Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ohio's 2015-2016 deer-hunting proposals undergo (again) major changes

To appease Ohio’s sportsmen the Ohio Division of Wildlife has once again rearranged its deer-hunting proposals for the 2015-2016 seasons.
Gone is any mid-October gun season, either for youths or for those sports devoted to muzzle-loading guns.

Shifted as well is the statewide black-powder deer hunting season, moving it after the also date-adjusted statewide so-called “holiday” two-day general firearms deer-hunting season.
All because the agency said it really did pay attention when the state’s deer hunters spoke loud and clearly regarding their dissatisfaction with the Wildlife Division’s first two sets of proposals.

These new proposals were presented to the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council on Wednesday (March 18). The Council will ultimately decide whether to accept, reject, or modify once more the agency’s to-do requested list of deer-hunting proposals.
Yet such regulatory changes are a “normal part of the rule proposal process” as to what first appears and then ultimately what is created in the time for the Wildlife Council’s meeting , says Scott Zody, the Wildlife Division’s chief.

“First, I along with members of the staff, had several conversations with individual members of the Wildlife Council between the time the proposed rules were introduced in February and last night’s (March 18) meeting,”Zody says .
“Some Council members had questions on one or more of the proposals, or were letting me or the staff know about questions or comments they were receiving from members of the sportsmen’s community.”

Zody says too that none of the new and actual proposals were forced on the agency by any individual Wildlife Council member, Gov. John Kasich, any member of the Ohio General Assembly, or any other elected official.
“But it is possible that someone in an elected capacity may have submitted a written or on-line comment,” Zody says. “I certainly don’t know every elected official in the state.”

 As to specifics, Zody says the new slate of proposals is inscribed with moving the start of the statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season to January 9. The previous set of proposals had the start date of January 2.
The so-called “holiday” two-day general firearms deer-hunting season is proposed to run December 28 to 29 (a Monday and Tuesday) instead of December 26 to 27 (a Saturday and Sunday.)

Such a change, says Zody moves this proposed new gun season away from starting the day after Christmas, a real bone of contention with many hunters.
“And by moving the muzzle-loading season back one week, we go from having a five-day break between the ‘holiday’ gun season and the muzzle-loading season to an 11-day break,” Zody says.

Left in its current slot of mid-November is the two-day, youth-only firearms deer hunting season. Which means, of course, youths won’t be afield in October chasing deer with shotguns and specific caliber rifles.
Complicating the issue is that hunter opinions on when to conduct the youth deer hunt as expressed during five concurrently held deer summits and elsewhere were “all over the map,” Zody says.

“We received comments supporting the move and those opposing the move, and many different suggestions on when else to move the season,” Zody says. “We even received some comments advocating the elimination of the season altogether.”
And because the proposals left vacant the mid-October period the Wildlife Division is also asking that the start of the state’s fall wild turkey-hunting season begin Saturday, October 10 instead of the originally proposed start date of Monday, October 12.

Obviously, says Zody also, with such diverse opinions noted by deer hunters the Wildlife Division intends to continue to engage “our deer-hunting stakeholders.”
This engagement likely will continue for the next year or two so as to give the agency time to conduct appropriate surveys and the like in order to “formulate some options” for future rule-making decisions, Zody says.

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

 Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Expected severe winterkill will chill-out Ohio's anglers

Each time I packed up to leave after ice-fishing a small Ashtabula County lake I wondered about – and worried – about the status of its fishes.
Oh, not the ones I caught though. Those went home with a friend who filleted and bagged them for later dinner meals.

No, the bluegills, crappie, bass and even catfish that still were swimming underneath the lake’s 15 to 18 inches of ice were my concern.
And while many Ohio hunters have (and are) fretting over the state of deer, turkeys, rabbits and other critters following one of the most severe winters on record, anglers, too, are looking into their worry boxes.

For good reason, as the Ohio Division of Wildlife is preparing anglers for the potentially strong possibility that a whole bunch of small and privately own lakes and ponds likely experienced some nasty winter kill.

Yet even at least one state-owned lake’s fisheries is in the same ice-locked boat. Spencer Lake in Medina County is believed to have suffered – in the words of the Wildlife Division – “…a substantial winter-kill that has affected many fish species.”
The Wildlife Division’s District Three fish management supervisor Phil Hillman says his staff will assess Spencer’s fish community this spring “and will discuss future management options.”

“It is likely that we will hear more stories this spring of similar winterkill events at other shallow and nutrient-rich smaller lakes and ponds,” Hillman says.
Ratcheting the matter up more than a few notches the parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources is preparing anglers for the worse, too.

“Winterkill is most common in shallow ponds and the situation will become obvious if dead fish are seen along the shoreline,” also says Wildlife Division spokesman John Windau.
Such a susceptibility will almost certainly be noticed in Ohio’s northern counties, both because of this winter’s severity that included record-breaking cold temperatures as well as the fact that many of the region’s lakes and pond are still layered in a mantle of ice.

“However, similar to last year which also included a severe winter, winterkill is possible in any part of the state,” Windau says.
As for Lake Erie and the fact that it was 95-percent covered in ice, winterkill will happen but not for the same reason as for Ohio’s inland lakes and ponds.

Instead of a deprivation of dissolved oxygen caused by rotting vegetation the situation on Lake Erie will come about because of temperature fluctuations. This situation occurs nearly every early spring where countless dead and dying gizzard shad wash up along the Lake Erie shoreline.
Still, the mass of shad and the offensive odor that their decaying flesh produces often scares the bejabbers out of the unknowing but makes for good 6 o’clock news drama.

Even so Ohio’s anglers join their hunting brothers and sisters in saluting the end of a very distressing winter.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

BREAKING: The ATF backs away from proposed 5.56 ammo ban

With the backing of several ten thousand angry firearms owners the federal government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has backed away from banning the oft-called “green-tip” 5.56mm ammunition.

Even so, the National Rifle Association’s chief spokesman believes that the ATF will come back to fight for the ban another day.

For its part the National Rifle Association says that while the news is good the organization’s leaders believe the ATF will again try to seek the ban.

Also, some critics of the proposed ban argue that President Obama will use his administrative powers to declare the ammunition as persona non grata, thereby making an end run around the legislative process and/or normal rule-making protocols.

Here is the text of the ATF’s short media release that announces the agency’s ammunition ban withdrawal proposal followed by the NRA’s position on the ATF’s announcement:

Notice to those Commenting on the Armor Piercing Ammunition Exemption Framework

Thank you for your interest in ATF's proposed framework for determining whether certain projectiles are “primarily intended for sporting purposes” within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(C). The informal comment period will close on Monday, March 16, 2015. ATF has already received more than 80,000 comments, which will be made publicly available as soon as practicable.

Although ATF endeavored to create a proposal that reflected a good faith interpretation of the law and balanced the interests of law enforcement, industry, and sportsmen, the vast majority of the comments received to date are critical of the framework, and include issues that deserve further study. Accordingly, ATF will not at this time seek to issue a final framework. After the close of the comment period, ATF will process the comments received, further evaluate the issues raised therein, and provide additional open and transparent process (for example, through additional proposals and opportunities for comment) before proceeding with any framework.

From the NRA:
The National Rifle Association (NRA) was instrumental in stalling the Obama Administration’s initial attempt to ban commonly used ammunition for the most popular rifle in America, the AR-15. The announcement that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) will suspend its proposed framework to ban M855 ammunition validates the NRA’s assertion that this effort was nothing more than a political maneuver to bypass Congress and impose gun control on the American people.

"Today’s announcement proves what we have said all along -- this was 100% political. President Obama failed to pass gun control through Congress, so he tried to impose his political agenda through executive fiat. But every gun owner in America needs to understand Barack Obama’s hatred of the Second Amendment has not changed," said Wayne La Pierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association.

Chris Cox, Executive Director of NRA-ILA criticized the dishonest campaign to ban this common ammunition: “The lies used to justify the ban were shameful. This proposal was never about law enforcement safety – it was about the Obama Administration’s desire to pander to billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his gun control groups.  Since they haven’t been able to ban America’s most popular rifle, they are trying to ban the ammunition instead.”

Since the BATFE announced its plan to ban commonly used ammunition less than a month ago, the NRA rallied its five million members and tens of millions of supporters across the country in strong opposition.  In addition, the NRA worked with congressional leaders in both the U.S. House and Senate to oppose this misguided proposal. 

“The NRA would like to thank House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson for leading the fight against this unconstitutional attack on our Second Amendment freedoms,” continued Cox.  “This was a significant victory for our five million members and tens of millions of supporters across the country. 

Make no mistake, this fight is not over. We will remain vigilant and continue to fight against President Obama’s attempt to dismantle the Second Amendment,” concluded LaPierre.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ohio's 2015 sport fish consumption advisories show improvement

A long string of strong national and state water quality regulations are paying dividends, their impact being seen in a number of less restrictive Ohio fish consumption advisories.

Ohio’s advisory program is administered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. This government organ works closely with both the Ohio departments of Health and Natural Resources in developing the advisories.

