Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ohio's deep freeze has winners and (mostly) losers

Ohio's four-day statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season has effectively been freeze-dried and broken in half.

After a surprisingly good first two days of classic winter deer-hunting weather the entire state is bracing for penetrating cold that will wave good-bye to zero on their way down, potential snowfalls that could build one to two feet, and near gale-force winds that will – at times – lead to potential wind chill values approaching minus-40 degrees.

That sort of weather will cause deer to lay-up and hunters to grumble as they clean and put away their muzzle-loading rifles for several more months.

Of course deer hunters are not the only sportsmen impacted by the go-for-the-juggler severe weather.

Northern Ohio waterfowlers will see the official end of their goose hunting tomorrow, Monday, January 6. And the conclusion of their duck hunting season in a few days.

If I may be so bold to say this to the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council: “I told you so.”

The council is the official (rubber) stamp of the Ohio Division of Wildlife's rule-making protocols.

For reasons that escape logic and common sense the eight members nodded “yes” when the agency's staff said it was a good idea to stagger the start of northern Ohio's goose and duck hunting seasons, and cause the goose season to shut down for a short spell when it not only failed the litmus test of rationality.

But the eight members even went further by pretty much clearing the calendar in November of duck hunting in northern Ohio.

Consequently in a very real and practical application northern Ohio duck hunters were left with a fraction of the days they were legally entitled to, as were the region's goose hunters.

So while Ohio prepares to do battle with some really nasty wintry weather the state's waterfowlers can only hope that next summer when the Ohio Wildlife Council's eight members mull establishing the duck and goose hunting seasons they'll recall just how much opportunity they frittered away.

Not everything is bad news about the unseasonably cold weather that has blanketed a good portion of North America the past several weeks.

A number of snowy owls have descended along the south shore of Lake Erie, the birds have uprooted themselves from the Arctic tundra in search of prey.

It seems the owls' preferred food – lemmings – are in short supply. Whenever that happens snowy owls fly south in search of small rodents.

That being said the last place anyone would expect to see a snowy owl show up is around Jacksonville, Florida.

Yet that is exactly where one representative of this inspiring species has appeared, the bird hanging out at Little Talbot Island State Park.

This owl is only the third documented time a snowy owl has been sighted in Florida, too. And that fact has brought one a sizable army of birders who are more accustomed to seeing flamingos than snow owls.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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