Friday, July 17, 2015

UPDATED: Derailing the rumor mill about shutting off Ohio's field trials and shooting preserves

To tweak just a smidgeon a quote made by 18th Century author Jonathan Swift : “Rumor flies and the Truth comes limping after it.”

Only Mr. Swift’s original word was “Lie” and not “Rumor.” Come to think of it a rumor can be a lie. Or a rumor could simply be some unverified piece of information.

Problem is, the longer a rumor travels and the more people that bump into it the greater the opportunity it has of being taken as gospel.

Such is the case involving Ohio’s field trials, the ones operated by dog clubs, hunting and fishing clubs, and even my own Ashtabula County-based sportsmen’s club.

Rumor had it – said my club’s field trial devotees and organizers at a recent club function – that the Ohio Division of Wildlife not only will shut down such programs it already has.

This, because of the threat posed by a possible avian flu pandemic that could race through the state and pummel Ohio’s $2.3 billion annual poultry industry.

Due to such concern the Ohio Department of Agriculture has suspended public exhibition of such fowl as chickens and turkeys along with other diverse places that include auctions and county fairs along with the Ohio State Fair.

In connecting the dots Ohio’s field trialers have made a leap from chickens and turkeys being exhibited at 4-H-associated county fairs to barn pigeons, quail, chucker partridges and pheasants being used in hunting dog training exercises as well as organized retriever, flushing and pointing dog games.

Thing is, the people who actually have the authority to dot and dash the line from Point A to Point B and beyond have not made any such determination.

“All I can tell you right now is that we are actively working with the Ohio Department of Agriculture to clarify game bird movement requirements, and we will communicate with our stakeholders as soon as we receive the final guidance document,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources/ Division of Wildlife spokeswoman Susan Vance.

So while, yes, there’s ambiguity as to what officially will come about there is no need to panic. That is the word also from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, says agency spokeswoman, Erica M. Hawkins.

"We're working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife on guidance for game bird movement, including field trials, in the state," Hawkins said. "We hope to have final recommendations to share soon; however, further details are not available at this time.
At least not just yet, anyway, so for now the rumor that field trails are a no-no is grounded.

Sam Ballou – owner of Elkhorn Lake Shooting Preserve in Bucyrus and also president of the North American Game Bird Association – says he’s “not worried too much at this point.”

“We’re working with the Division of Wildlife and the state Agriculture Department, and what probably will be done is some testing prior to any game bird movement,” Ballou said.

Ballou said as well that a sampling of his flock of pheasant – which numbers as many as 550,000 birds – is tested every 90 days. In all, Ohio has more than 400 licensed pheasant producers, Ballou said.

“As for stopping field trials, I don’t see that happening,” Ballou also said. “I’ll probably know more in two weeks.”
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.


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