The current slate of advisories were based on scientific analysis derived from 503 fish samples and as taken from 16 lakes and 19 streams in 2013.

And the term “advisories” is an important cachet, too. People are free to observe the recommendations, modify them or even ignore them.

What these advisories represent, says state officials, is a set of guidelines to help people minimize the potential health risks associated with eating fish that do – or may – contain potentially harmful chemicals if allowed to accumulate over many years.

As often as not the greatest health threat comes from PCBs and mercury.

Among the most significant advisory updates noted within the newly announced 2015 Sport Fish Consumption Advisory package is the removal of all “Do Not Eat” recommendations for Northeast Ohio’s Mahoning River, says Ohio EPA spokeswoman Linda Fee Oros.

Instead, says Oros, these “Do Not Eat” advisories are being replaced with less stringent recommendations and applicable for Mahoning River from Rockhill Avenue to the state line.

Among the eased suggestions is one that notes an okay for eating one meal per month of smallmouth bass and for all lengths. Previously the advisory cautioned against eating any smallmouth bass over 15 inches, and just one meal per every two months for fish under 15 inches.

Also, the Ohio EPA is giving the okay to eat channel catfish of any length taken from the stream on a one meal/every two months basis. Previously the recommendation cautioned against eating any Mahoning River channel catfish longer than 21 inches.

Similarly the state is advising that people can eat one meal per week of Mahoning River-caught largemouth bass.

“There are also improved advisories listed for Lake Erie, the Tiffin River, and Findley Lakes,” Oros says.

That listing for Lake Erie recommends that people eat no more than one meal a month of smallmouth bass, due to the risk associated with both PCBs and mercury.

And remaining in place is the statewide advisory of just one meal per week of any species and of any size and due to the threat of mercury in the fish’s tissue, Oros says.

“Fish contaminated with high levels of mercury have been shown to cause neurological damage and impaired development in young children,” Oros said.

Mercury is a persistent issue when it comes to water quality with some of the chief sources coming from the smoky discharge of coal-fired power plants and gold-mining operations as well as various other human-interaction sources. Naturally, mercury is released by volcanic eruptions.

“Fish consumption evaluations and advisories help Ohio’s anglers to make informed decisions about consuming their catch,” Oros says. “And fish low in contaminants can be an important part of a healthy diet.”

Additional information about fish consumption safety that are specifically applicable to women of child-bearing age, pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as children under age 15 is available via the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Centers, county health departments, the Ohio EPA and the Natural Resources Department’s regional offices.

Downloadable copies likewise can be accessed at the Ohio EPA’s website – or by calling 614-644-2160.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

 Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bass Pro Shops' founder one of world's richest persons

Collecting new fishing tackle and then carting it in a U-Haul trailer to where the material was sold out of a liquor store jump-started Johnny Morris’ ride to membership in the world’s most exclusive club.

Ranked Number 405 on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, Morris has a net worth of $4.1 billion. Yes, that’s with a “B” and not an “M.”

The 68-year-old Morris is the founder of the ever-expanding Bass Pro Shops’ universe of mail-order and retail sales.

In looking at the impressive list of billionaires, Morris is ahead of such other noteworthy persons as Steven Spielberg (Number 481 at $3.6 billion), Oprah Winfrey (Number 603 at $3 billion), Jimmy Haslan (owner of the Cleveland Browns and Number 663 at $2 billion, and Ted Turner (Number 847 at $2.2 billion).

Morris is also “tied” with land developer and maybe yes/maybe no Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Forbes magazine annually compiles a list of the world’s richest people. There are the obscenely wealthy folks such as Number One Bill Gates – worth $79.2 billion – and Number Three Warren Buffett – worth $72.7 billion to such lowly entries as basketball legend and underwear commercial actor Michael Jordon – Number 1,741 at $1 billion.

Though worth oodles and bundles of big bucks, Morris still carries about him the airs of normalcy, or at least what passes for being normal and worth considerable change.

No longer actually running the day-to-day operations of Bass Pro Shops, Morris likes to say he’s the company’s “CFO.”  But that title doesn’t mean “Chief Financial Officer.” Oh, no; for Morris the three letters stand for “Chief Fishing Officer.”

Bass Pro Shops has 88 store outlets – with two in Ohio – and is looking to add 20 more – including one in Ohio – within the next few years.

In 2013, these stores and the firm’s mail-order business generated $4 billion in sales.

All in all, not bad for an enterprising sport who grew frustrated with the lack of fishing tackle being sold locally and who then came up with a game plan to overcome the problematic obstacle.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn