Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lake Metroparks buys two parcels: One offering additional steelheading and the other access to a pair of parks

Lake Metroparks is tacking on two new parcels of property, one of which that will give steelhead anglers an additional 1,800 feet of publically accessible elbow room along the Grand River.

The other parcel will add 72 acres that will allow public access to a pair of existing Lake Metroparks’ holdings; one that offers good to excellent small lake angling and the other one being what almost certainly is the most rugged and remote property in Lake County.

Being picked up at a cost of $118,200 is a 16.2-acre track, located off Bates Road in Madison Township. It dovetails with the parks system’s existing 45-acre Riverview Park and lies opposite across the Grand River from the agency’s 619-acre Hogback Ridge Park.

Hogback Ridge Park is noteworthy because it contains the final downstream portion of Mill Creek, one of Northeast Ohio’s most productive and popular small stream steelhead fishing sites.

By securing the new parcel Lake Metroparks not only will put another 1,800 linear feet of Grand River frontage into the public domain, the buy – funded by almost one-half by the voter-approved Clean Ohio Fund – will help  lock in a riverfront corridor from any future private development, says the agency’s executive director, Paul Palagyi.

With the property now owned by Lake Metroparks its river frontage will link with the one-half to three-quarter-mile-long riverfront footage provided by Riverview Park, stretching upstream from the Ohio Route 528 bridge and south of Interstate 90.

“There is an impressive stand of timber there along with some high-quality wetlands,” Palagyi said.  “If we hadn’t bought it now the current owner almost certainly was going to have it logged off.”

Palagyi said that while steelhead anglers will be able to access the site via the Riverview Park portal an even better way is to ford the Grand River at the mouth of Mill Creek. When the river isn’t gorged with snow melt or rain runoff, of course, Palaygi also says.

“I’ve crossed here myself on several occasions and it’s an excellent location for steelhead fishing,” Palagyi said.

Interestingly, said Palagyi also, is that while the property was actually privately owned many anglers had longed assumed it was part of Riverview Park, though it wasn’t.

“I doubt that the old owner even knew the property was being used by fishermen,” Palagyi said.

As for the other land purchase that one consists of 72 acres and is located on Kiffen Road in Leroy Township. Its selling price was $434,442 with $199,999 coming also from the Clean Ohio Fund.

This parcel sits catty-corner to Lake Metroparks’ 111-acre Hidden Lake Park and just south of the agency’s rugged and remote 888-Hell Hollow Wilderness Area, which offers an outstanding hiking vista. From its bluff a visitor can look down into a 100-foot deep gorge.

This park also is a component of the Lake Erie Birding Trail, and has plant species more associated with Canada than northern Ohio. Among the more uncommon-for-Ohio-seen bird species encountered here include several species of warblers.

However, though Hells Hollow is cut by Paine Creek the property is located above Paine Falls, a high enough barrier that prevents further upstream advance by steelhead trout.

Even so, the new chuck of real estate is a welcome addition, says Palagyi.

“We’ve long wanted a way to connect Hidden Lake with Hell Hollow and now we have the means to get that done,” says Palagyi.

Palagyi said as well that each parcel passed Lake Metroparks litmus tests for acquisition. These buying points include whether the sought-after property is contiguous to an existing Lake Metroparks holding, or if it can provide public access to one of the following: Lake Erie, the Grand River, or the Chagrin River.

“The owners of both properties wanted to sell to someone so it’s best that we bought them now,” Palagyi said.

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 is 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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ohio's Wildlife Division just can't make up its mind about deer-hunting seasons

Never underestimate the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s capacity to keep its deer-hunting constituency scratching its collective head.

The latest institutional faux pas deals (alarmingly once again) with the matter of deer-hunting regulations; or more accurately, yet another series of changes to those rules.

What the agency has done is put the transmission to its rule-making car in reverse while the vehicle was still going forward. It did this by slipping and sliding with all of the grease the agency’s bureaucrats could muster as to just when the so-called two-day “bonus” general firearms deer-hunting season would be held along with the dates for the statewide muzzle-loading season.

As originally proposed the bonus gun season would run December 28th and 29th. Meanwhile, the muzzle-loading season would run January 14th to the 17th.

Hopefully a deer hunter had used a pencil instead of a pen in marking those dates on the calendar, or else has an understanding boss after first planning ahead by arranging vacation time.

Instead, the eight-member Wildlife Council approved the agency’s “amended” deer-hunting date agenda. The two-day bonus season is now set for December 17th and 18th – a weekend and less than two weeks after the conclusion of the seven-day general firearms deer-hunting season.

As for the muzzle-loading season that will run January 7th through the 10th; those dates are fully a week earlier than originally proposed.

The Wildlife Division’s official rationale goes “After receiving public input about regulations proposed to the Ohio Wildlife Council on Feb. 10, modifications were made to some of proposed season dates for the 2016-2017 hunting regulations.”

In short, the Wildlife Division vetted hunters’ opinions, but not until it actually thought out what would be peachy-keen hunting season dates. Of course, the agency’s two so-called Deer Summits weren’t enough in the Wildlife Division’s design scheme to determine which way was up.

Then again, remember that this is the same Wildlife Division that determined a few years back that a mid-December/two-day/weekend gun season was like “one long gun season” and that it decided that this hunt was resulting in “declining participation.”

Of course, mid-course oopsies appear to be the rule rather than the exception by this Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight.

It was a tad more than two years ago when at the Wildlife Division’s Deer Summit in Akron the agency all but said that the Mid-October two-day/weekend antlerless-only deer-hunting season was the best invention since sliced bread. And we all now know that season was really burnt toast, unfit for hunters’ consumption.

Then too, Ohio’s deer hunters were being prepped for a soon change to a zone or deer unit management profile instead of the system now employed. That plan has been relegated to a back burner that also appears to now be turned off.  All – as stated by the Wildlife Division – in order to provide regulatory consistency for the state’s deer hunters.

Say what? The only consistent thing about the Wildlife Division when it comes to establishing deer hunting rules is its inconsistency.

Or as a fellow outdoors writer friend of mine opined about this whole mess: “I’m glad the Division of Wildlife isn’t testing our drinking water.”

Brother, you got that right.

 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 is 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.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

UPDATED: Archery deer hunting a big winner in Ohio's March 15th primary


Ohio’s March 15th primary was a bigger winning night for deer management and archery hunting than it was for John Kasich and Hillary Clinton.

In five Cuyahoga County highly urbanized communities which orbit Cleveland, ballot issues appeared that would permit the respective cities to establish controlled archery deer hunting.

Ballot language for each was very nearly identical. This wording stated that each respective community’s police chief and municipal leaders would draft rules that would “… permit the limited hunting of white-tailed deer by crossbow or long bow by licensed individuals conducted from elevated platforms, under terms and conditions established b the State of Ohio…” as well as other requirements established locally.

With 100 percent of Cuyahoga County’s unofficial total number of votes having been counted, the range of voter support for passing the ballot language allowing archery deer hunting ran from a low of 56.3 percent to as much as 68.3 percent.

A breakdown of this support for the five Cuyahoga County communities – and again based on unofficial total results provided by the Board of Elections – is: Broadview Heights – 63.4 percent; North Royalton – 68.3 percent; Parma – 60.8 percent; Parma Heights – 56.3 percent; Seven Hills – 65.6 percent.

All of these communities have seen a huge increase in their respective deer herds, with the resulting issues of deer-motor vehicle accidents and damage to property, including destroyed landscaping.

While opposition from persons who either don’t want to see any deer killed or those individuals who believe that archery hunting is not an effective means of controlling white-tails, clearly voters in each of the five communities believe otherwise and expressed that opinion March 15th at where it counted most: The ballot box.


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 is 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.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ohio Division of Wildlife investigating allegations of sweeping illegal fish and game activity

An investigation by Ohio Division of Wildlife’s agents is pointing toward a possible cascade effect of alleged - and illegal - selling of fish and game, chiefly walleye and white-tailed deer that may involve individuals in as many as eight counties stretching across the width of northern Ohio.

Called “Operation North Coast,” the on-going Wildlife Division-led investigation has thus far led to the issuance of five search warrants and the interviewing of around 40 individuals, says John Windau, agency spokesman.

The warrants were served this past weekend. In one Wildlife Division-supplied photograph, about 30 trophy buck mounts were shown as seized evidence.

Evidence gleaned from “Operation North Coast” and expected additional studious work will be turned over to various county prosecutors, anyone of whom may be expected to impanel a grand jury. Potentially impacted county prosecutors include those from Wood, Erie, Ottawa, Lorain, Portage, Richland, Cuyahoga, and Ashtabula counties.

Charges are expected against at least some individuals for various alleged illegal activities discovered in the course of the investigation and subsequent and related agency-driven efforts, Windau said.

Windau said the agents’ work included at least two deer-hunting seasons plus last summer’s walleye-fishing season.

Besides the possibility of alleged illegal selling of fish and game there is evidence that suggests there was some “gross over-harvesting” of deer in at least some instances, Windau said as well.

The genesis of the investigation, Windau said, was prompted by calls to the states Turn-In-A-Poacher (TIP) hotline; a toll-free telephone project that allows the public to call in with possible fish and game law violations. Tipsters are potentially eligible for monetary rewards.

Windau said that while the investigation did not have a connect-the-dots scenario about it, “Operation North Coast” investigators were able to channel their energies and work at alleged similar illegal activity elsewhere; thus a cascade effect.

“It may take a few weeks to file all of the charges since there’s a lot of material and evidence to sort through,” Windau said.

This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.


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 is 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.


Friday, March 11, 2016

UPDATED Newest Ohio Wildlife Council member deadly on deer; but muskies? Not so much

(Note: Updated to show Mike Rex's correct age at 51, not 61)

Mike Rex understands that his outdoors life is about to become much more complicated than simply trying to outsmart another trophy-class white-tail or work to bamboozle the next coyote.

Rex was recently appointed by Ohio Governor John Kasich as the newest member of the eight-person Ohio Wildlife Council, replacing the seat vacated when Horace W. Karr of Pomeroy died February 25th.

The 51-year-old Rex lives in Athens County with his wife and their three children. He is the business development manager for the Heartland Wildlife Division, a component of the Upper Sandusky-based and family owned Kalmbach Feeds Company.

Having all ready begun his four-year term, Rex will have until January 31, 2020 to get his feet wet and adapt to the ever-changing scope of helping direct the affairs of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. That is because the Wildlife Council is the legislatively approved body that approves – or rejects – the agency’s proposed rules and regulations.

Each Wildlife Council member is either appointed or reappointed (Council member George Klein was just reappointed) by the sitting governor but with certain requirements. No more than four members can be from the same political party, and two council members must represent agriculture, said John Windau, a Wildlife Division spokesman.

Even though Rex has an agricultural-based job he is climbing aboard the Wildlife Council’s train as a replacement Republican. His appointment came about after Rex completed an application for the vacated slot left by Karr.

Windau also said that Wildlife Council members frequently visit events and meetings outside of the oversight group’s official duties, and which can embrace everything from checking out local sportsman’s club functions to attending Wildlife Division fish and game species summits and annual open houses. The Wildlife Council meets monthly in public session from January through April and again July through October.

Though the position of a Wildlife Council member is voluntary they are entitled by law to claim expenses for such things as mileage and meals, Windau says.

Rex says he’s not approaching his new role as one of eight Wildlife Division overseers with either bravado or blinders. He readily admits he has much to learn.

“I believe that I can bring a unique perspective to the board, and part of that is because I am a very good listener, and a fair one, too,” Rex said in a telephone interview. “As a manager I’ve learned not to make snap decisions.”

However, Rex says he’s a realist and understands that neither the Wildlife Council nor the Wildlife Division is going to make everybody happy all of the time. Or- for that matter - many of Ohio’s hunters, anglers and trappers happy even some of the time.

“Being on the (Wildlife) Council is going to involve a lot of work; I understand that,” Rex said. “It’s going to be tough to make the hard decisions that are going to impact so many different constituencies.”

Importantly, says Rex as well, he does not intend to be a Wildlife Council wall flower.

“I’m not going to be afraid to ask questions if I have doubts or if something doesn’t make sense to me,” Rex said regarding an interview question about an oft-said observation that the Wildlife Council is little more than a rubber stamp for the Wildlife Division.

“I’m not a combative person but I’m not a yes man, either,” he said.

To help in transitioning into his appointment, Wildlife Council president Karen Stewart-Linkhart, will meet with Rex “to bring him up to speed on current fish and wildlife topics, discuss the position, the council and its responsibilities with the ODNR Division of Wildlife,” Windau said.

Rex will also meet with division administration to discuss the same topics. And at least one of those Wildlife Division officials is very eager to assist in Rex’s educational process.

“I am pleased with the Governor’s appointment of Mike Rex to the Ohio Wildlife Council,” said the Wildlife Division’s chief, Ray Petering. “Mike is an avid sportsman, and I am confident he will represent Ohio’s hunters, trappers, and anglers well.”

Yet more than anything else, Rex says, it is his background as a “multi-layered” outdoors recreationalist that became the spark that cranked the engine to become Wildlife Council appointee.

“Our family’s activities revolve around the outdoors,” Rex said.

Small wonder than that Rex has been an Ohio Buckeye Big Buck Club board member for some 20 years and is currently that group’s secretary and one of its former presidents.

He also has 16 Ohio Buckeye Big Buck Club trophies registered with a 17th that was taken with a compound bow - Rex’s favorite deer-hunting implement – last October. That animal will almost assuredly be enshrined in the club’s ledger next year and following the group’s waiting period and scoring criteria.

 A Google search of Rex pretty much begins and ends with photographs and testimonials about his archery deer-hunting prowess at killing trophy bucks.

Rex likewise is an avid turkey hunter in addition to being a true-blue multi-species fishing enthusiast, including spending time muskie angling – an activity which Rex readily admits “I’m not really very good at.”

Even so, while Rex is a devoted archery deer hunter, takes up the task of chasing turkeys in the spring, hunts down the elusive (for him, anyway) muskie, or works at catching Lake Erie walleye, there is an if-I-could-do-only-one-thing outdoors pursuit, Rex said in the telephone interview.

“Hunt coyotes,” Rex said. “They’re just plain smart.”

And Rex will have to work hard to help ensure that for the next four years no one is going to outsmart this fox.
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Ohio's new concealed carry permit application approvals rebound in 2015

Ohio saw a marked jump in the number of new concealed carry permits issued for all of 2015 and when compared to the year before.

Last year the state’s 88 county sheriffs issued 71,589 such permits and compared to the 58,066 such documents these lawmen issued in 2014. The high-water mark was set in 2013 with a figure of 96,972 new CCW licenses being issued.

The data comes from the Ohio Attorney General who is legally required to make known each March First the annual statistical data on the state’s concealed carry permit program. This was the 12th such annual report.

Each prospective CCW applicant must meet certain criteria as established by the Ohio General Assembly and which mandates the successful completion of a several-hour training class that includes some live firing of a weapon. There are some exceptions to this requirement but those numbers add very little to the total figure.

Besides issuing a resurgent number of new CCW permits, the state’s 88 county sheriffs did decline in 2015 - and when stacked up to 2014 – a larger number of five-year renewal CCW applications. Last year Ohio saw the approval of 44,551 renewal applications. Meanwhile, in 2014 that figure was 52,551 and in 2013 the corresponding number was 48,370.

Up too was the number of CCW permit application denials, the prohibition stemming from a failure of an applicant to meet the permitting process’s requirements. Last year the state’s sheriffs rejected 1,117 new CCW permit application requests.  In 2013 that figure was 882, the Ohio Attorney General’s 23-page annual report notes.

CCW revocations soared, though in raw numbers they are dwarfed by both new permits granted and renewals approved. Last year Ohio saw the revocation of 530 CCW permits; up from the 373 revocations reported in 2013, the Ohio Attorney General’s annual report says.

The report does note; however, that revocation does not exclusively mean that an impacted CCW holder has committed a crime worthy of such documentation banishment. This subset of data includes such innocuous items as the holder moving out of state, dying, or else the holder volunteered for whatever reason to give up his or her license.

As for reciprocity that allows an Ohio licensed CCW permit holder to carry elsewhere, the Ohio Attorney General report lists 36 other states were such permission is granted; either through direct agreement between Ohio and another state or by what the Ohio Attorney General refers to as “automatic reciprocity.”

This list, by the way, does include Virginia, a state that on the same day the Ohio Attorney General’s report was unveiled Virginia’s governor restored his state’s reciprocity agreement with Ohio.

As for a county-by-county breakdown of new-CCW issuances in 2015, Franklin County (Columbus) led with 5,268 approvals. This number was followed by Northeast Ohio’s Lake County with 4,490; Montgomery County (Dayton) with 3,598; Hamilton County (Cincinnati) with 3,534; Clermont County with 2,356; and Warren County with 2,366.

In all, 34 of Ohio’s 88 counties each saw fewer than 350 CCW permit application approvals. Among the counties with the fewest number of approvals – not surprisingly all being rural with small overall populations – were, Coshocton County with 81; Meigs County with 95; Noble County with 108; Putnam County with 128; Monroe County with 134; and Van Wert County with 148.

For further details and a look at the complete report as well as the other 11 annual reports, visit the Ohio Attorney General’s official web site at
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn