Thursday, January 14, 2016

UPDATED THROUGHOUT Ohio proposes significant smallgame rules changes

For once rules and regulation proposals impacting hunting in Ohio far and away overshadow talk about what will impact the state’s deer hunters.

On Thursday the Ohio Division of Wildlife - with virtually no fanfare, pomp or ceremony or even the clang of gongs - announced significant season changes for a host of flying critters, especially wild turkeys and Canada geese.

Spring wild turkey hunters in Northeast Ohio have long groused that the season on this species begins way too early, the late April start date being much more appropriate for southern Ohio than it is for the Snow Belt region that envelopes Northeast Ohio..

After hearing concerns expressed by hunters in the Snow Belt, the ODNR/Division of Wildlife conducted a two-year study to examine if turkeys were nesting later than in other regions of the state, said agency spokesman John Windau.

From 2014 to 2015, 28 hen turkeys were trapped and subsequently fitted with satellite telemetry devices in three of the Snow Belt counties. Twenty-one of the hens initiated nesting between April 29 and May 1, Windau said.

“That’s nearly two weeks later than hens in the southeastern counties,” Windau said.

 As part of the public input process, turkey hunters in the Northeast Ohio counties who were surveyed indicated they wanted the season to start later; the Monday closest to May 1, Windau also said.

“During the Wild Turkey Summit last August, the results of the study were presented and a two-zone approach was discussed. The discussion was well received and participants indicated their support,” Windau said.

Making up the proposed five-county Northeast Ohio Zone are the counties of Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull, Windau said.

The proposed South Zone’s spring turkey season will run April 24th to May 21st, 2017. Meanwhile, the five-county Northeast Ohio Zone’s spring turkey season is proposed – note that word “proposed” – for May 1st to May 28th, 2017.

It is important to the point of being vital to note that these new two spring wild turkey-hunting zones and their respective dates are for 2017, NOT for this year since those dates were established last year.

Retained as part of the Wildlife Division’s proposal package is a two-turkey total season limit; either split between the two proposed zones or else taken in a single zone. This concept would be similar to Ohio’s one antlered deer rule regardless of how many different counties a person hunts.

In a highly unusual change is that the Wildlife Division is advancing season dates and bag limit proposals for waterfowl as well as for migratory upland game birds, including mourning doves.

In the past the Wildlife Division would have to sit back and wait to get the migratory bird-hunting rule options from the federal government. This step always took place about mid-summer for the early September migratory bird hunting seasons and not until late August for the regular autumn-winter waterfowl-hunting seasons/bag limit options.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversees all migratory bird hunting regulations, and it recently changed its process that now allows Ohio to propose autumn waterfowl hunting regulations in January,” said Windau. “That’s more than six months earlier than in past years.”

With more elbow room the Wildlife Division will more time to inform hunters of upcoming seasons, so they can better plan their vacations and seasons. It will also allow the agency – along with its partners, to hold controlled waterfowl drawings in the summer, concurrent with drawings for other species., Windau said.

“Migratory bird season dates and bag limits can now be included in the hunting and trapping regulations booklet, rather than in two separate additional publications in the fall,” Windau said. 

For the early waterfowl and upland game bird seasons the Wildlife Division is proposing that the one for mourning doves would begin September 1st and run to November 6th and again from December 15th to January 8th, 2017.

A key mental note to savor here is that both the nine-day early Canada goose-only and the 16-day teal season don’t begin until September 3rd.

Consequently, hunters won’t have to choose between picking a dove field or a goose-filled farm pond to hunt the opener since each will have a different start date. Or more correctly, proposed start dates.

Going into autumn the proposed three-split season dates for the North Goose Zone are October 22nd to November 6th; November 19th to January 1st (2017); and January 7th to February 7th: both in 2017. Let that last season component sink in for a moment. January 7th to… February 7th; February, 2017, for goose-honking out loud!

For the duck hunters, no real changes are being proposed. The proposed Duck-North Zone season dates are October 22nd through November 6th and November 19th through January 1st  2017.

All of the proposed rules – including changes – must pass muster with the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council. This council will vote on the proposals but only after the public has had an opportunity to share its two-cents’ worth.

Open houses where sportsmen and sportswomen can voice their thoughts are scheduled for March 5th at the Wildlife Division’s districts One, Two, Three, and Four headquarters, as well as the Greene County Fish and Game Association clubhouse in Xenia, Windau said.


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 125 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.
For once rules and regulation proposals impacting hunting in Ohio far and away overshadow talk about what will impact the state’s deer hunters.


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