About 40 – more or less – Northeast Ohio sportsmen and sportswomen took the time today (Saturday, March 1) to express their thoughts regarding the state's proposed 2014-2015 hunting laws and regulations.
Now it remains to be seen whether the Ohio Division of Wildlife was truly listening.
Each March the Wildlife Division hosts a series of open houses throughout the state intended to inform the state's hunters of the coming seasons' parameters as well as all of the other legal requirements necessary to tie-rap what is store.
Among the locations that again served as a venue was the Wildlife Division's Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.
Among the Wildlife Division officials attending the forum was Kevin Kayle, manager of the fisheries station, Scott Denamen, state wildlife officer assigned to Geauga County, and the agency's assistant chief, Tom Rowan.
The program ran for three hours with visitors coming and going at their leisure, picking up materials, leaving penned thoughts and expressions of either support or opposition regarding the proposals. These recommendations were spelled out in large letters on even larger talk boards that strung out in the complex's office section.
Officials were responsible for explaining the recommendations' fine points along with why the Wildlife Division choose the wildlife management-driven regulatory paths that the agency selected.
And the curious, the opinionated, the supporter and the opponent got along with the proposals, Rowan said.
“I really haven't heard anything negative so far but then I don't think we're proposing anything too controversial,” Rowan said.
Widely – if not also wildly – applauded was the agency's proposal to allow the use during the statewide general firearms deer-hunting season of a 26-arsenal-list of specific straight-walled cartridges chambered in rifles. Such calibers as .45-70, .50-70, .375 Winchester, and .444 Marlin all made the Wildlife Division's grade.
And though this generally accepted and much-appreciated proposal is less than one month old it has already undergone a rather significant change. And one that will impact not only those who will (if the proposal is approved) use a lever-action Marlin rifle but also a deer hunter who sticks with his or her semi-automatic Winchester slug shotgun.
Originally the proposal said that a rifle could hold no more than three live cartridges. Just like what is required now of shotguns.
Instead the Wildlife Division is proposing to do away with the plug requirement, exchanging that stipulation with one saying either a rifle or a shotgun simply have no more than three rounds of live ammunition; one in the chamber and no more than two in the magazine.
“It became a question of safety; how to ensure that the placement of dummy rounds and live rounds don't accidentally get mixed around,” Rowan said.
And if the three rounds maximum standard will apply to rifles then it ought also to apply to slug shotguns, Rowan said.
Since this subject was of keen interest by the attendees the broader issue of Ohio's current deer management was of even greater curiosity. But apparently not so much an object of scorn, said Denamen.
“It was 'motivated curiosity,'” Denamen said. “What they wanted to know was why we are going in the direction we are and not in some other direction.”
Which is not the same as saying that the attending hunters believed that Ohio's deer herd is growing.
“I think our deer herd has taken a hit,” said open house attendee Dale Golob of Euclid. “I didn't even take a shot at a deer this year because I just didn't see the numbers I once did, but I think Ohio has an understanding about the deer herd.”
Credit, or blame, more like it, must fall at the feet of the non-resident deer hunter, Golob also said.
While many Ohio resident deer hunters have an exceptionally long opportunity with a four-month-long archery season along with three separate gun-type seasons of one kind or another, the non-resident deer hunter typically has only a couple of days to get in, kill a deer, and get out, Golob says.
“So the non-resident hunter is less selective and will take whatever he can get,” Golob said.
Which is why Golob says he'd like to see the non-resident general hunting license fee rise from the present $125 to “$300.”
“It's pretty frustrating,” Golob said. “I don't mind seeing non-resident hunters but they're going to have to pay more.”
Of course, the Wildlife Division cannot set the cost of a hunting or fishing license on a non-resident or a resident. That right is owned entirely by the Ohio General Assembly, which may very well take up the question of raising non-resident hunting and fishing license fees this year.
But for now the focus centers on whether the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council will approve or reject the Wildlife Division's hunting law recommendations.
Then again, what form those proposals will ultimately appear may rest in part on whether the Wildlife Division is willing to tweak them or be dead-set in believing the agency – and the agency alone – knows what is best for the state's wildlife along with the state's sportsmen and sportswomen.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn