Bowing to at least some measure of political pressure, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is removing the flint from the state's muzzle-loading deer hunters.
Without even offering an opportunity for public vetting of the proposal, the Wildlife Division is on the fast track to add two days of firearms hunting immediately prior to the three-day statewide muzzle-loading season.
The latter will run Friday, Jan. 3 and Saturday, Jan. 4, while Sunday, Jan. 5 through Tuesday, Jan. 7 will be reserved exclusively for those hunters who use primitive weapons such as muzzle-loading rifles.
The net result is a major mid-course correction to the state's deer-hunting regulations, but taken without the usual series of open houses and public hearings designed to solicit the opinions and thoughts of hunters of all stripes.
Thus, and in effect, the Wildlife Division is saying that what the state's deer hunters think is of less importance than what the politicians say.
Calling the proposed – and all-but-certain – change a “blended gun/muzzle-loading season,” the Wildlife Division chief admitted during the teleconference there was “a little bit of political” pressure to stitch the previous two-day mid-December weekend firearms deer-hunting season to the inseam of the early January muzzle-loading season.
A little? Try a lot.
Among those politicians tightening the screws was state Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield.
Widener is a member of the state Senate's extremely powerful Ways and Means Committee, you know, the one that controls the government's purse strings.
And Widener even went so far as to send a letter to Zody, opining on the-then proposed deer-hunting regulation changes. Among Widener's protestations was the elimination of the two-day mid-December firearms deer-hunting season.
Somewhere along the enlightened path Zody saw the light. He then followed up by instructing his staff to reexamine the proposed (later approved) refined deer-hunting regulations to see if there is anything we want to adjust.”
And, low and behold, by golly, the staff found some. Among them were even a salient point or two brought forth by none other than state Sen. Chris Widener.
Did I mention Sen. Widener sits on the state Senate's Ways and Means Committee. I did? Just checking.
Even so, Zody insists he is not “giving first dibs” on the deer to gun hunters during his so-called “blended gun/muzzle-loading season.”
Zody also said – correctly though not very realistically or practically – that nothing precludes hunters from using their muzzle-loaders during the two days that shotgun and pistol deer hunters can be afield.
Which cuts against the grain of why the muzzle-loading season exists in the first place. That being, offering hunters who enjoy using single-shot, front-end-loading, smoke-belching equipment an opportunity to be afield on their own terms.
And – just as importantly – have a reasonable expectation of pursuing deer that have cooled down several weeks after being shot at by hunters carrying firearms that spew out up to three rounds as fast as they can operate a slide-action or squeeze a trigger.
Zody even went so far as to hint how the agency may take a look down the road of vaporizing the muzzle-loading-only January hunt altogether, allowing for the use of any legal firearms tender.
Among his concluding remarks Zody said this tempest in a powder horn may itself come under review next year when folks may say “the chief was an idiot” because his blended gun/muzzle-loading season was indeed a squib round.
I am afraid, Chief, more than a few people have already bestowed that honor upon you.
Jeffrey L. Frischkorn