calling for each chapter to work out the details themselves but within a general set of guidelines.

That locally run action plan includes rounding up processors, working out an agreed-upon processing price and then figuring out which food bank or food banks will become venison recipients.

“Some chapters are single county while others handle multiple counties,” Ervin says. “And the chapters themselves hold fund-raisers to help defray the expenses though many processors donate their services.”

Ervin says the current leading chapter is in northwest Ohio while a few chapters located in the the state's traditionally strong deer-hunting counties are not far behind.

“We always do well with (the latter) counties,” she said.

Also, says Ervin, the Safari Club International hosts ts own independent Sportsman Against Hunger as does Whtetails Unlimited.

And some counties have seperately run venison/food bank drives. This is the case in Lake County where Mentor butcher Joe O'Donnell accepts deer for processing at his Leroy Township business for later delivery to any number of local food banks.

Regardless of which venue a hunter chooses the processed venison is much-needed as well as much-appreciated, Ervin says.

“There's still plenty of time to harvest a deer and to donate it to one of these programs,” Ervin says. “We encourage hunters to spread the word and to make a donation.”

For further information about the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program, visiting the organization at

Meanwhile, the Safari Club's approach is available for review at and that for Whitetals Unlimted can be accessed at

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ohio's to-date deer harvest down 12-plus percent

The latest to-date deer-harvest totals for Ohio continue to demonstrate that either the state's white-tails are giving hunters the slip or else there simply aren't as many animals.

As of December 18 and for the first 81 days of deer hunting activity, the Ohio Division of Wildlife reports a harvest of 164,897 animals. That figure represents slightly more than a 12-percent decline for the same 2012 81-day harvest figure of 187,537 deer.

Broken down, the to-date antlered deer harvest is down 13.85 percent while the to-date antlerless deer harvest is down just shy of 11 percent.

However – and maybe this is a bit interesting – the to-date archery-only harvest for antlered deer is actually up 2.38 percent.

Meanwhile, the to-date archery-only harvest of antlerless-only deer is off a statistically insignificant 0.56 percent.

Thus one could speculate that the early antlerless-only muzzle-loading season in October has not hampered the archery kill of either bucks or does.

In terms of county harvest, only nine of Ohio's 88 counties have registered to-date deer harvest gains.

Any number of Ohio's high-profile deer-hunting counties have experienced deep to-date deer-harvest declines, too.

Among them being Washington County (down 21.36 percent); Tuscarawas County (down 15.28 percent); Noble County (down 11.53 percent); Meigs County (down 14.09 percent); Muskingum County (12.82 percent); Harrison County (down 14.73 percent); Jackson County (down 18.91 percent); Jefferson County (down 21.03 percent); Licking County (down 18.03 percent); Adams County (down 6.42 percent); and Guernsey County (down 12.33 percent).

Up here in Northeast Ohio, Ashtabula County's to-date deer harvest is actually up: 2.72 percent along with Trumbull County whose to-date deer-harvest is up 4.3 percent, and Erie County which is up 15.93 percent.

Down, though, is the to-date deer harvest for Lake County (off 16.69 percent); Geauga County (off 9.01 percent); and Lorain County (off 2.57 percent).
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, December 20, 2013

Supportive Robertson family likely to pull plug on "Duck Dynasty"

Standing firmly behind the patriarch of the behemoth and successful "Duck Dynasty" franchise the Robertson family is ready to pull the plug on the enterprise.

On the parent "Duck Commander" web page the family provides a statement that includes an unqualified supportive backing for Phil Robertson whose "GQ" magazine negative comments about the gay lifestyle sent a maelstrom of protest.

So much so that the cable network announced it was suspending Phil Robertson's appearance on the mega-hit "Duck Dynasty" series after the all-ready taped next season appears starting in January.

That action by A&E touched off a backlash against the cable network with an on-line Facebook petition attracting the names of several hundred thousand supporters. None more important nor telling than the rest of the Robertson clan, which has taken to its web page to make a statement regarding the entire matter.

This is the family's statement as it appears on the Duck Commander's web page,

"We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support.  The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E's decision.

"We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word.

"While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible.

"Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself'.' ”

"Phil would never incite or encourage hate,

"We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right

"We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm.

"We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. 

"Again, thank you for your continued support of our family."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Everyone's still quaking about Robertson's anti-gay comments

Critics continue to sky-bust over negative comments about the gay lifestyle made by Duck Commander founder and “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson.

Yet Robertson has his supporters while several sponsors of the Robertson clan's waterfowling empire are largely keeping mum on the controversy.

The 67-year-old Robertson founded the still-family run Duck Commander duck call business in 1973, its home port being West Monroe, La.

Capitalizing on the business's success, Duck Commander branched out and entered the television circuit, first on an outdoors-related cable network and most lately with the A&E franchise.

With the latter “Duck Dynasty” has become a runaway hit, drawing more than 11.8 million viewers and its forth season premier becoming the most watched non-fiction series in cable television history.

However, in the most recent issue of “GQ” magazine, Robertson was interviewed and quoted as saying homosexuality is a sin; a position consistent with Robertson's Evangelical Christian beliefs.

For those not familiar with GQ magazine the publication's website says this about itself:

“GQ magazine is a men's magazine written for young professional men that combines style advice and smart editorial. For more than 50 years, GQ--previously known as Gentleman's Quarterly--has provided definitive coverage of style and culture of interest to the modern man.”

Gasping for air following Robertson's comments about homosexuality, A&E pulled the plug on the senior family member from appearing in future episodes. At least for the time being and not until after the next soon-to-be-seen episodes appear.

But even that could change when in the same GQ story also included controversial comments made by Robertson regarding his take on his relationship with blacks in the days before the civil rights era.

While both the gay community and some black leaders are calling for Robertson's head, he does have his supporters.

CBS News is reporting that more than one million people have indicated “like” on the newly generated “Boycott A&E until Phil Robertson is back on Duck Dynasty” Facebook page.

And at least one “Duck Dynasty” sponsor remains firmly committed to supporting Robertson.

Truck suspension manufacturer Skyjacker has been quoted as saying: "We are a Christian- based company and actively share our faith so standing with Phil Robertson is an easy choice for us."
Yet some other high-profile Duck Commander/Robertson family backers are hanging back.

Among them is Federal Cartridge Company which has had a long business relationship with Robertson and his Duck Commander company. At one point Robertson's image even appeared on every box of a particular non-toxic brand of the ammunition maker's shotshells.

Federal has not yet responded to an inquiry regarding Robertson's comments as it relates to the firm's relationship with the man.

Another major sponsor of Duck Commander and who utilizes Robertson's image is O.F. Mossberg and Sons.

Mossberg is a premier manufacturer of long guns, including – and maybe especially – shotguns used for hunting.

The company currently is heavily into promoting a new line of hunting shotguns along with rifles branded under the Duck Commander banner.

When asked about the flap regarding Robertson, a chef Mossberg spokeswoman replied that the company “has no plans to release a statement.”

All of which may prove moot anyway. The reason being that the next series of episodes has all ready been shot and scheduled to commence in January.

Only time will tell what the ultimate outcome will bring. That, and perhaps whether the protests and counter-protests will impact A&E as to how important “Duck Dynasty” is to the cable network's bottom line.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Open season on Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson for anti-gay remarks

This is the on-line story from the "Hollywood Reporter" regarding the firing by A&E of "Duck Dynasty's" founder Phil Robertson for his negative comments regarding homosexuality.

Robertson has defended before his Evangelical Christian beliefs regarding a blessing dinner prayer concluding each episode of the hit television series.

This is the Hollywood Reporter's story as it appears on-line:

"A&E has placed Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks he made in a recent profile in GQ.

"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty," A&E said in a statement.

"His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

The news comes after Robertson compared homosexuality to bestiality in an interview with the magazine. He'll likely appear in season four, which bows Jan. 15, since production is largely wrapped.

"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus," Robertson says in the January issue of the men's magazine.

"That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."

PHOTOS: 'Duck Dynasty,' Matthew McConaughey, 'Breaking Bad' and the Rule Breakers of 2013
During a discussion about repentance and God, Robertson is asked what he finds sinful.

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there," he says. "Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

He goes on to paraphrase Corinthians: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."

GLAAD on Wednesday condemned his remarks as "some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication" and said "his quote was littered with outdated stereotypes and blatant misinformation."

"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe," GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said.

"He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans -- and Americans -- who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors, who now need to re-examine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."

PHOTOS: 'Honey Boo Boo,' 'Duck Dynasty' and Cable's Blue Collar Boom

GLAAD responded to A&E's suspension, commending the network for its swift decision. "What's clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike," GLAAD's Cruz said late Wednesday

"By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."

Robertson released his own statement in response to the flap early Wednesday: "I myself am a product of the '60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior.

"My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.

However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other."

Duck Dynasty has become a breakout hit for A&E, regularly luring 9 million-plus viewers. The Robertson clan landed on The Hollywood Reporter magazine's 2013 Rule Breakers list, which hit newsstands Wednesday.

"Phil's son Willie Robertson, who is featured on the cover, tells THR of the show's success: "It's a combination of the faith, the positive and the family aspect … and it's funny."

Adds his brother Jase Robertson: "We're just kind of doing what we do, and people identify with that."

The Human Rights Campaign also slammed Robertson for his statements.

"Phil Robertson's remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations," president Chad Griffin said in a statement.

"We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful. We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule -- treating others with the respect and dignity you'd wish to be treated with.

"As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans -- not shame and ridicule them because of who they are. The A+E Network should take immediate action to condemn Phil Robertson's remarks and make clear they don't support his views."

Kimberly Nordyke contributed to this report.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wildlife Division's chief responds to Inspector General report

In a tersely worded document, Ohio Division of Wildlife chief Scott Zody spelled out the agency's reaction to last week's Ohio Inspector General's report on alleged charges that up to 18 current or retired law enforcement officers improperly or potentially illegally hunted deer while still on the clock.

As previously reported here, the Ohio Inspector General's office launched the investigation following a similar look at the activities of two Wildlife Division officers working out of southwest Ohio.

In those cases it was concluded that these two commissioner officers had hunted deer while at the same time completing documentation that they were working, thus violating agency policy and state law.

Going a step further the Inspector General wanted to know if these two cases were anomalies or part of a broader pattern of potentially unethical or illegal activity by other Wildlife Division employees.

While some of the documentation showed that a deer was taken while an individual was on duty other data did not support that occurrence, the report says.

Likewise, some officers later changed their time slips to reflect they were not on duty at the time they killed a deer, the report also says.

“As a result of previous investigations, it has been determined that many wildlife officers did not follow ODNR communication policy of marking on duty at the beginning of their shift, off duty at the end of their shift, or provide hourly updates of the their status.

“Also, the Ohio Division of Wildlife does not audit or compare the number of hours marked as being on duty,” said the report on page Five.

The officers whom the Ohio Inspector General alleges hunted or killed a deer either while on the clock or else made errors in accounting for their time include: David Gilkey; Brian Baker; Roy Rucker; Troy Reimund; Jeremy Carter; Ryan Garrison; Brian Bury; Brett Barnes; Travis Abele; Brad Baske; Joshua Zientek; Jeffrey Tipton; David Brown; Nicholas Turner; Matthew Smith; Brad Kiger; Scott Denamen; James Carnes.

In all, the report says, 11 of the officers “clearly harvested deer during their on-duty hours.”

And 12 officer harvested deer, “if they worked the number of hours they claimed,” says the report on pages 13 and 14.

“The total number of deer harvesting instances would be 23,” says the report also.

A second group, says the report, “did not follow the ODNR communication policy,” further citing that the agency is lax in its accounting of hours worked, when officers sign in and sign out.

“This lack of accountability and supervision along with the wildlife officers' compliance with the (ODNR's) communication policy is also an officer safety issue,” the report notes.
Here is the December 16 statement issued by Zody in response to the Inspector General's report:
As most of you are aware by now, on Friday afternoon (Dec. 13.-  ed) the Inspector General released a Report of Investigation alleging that 17 current and 1 retired Wildlife law enforcement personnel hunted deer while on duty during the 2009-2010 and/or the 2010-2011 deer hunting seasons.

Effective immediately, the officers in question were placed on restricted duty status.

This means that they will still be reporting to work, but in the interim will not be able to perform law enforcement duties until further notice and an internal investigation can be completed. At this point, it is unknown how long a period that may be.

We are taking steps to ensure that coverage for law enforcement can be maintained in the interim, with particular attention to the upcoming deer muzzleloader season in early January.

What does this mean?

At this point, it is important to remember that these are allegations, and each of the accused will receive their full due process rights that are afforded to them. At the conclusion of that, appropriate actions will be taken based upon the outcomes.

Since we became aware of the investigation proactive steps have already been taken, starting in 2012, to improve accountability and oversight for all Division employees and supervisors.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Chief Zody”
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, December 16, 2013

Geauga Park District and Lake Metroparks go loony to save ice-bound bird

The following press release is just too good to muck up by putting my two cents worth in by editing it pieces.

What it does show is the dedication of county park districts and their employees as well as cooperating with other like agencies to get a job done.

In this case it was coming to the rescue of a common loon that decided to stick around a small Northeast Ohio lake a little longer than appropriate.

The net result was, well, a net being needed to capture the loon before it became entrapped in ice.

Here's the release as provided by the Geauga Park District which includes the cooperation accorded by neighboring Lake Metroparks:

The loon was likely just stopping for a rest. What he got was a rescue by Geauga Park District's Senior Naturalist Dan Best.
Once airborne, the beautiful Common Loon can fly 70 miles per hour.
But because their legs are on the far backs of their bodies, making them good swimmers - and because they are heavy birds, the only birds around here with solid bones - loons need somewhere between 100 feet and a quarter mile, depending on the wind, to scramble along the water in order to take flight.
The lake at Walter C. Best Wildlife Preserve in Munson Township had been almost entirely water on Wednesday, December 11, according to a frequent dog walker there who took part in the rescue. But when the cold snap happened overnight, this loon found himself trapped in an oval of water roughly 6 feet by 8 feet, which was continuing to shrink by the hour.
Had it stayed there much longer, it would have perished either in the ice or on it. Unusual for this time of year, the bird was calling - a call for help, if any could come.

Thankfully Jerome Tvergyak of Geauga Park District's North Operations was enjoying the park, too, as he plowed the snow for walkers the morning of Thursday, December 12.
"Jerome always has a good eye for things, and it's not unusual for him to alert us naturalists to cool nature happenings he sees while he's working," Senior Naturalist Dan Best said. "He quickly sent an email to all the right people to try to stage an intervention."

While Chief Naturalist John Kolar and Field Naturalist Tami Gingrich brainstormed rescue techniques, Dan ran home nearby and returned with his canoe, ladders, a rope and a landing net.

But honestly, said John, it didn't look good for the loon: "The ice looked thick enough that it would be hard to break through with a boat, but thin enough that we couldn't walk on it. We were really doubting we could help the loon without putting human lives at risk."

To keep things safe, John recruited the Ranger Department, namely Rangers Jim Kailburn and Mike Benesh, to oversee. Among safety measures was a life jacket that would inflate only when it touched water, giving Dan a broader range of movement during the rescue.

Driving Dan's truck and the ranger vehicle close to a half mile onto the trail - what regular park visitors would call "across from the wildlife blind" - the rescue squad unloaded and set the canoe down on the ice.
Then, using his own weight, Dan scooted the canoe over the surface of the ice, slowly breaking what was ahead, for roughly 75 feet.

He tells it best: "I had my landing net ready to go, but I didn't just start making swings with the net. I let it keep coming up for air - it would take a breath of air and then go back down again, swimming under the ice."

Dan waited for the right opportunity roughly 15 minutes on the ice. "I was being coached from the sidelines, and they said 'scoot your canoe to cover part of the opening to make the opening even smaller.' So I did, and on my second try I got it."

A rope attached to the canoe for safety was used to pull Dan and the loon back to shore.
"We felt it was a well thought-out, safe operation that we did," John said. "So often when it comes to these situations it's not the best outcome for the bird.

Geauga Park District does not have wildlife rehabilitation facilities, so Dan took the loon for a check-up to the Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center at Lake Metroparks' Penitentiary Glen in Kirtland.

 "He was really tired," said Wildlife Center Manager Tammy O'Neil on Friday. "The edges of his wings were really cold, and he just didn't have a lot of energy. So we filled him up with some vitamins and fluids, heated him up, and today he's fighting us and calling and swimming around and looks great."

The plan was to release the loon at the Eastlake power point near the hot water discharge, fed by water used to cool the plant's giant electrical generators.

And that's just what happened Friday afternoon - the loon returned to nature. It all happened so quickly, photos taken of the release all turned out blurry. But just imagine the loon back in natural waters, catching up on its fishy diet, and there you have it: a success story, thanks to another partnership between your Geauga Park District and Lake Metroparks.
Visit Geauga Park District on Facebook to see pictures of the rescue at
Visit Geauga Park District on YouTube to see and hear the loon calling for help at
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, December 13, 2013

BREAKING & UPDATED: 18 Ohio wildlife officers under cloud for allegedly hunting while on the clock

In a scathing investigation that implicates 18 Ohio Division of Wildlife agent for hunting while on the clock, the Ohio Inspector General has issued a 20-page report on the alleged abuses.

Nearly two years ago the Ohio Inspector General investigated two Wildlife Division officers assigned to southwest Ohio. This investigation was launched to determined whether the law enforcement officers were hunting while on duty and if so, did they submit time slip reports in order to receive their pay.

When the investigation concluded that the two officers in fact had hunted while on duty and claimed the time both men were fired by the parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

However, in its 20-page report the Ohio Inspector General's office noted that it wanted to inquire further as to whether these two incidents were isolated or “were common occurrences in other parts of the state.”

In order to determine if this indeed was the case the Inspector General requested not only time slip records from the Wildlife Division but also deer harvest data. These two sets of documents were then compared, the report notes.

While some of the documentation showed that a deer was taken while an individual was on duty other data did not support that occurrence, the report says.

Likewise, some officers later changed their time slips to reflect they were not on duty at the time they killed a deer, the report also says.

“As a result of previous investigations, it has been determined that many wildlife officers did not follow ODNR communication policy of marking on duty at the beginning of their shift, off duty at the end of their shift, or provide hourly updates of the their status.

“Also, the Ohio Division of Wildlife does not audit or compare the number of hours marked as being on duty,” said the report on page Five.

The officers whom the Ohio Inspector General alleges hunted or killed a deer either while on the clock or else made errors in accounting for their time include: David Gilkey; Brian Baker; Roy Rucker; Troy Reimund; Jeremy Carter; Ryan Garrison; Brian Bury; Brett Barnes; Travis Abele; Brad Baske; Joshua Zientek; Jeffrey Tipton; David Brown; Nicholas Turner; Matthew Smith; Brad Kiger; Scott Denamen; James Carnes.

In all, the report says, 11 of the officers “clearly harvested deer during their on-duty hours.”

And 12 officer harvested deer, “if they worked the number of hours they claimed,” says the report on pages 13 and 14.

“The total number of deer harvesting instances would be 23,” says the report also.

A second group, says the report, “did not follow the ODNR communication policy,” further citing that the agency is lax in its accounting of hours worked, when officers sign in and sign out.

“This lack of accountability and supervision along with the wildlife officers' compliance with the (ODNR's) communication policy is also an officer safety issue,” the report notes.

As for recommendations the Ohio Inspector General lists three.

They include: reviews the actions of all employees to determine whether their conduct warrants further administrative action or training; review the Ohio Department of Administrative Services' time and attendance policy, and state of Ohio ethics laws with all personnel; and requires that supervisors audit work hours claimed by wildlife officers to assure accuracy and compliance with laws and policy.

The Natural Resources Department announced that all of the 18 officers were placed on administrative duties and assigned to their respective district offices.

Under such stipulations protocol typically includes the turning in of weaponry, motor vehicles and not permitted to engage in any law enforcement activity.

That last item could give the Wildlife Division at least a little heartburn.  Ohio is still in the midst of several hunting seasons, including waterfowl, archery deer as well as small game.

And the statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season is set for Jan. 4 through 7.

Thus, lacking 18 officers with law enforcement authority on top of any number of existing vacancies in staffing counties with an agent may very well spread thin the Wildlife Division's line against deer poaching during the muzzle-loading season.

Yet Ohio's Wildlife Division is not the only such agency experiencing accusations of wrong-doing by some of its employees.

Across the Ohio River in Kentucky that state's Inspector General found alleged improprieties with some Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources personnel as well.
Kentucky's Inspector General recently issued findings that allege some agency officials pulled strings to have free fish delivered to private ponds. That is something that most farm pond owners are ineligible to get.

The Kentucky Inspector General also alleges that another agency official ordered a number of state employees on state time and driving a state motor vehicle to pick up building material for a former head of the department, reports the Associated Press in Kentucky.

Read more here:

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Questions beg answers for this year's Ohio deer harvest

Ohio's chief deer management biologist admits the state currently has more questions than answers regarding this year's to-date white-tail harvest.

That being said, however, the objective of establishing a more stable deer herd appears on track, says the Ohio Division of Wildlife official.

Thus, the on-going effort to seek an overall reduction in the state's deer herd through a newly established county-by-county strategy is beginning to pay off, says Mike Tonkovich, the Wildlife Division's deer management administrator.

“It's been seven years of hard work,” Tonkovich says.

Much of what will accumulate in terms of deer harvest has all ready occurred, Tonkovich says, due to conclusion of the statewide general firearms deer-hunting season. This season wrapped up Sunday with a preliminary 75,408 deer killed, or a 13.29 percent decline from the 2012 firearms deer-hunting season kill of 86,963 deer.

Wildlife Division officials first forecast a firearms season deer kill of 80,000 to 90,000 animals, a bracket that was not achieved.

At this point Ohio hunters traditionally have taken around 75 percent of the all-seasons' kill of deer. What remains now is the statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season and set for January 4 through 7. Meanwhile, the statewide archery deer-hunting season extends through February 2.

No doubt, says Tonkovich, “there are fewer deer on the landscape.”

Which is a good thing, Tonkovich quickly added.

“We must thing positively,” he said.

Pluses include fewer deer damage complaints from farmers along with a shrinking number of deer-motor vehicle accidents, Tonkovich says, noting as well that any deer management plan must embrace strategies that take these matters to serious heart.

Likewise, says Tonkovich, the Wildlife Division is now striving to manage deer on a county-by-county basis rather than with a format that combines blocks of counties.

A boots-on-the-ground translation for such a management plan zeros in on the removal of fawn-producing does. So far this year Ohio's deer hunters have taken about 1.5 percent more of this white-tail segment than they did last year, Tonkovich says.

While that number may at first blush appear insignificant it is equally important to remember the new county-by-county strategy seeks a reduction in antlerless numbers as the best method of cutting back on the herd size.

Consequently, when asked if Ohio's deer hunters are killing off too many does Tonkovich quickly says “no” but follows up with a qualifying caveat.

“There's no blanket statement that can be made regarding whether we need to cut back on he doe harvest,” Tonkovich said.

The reason being is because while some counties may have achieved stability in herd size (which is probable) other counties still have a ways to go (which is likely), Tonkovich says.

No better illustration for this exists than in extreme Northeast Ohio.

Here, Ashtabula County gun hunters killed 2,334 deer during the seven day firearms season. That figure represents a 13.74 percent increase from its 2012 firearms deer-hunting season total of 2,052 animals.

Not lost either is that Ashtabula County's immediate neighbor to the south, Trumbull County, saw a rise in its firearms season kill as well though not by a similar double-digit figure. This gun season Trumbull County deer hunters killed 1,298 deer, a 4.93 increase from the county' 2012 gun season total of 1,237 animals.

If anything, says Tonkovich, even more antlerless deer need to be removed from these two counties.

“There's not much more we can throw at the them,” Tonkovich says as to the all ready liberalized ground rules for killing deer in Ashtabula and Trumbull counties. “But these two counties do have me scratching my head.”

And just as perplexing is the monstrously steep drop-off in the firearms deer-hunting season kill in Lake County, which abuts Ashtabula County.

Lake County deer hunters killed 126 deer during the just-concluded firearms deer-hunting season. That figure represents a humongous drop of 39.13 percent from its 2012 gun season kill of 207 animals. Only three other counties saw percentage drops greater than that experienced in Lake County.

Presently any number of as-yet unkown factors may be at play here, Tonkovich notes.

Among them is the abandonment of the previous Urban Deer-Hunting zones, one of which included all of Lake County. In these zones a hunter could use an antlerless-only permit throughout the entire year, a stipulation that was erased for this season, among other changes.

“That could be part of it but I don't want to overstate the case,” Tonkovich said.

Along these same lines Tonkovich noted declines in several other counties which also were enfolded into one of the state's several former Urban Deer zones.

Tonkovich pointed to Franklin County (Columbus) which saw its gun season deer harvest plummet 35.8 percent while Hamilton County's (Cincinnati) gun season harvest fell 17.21 percent.

Yet Tonkovich is reluctant to suggest any course correction for the 2014-15 deer-hunting season at this stage of the game.

Only when the final volley of muzzle-loading bullets are fired and the last of the arrows launched will he and the rest of the Wildlife Division's biologists have the necessary data to make recommendations.

For now, Ohio's deer hunters should dress warmly, check to ensure their required documentation is in order and head into the field and forest in search of the deer that got away during the gun season.

“The muzzle-loader season could be excellent or it could be a bust,” Tonkovich says. “It all depends on the weather.”

Plus the ability of the state's wildlife biologists to properly interpret the numbers and then crunch the data needed to best manage the state's deer herd for all interested parties.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn