Monday, May 16, 2016

UPDATED WITH NEW KILL DATA Ohio's 2016 spring turkey season kill mirrors 2015's; multi-county pockets of declines being seen

With a spring wild turkey-hunting season opening day that was much warmer than its last day four weeks later, Ohio’s hunters still managed to bag more birds than they did during the 2015 spring season.

But only by a ridiculously and statistically miniscule number: Just 180 more birds. Add the kill from the youth-only spring wild turkey-hunting season and the number shrinks even more – to a total 2016 all-spring seasons’ paltry gain of 155 birds.

In total the 2016 four-week spring season saw 16,229 birds taken. Couple that number with the April 16th and 17th youth-only season kill of 1,564 birds and the combined total comes to 17,793 wild turkeys. In 2015 the respective figures were 16,049 and 1,589 for a combined total of 17,638 birds.

A further look back shows that the total wild turkey kill was 23,421 birds in 2010 (the highest-ever record spring season turkey kill in Ohio); 18,162 birds in 2011; 17,657 birds in 2012; 18,409 birds in 2013; and 16,568 birds in 2014.

Mincing the 2016 figures some more, of Ohio’s 88 counties during the just-concluded spring turkey-hunting season, 52 of them showed gains; some by a lot but most counties by only a little bit. Among those counties seeing subjectively large kill increases were Athens (plus-40 birds); Clermont (plus-49 birds); Jefferson (plus-37 birds); Hocking (plus-41 birds); and Pike (plus-32 birds).

Meanwhile, 33 counties saw drops in their kill when their respective 2016 totals are stacked up against their 2015 totals with three counties – Auglaize, Perry, and Washington - posting respective identical 2015 and 2016 spring season kills.

In the decline ledger some of the more significant falloffs were seen in Coshocton County (down 40 birds); Guernsey County (down 56 birds); Holmes County (down 35 birds); Knox County (down 69 birds); and Licking County, which experienced an eye-popping decline of 89 birds.

Ohio Division of Wildlife research biologist Mark Wiley says that this pocket of counties is largely located east and south of Columbus. And at first blush this loosely defined cell of counties appears to be something of a harvest-decline anomaly; one that is worthy of at least some research effort, says Wiley.

 “It’s a pocket that we’re curious about,” Wiley said.

Another inexact pocket where turkey kill numbers have retreated - and which will come under more agency-led biological scrutiny - is in southwest Ohio. Here the matrix consists of Darke, Clinton, Montgomery, Greene and Butler counties, says Wiley.

“Of course the individual harvests in these counties are not as large as those found in the other pocket,” Wiley said. “I don’t have anything solid as to why we’re seeing these patchy pockets of increases and decreases, and I’ll be the first to admit that there won’t always be an answer.”

None of which means the Wildlife Division will avoid trying to uncover the developing mystery’s “why,” however, also says Wiley.

Such exploration will almost certainly focus on historical turkey reproduction data; poult recruitment and turkey kill numbers. Along with these data-heavy points the agency will also look at any potential changes in habitat, though this last potential component probably isn’t a factor in the heavily forested hill country of east-central Ohio, Wiley says.

Even so and without question, Ohio’s wildlife experts are crediting – blaming, really – much of this spring season’s lackluster turkey kill to the steady slide from really nice turkey hunting weather to conditions more in line with what one would expect to encounter during a late autumn deer-hunting campaign.

As an example, on April 18th , opening day, the daytime high temperature as recorded in Cleveland was 79 degrees. On the last day of the season, May 15th, - and also recorded at Cleveland - the day’s high temperature was just 50 degrees, and which also saw a snow shower that caught everyone by surprise; likely even the turkeys.

Downstate, the weather was every bit as bad and perhaps even worse. For the Columbus area precipitation was noted on 13 of the spring wild turkey-hunting season’s final 15 days, based upon data provided by the National Weather Service.

And in Cincinnati, precipitation fell on 11 of the spring season’s final 15 days.

No wonder then that the 18,000-bird harvest the Wildlife Division believed was possible after the season’s first week was scuttled by a weather pattern largely built on cool temperatures, often unforgiving breezes and the steady drip-drip-drip of rain showers and even in Northeast Ohio on the final day, snow showers.

“At the end of the first week of the season the turkey harvest was up five percent but after that it just kept going down, down, down,” said John Windau, the Wildlife Division’s chief spokesman.

Other data provided by the Wildlife Division points toward a harvest that was heavily tilted toward a kill of two-year old or older mature gobblers.

In terms of the breakdown of what Ohio’s turkey hunters killed this spring, adult gobblers comprised 75.4 percent of the total while jakes made up 23.5 percent. Bearded hens accounted for just 1.1 percent of the total, Wiley said.

By comparison, for the 2015 spring season, 77.8 percent of the turkeys killed were adult males, 21.1 percent were jakes and an identical year-to-year 1.1 percent were bearded hens.

As for the number of turkey tags sold, 66,436 permits were issued this year compared to 65,883 such licenses for the 2015 spring season, Wiley said also.
A slight dip in the number of second birds shot by hunters was noted this year. Based on data supplied by the Wildlife Division, 17.8 percent of Ohio’s spring wild turkey hunters registered killing two birds. That figure is an ever-so-small reduction from the 2015’s spring season figure of 18.4 percent. 
Here is the preliminary list of all wild turkeys checked during the 2016 combined spring turkey hunting. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2016, and the 2015 numbers are in parentheses.

Adams: 432 (413); Allen: 89 (78); Ashland: 202 (208); Ashtabula: 569 (557); Athens: 363 (323); Auglaize: 50 (50); Belmont: 491 (520); Brown: 347 (327); Butler: 166 (200); Carroll: 322 (330); Champaign: 95 (102); Clark: 15 (19); Clermont: 396 (347); Clinton: 40 (60); Columbiana: 361 (385); Coshocton: 418 (458); Crawford: 74 (63); Cuyahoga: 12 (10); Darke: 40 (55); Defiance: 324 (298); Delaware: 111 (107); Erie: 55 (49); Fairfield: 102 (108); Fayette: 26 (14); Franklin: 21 (11); Fulton: 120 (117); Gallia: 418 (393); Geauga: 264 (269); Greene: 16 (23); Guernsey: 428 (484); Hamilton: 117 (116); Hancock: 53 (60); Hardin: 87 (101); Harrison: 425 (430); Henry: 72 (58); Highland: 387 (357); Hocking: 309 (268); Holmes: 217 (252); Huron: 113 (155); Jackson: 347 (320); Jefferson: 410 (373); Knox: 285 (354); Lake: 54 (68); Lawrence: 274 (222); Licking: 281 (370); Logan: 141 (117); Lorain: 141 (139); Lucas: 60 (45); Madison: 13 (6); Mahoning: 228 (213); Marion: 35 (31); Medina: 138 (145); Meigs: 419 (450); Mercer: 21 (23); Miami: 20 (17); Monroe: 508 (481); Montgomery: 18 (25); Morgan: 308 (325); Morrow: 174 (170); Muskingum: 462 (478); Noble: 349 (335); Ottawa: 3 (0); Paulding: 126 (145); Perry: 260 (260); Pickaway: 26 (24); Pike: 278 (246); Portage: 205 (236); Preble: 114 (108); Putnam: 87 (89); Richland: 280 (277); Ross: 350 (330); Sandusky: 25 (22); Scioto: 270 (236); Seneca: 141 (162); Shelby: 50 (42); Stark: 281 (223); Summit: 65 (54); Trumbull: 464 (435); Tuscarawas: 429 (426); Union: 48 (32); Van Wert: 27 (17); Vinton: 306 (329); Warren: 101 (67); Washington: 466 (466); Wayne: 106 (100); Williams: 313 (296); Wood: 36 (30); Wyandot: 103 (104). Totals: 17,793 (17,638).


By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff was the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. Jeff is 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.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

REVISED: Throttle back on declaring new state record yellow perch caught off Fairport Harbor

Ladies and gentlemen, news of a new Ohio state record yellow perch being caught from off the pier at the HTP Marina in Fairport Harbor is a wee bit premature.

Unfortunately, a number of outdoors reporters have jumped the gun, indicating in one fashion or another that a new state record yellow perch exists. Yet as of now the referenced 2.9-pound yellow perch is a potential new state record, and nothing more.

Thus the current state record yellow perch - a fish weighing 2.75 pounds and caught from Lake Erie by Charles Thomas of Lorain in April 17th, 1984 - remains the best fish of that species ever entered in the state record fish program.

Ohio’s state record fish program is administered by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, which began the state fish record-keeping project and has continuously maintained the list for more than 70 years. It works with such agencies as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Sea Grant Agency in verifying catches.

The verification and approval process is not some functional formality, either. Rather, it is the keystone that supports the entire record fish-keeping structure.

However, an issue has come to the fore that demands attention. The potential new state record yellow perch was initially weighed on a scale that was not legally certified by a county auditor, as the rules stipulate, says the committee’s chairman and OWO member, retired Ohio Sea Grant agent Fred Snyder.

Only afterwards - one day, - says Snyder - was the scale then certified.

Consequently, The Outdoor Writers of Ohio's Record Fish Committee members have instructed that the fish be reweighed, this time on a scale that also meets the lawful definition of certification. Whether the angler chooses to follow through on the instructions is his option, though his application is in the hands of the committee’s members, Snyder says.

What cannot be lost nor dismissed is the importance of adhering to the state record fish program's strict protocol, and which is essential for two very logical reasons. The first of these is that it protects a current record fish holder's catch, a catch that conformed to all of the program’s requirements without exception and without being fudged or broken.

Ohio’s list of state record fish contains 47 headings; 42 hook-and-line categories and five bow-fishing categories. Each of those record holders has a right of expectation that anyone and everyone who seeks to displace their title must successfully navigate the same rules they were required to follow. It’s called fairness.

The second reason is intertwined with the first: It protects the integrity of the state record fish program. If a stated and unambiguous rule is allowed to be broken even once than it can be broken twice, three times - or more times.

And remember this too: Rules are never bent; they can only be broken. Thus, any casual departure regarding the importance of closely tracing the program’s stated rules would be unfair to future potential record fish holders. And it would eventually put into play the question of whether a catch – any catch - is truly a new record.

As outdoors writers we love nothing more than to announce an impressive catch, especially when it’s a new state record fish. We want to be first to report this good news. However, as journalists we are required to be fair and accurate.

And as a former chairman of the OWO State Record Fish Committee I fully understand and appreciate the vital importance of properly dotting the program’s every “i” and crossing its every “t.” The program’s rules demand no less of its committee members.

There really is no other way to properly report on this potentially exciting new state record yellow perch; and one that Lake County may take particular pride in, especially since it was caught from shore.  


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. 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, May 6, 2016

Tom turkey plays by hunting in the rain playbook

By any standard I’ve used before this was not going to be a take-home-a-turkey day.

The sky was dour and coming apart at the seams with rain showers.  The wind was doing what the wind does best; namely pushing and shoving the raindrops into whatever opening in the blind and clothing were left unsealed.

Coldness, too, the sort that chills and demands that one believes escape comes only in the form of retreat.

However, I was not about to run and duck into my Jeep Patriot. Call me Mr. Stubborn but I actually wanted to see if there was any truth to the hype about hunting spring turkeys during a rain event.

Those are stories that often come fast and furious just before and during the spring turkey-hunting season. You know the titles as well as anyone: “Kill Your Gobbler When It’s Pouring,” “Get The Best Tom Of Your Life When Everyone Else Is Home,” “Beat The Rain And Score.” All of the titles ending with an explanation mark, of course.

The theory behind hunting spring hunting-season wild turkeys in a rain storm is simple enough and has some logic, I suppose. Turkeys hate the rain; at least while they’re confined to their roosts in the woods. They have a tough time hearing and are far from pleased about dealing with wet feathers and all, the pro-hunt-in-the-rain argument goes.

This hypothesis also expresses the belief that turkeys prefer sauntering through fields and pastures. All the better to strut and preen and see and hear, theory continues.

What the outdoors magazine stories seldom add is that if the weather is all wet and drippy for the turkeys it’s also all wet and drippy for the turkey hunter. This explains why I kept my deer-hunting blind up and running, not dismantling it from anchorage along a thread of trees that faced a pasture. I figured that during Ohio’s four-week-long spring wild turkey-hunting season I’d have at least one day to test the theory.

So I plopped myself inside the fabric ground blind before the sun was scheduled to rise, which it couldn’t, of course. The heavy overcast and the steady, dreary rain shower would keep the sun from actually making an appearance. The best was an oozing of light that penetrated the gloom and at least allowed me to begin legally hunting.

Inside the blind I splayed the assembly of calls across my rain jacket; a couple of mouth calls, a pair of tube calls and one each slate-pot-and-striker call, a push-pin call and an owl hooter call. That last one went into action when I determined enough light existed to meet the legal requirements for hunting.

No response was forth-coming as a result of using the owl hooter. Neither did a turkey respond in kind to my use of a tube call, the friction-pot call and one of the mouth diaphragm calls.

But since the rain seemed to have let up a little I figured I’d step into the woodlot’s edge and call. There I listened for any wild turkey which might either still be occupying a roost or else had come down and was making for the pasture. Just like the outdoors story books say that turkeys do when the weather turns sour and all is uncomfortably miserable.

Yet even the barred owls – if there were any – didn’t hail back when I used my owl hooter.

Figuring that by keeping myself from overlooking the pasture from the vantage point of the ground blind I made a U-turn in the woodlot and returned the shelter. That was a good thing. A very good thing, indeed, as such things turn out.

Hardly had I reclaimed the sanctuary of the ground blind when the rain showers resumed, this time thumping the fabric with enough violence that I had to slide a couple of mesh screens back into place over their respective windows.

I then cracked a gun magazine, flipping page and reading about the history of the Kalashnikov (AK-47) rifle and its unique cartridge.

As I am prone to do when hunting turkeys from a blind about every 10 or 15 minutes I’d pucker-up and cut loose with some long “e-yelps” from one of my two tube calls. I use that style of call when prospecting for turkeys because these calls’ realism is trumped only by their loudness. Notes hailed from a tube call can carry for a long way and thus prick the interest of a potential gobbler suitor which otherwise would never know a shout out was made.

Funny, I thought, that almost sounded like a gobbler. No, must have been a dog, I figured. So I tried calling again. Once more I swore I heard a few gobbles, the notes breaking the silence and knifing through the steady rain.

Pitching aside the magazine and reaching for a diaphragm mouth call I also touched the tube call. It was a bid to assure myself that my favorite call was still there, hanging from a lanyard that looped about my neck.

The gobbler had made its approach from the pasture’s far corner, no doubt having left the woodlot’s elbow. I couldn’t see the actual approach, mind you, because the pasture slants sharply enough so that from ground level anything can’t come into view until it reaches the field’s crest.

And that crest is pivotal, marked by a lone boulder that shares company with a scrawny finger of a tree. It was here – on that graceful arc of a grassy pinnacle - that the gobbler stopped to survey the layout.

Now this is where I’ve been keeping something from you. I had company of sorts within my purview. Maybe 20 or 25 yards ahead I had placed one hen decoy - the kind that looks like it’s feeding.

This hen immitation was in the company of a jake decoy, though not any ordinary decoy of its kind. Oh, no, for you see this decoy is affixed with a steel rod that is connected to a motor that is driven by four AA-size batteries which in turn are regulated by a remote control fob that also hangs about my neck.

By clicking the fob’s “start-stop” button I manipulated the decoy to move in a semi-circle direction. Back and forth, back and forth the jake decoy would rotate. Stop and then go, and then stop again. It was driving that poor old gobbler crazy.

The bird would puff itself up and unfold its tail. Every now and then the bird would cut loose with a gobble rich enough to slice the air with a threatening vocabulary that I believed was directed at the jake decoy.

I must confess how even though I hadn’t killed a turkey in more than two years - and really wanted to drop this particular gobbler - I was having a grand time pulling its chain via my remote-control fob.

Slowly the gobbler sauntered across the field, step after step toward the jake decoy. I finally left the decoy’s electric instincts on and happily took note as the bird picked up the tempo to its steps, breaking into a gobbler dance of fanning its tail and hollering its tom-fool head off.

I had been preparing for this event since last year. I even bought a tactical-style TriStar shotgun with its AR-fashioned synthetic stock and AR-fashioned sights. Also, added was a tight-fisted turkey choke tube. Yeah, the way I figured it, if I was going to be in for a nickel with this spring turkey-hunting thing than I was going to be in for a dime.

Lining up the shotgun’s fore and aft fiber optic sights and letting them settle on that part of the turkey where its neck joins its body I launched the shot. For the record, I used one of Federal’s “3rd Degree” three-inch turkey-hunting-specific loads; a layered sandwich affair that contains a trio of different sizes of shot; one intended for short range, one added for medium range, and the last being a stack of pellets especially provided for long-distance gunning.

The gobbler never flinched once the tri-layered column of shot reached its destination. The bird simply collapsed, its rain-soaked wings unfurling.

No question this was a mature tom, very likely the butt-kicking boss of the property. Its spurs measured just under one inch each while its beard took the tape to nine inches. But it was the weight of the gobbler; mercy THAT weight. Twenty-two pounds he went. Yeah, soaking wet, I will admit.

And that’s where we’ll call it a story. Just like you, I’ve read the accounts of how to successfully hunt gobblers when the rain beats a nasty rhythm of soul-searing blues, and you’re far from being confident that today is a good day for a turkey to die.

While I’m not about to suggest hunting from a ground blind that overlooks a pasture during a rainstorm is going to work every time. Oh, no. But on this particular day anyway, everything fell into place.


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. 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, May 4, 2016

Firearms sales bolster employment opportunities in Ohio, elsewhere

Fueled by the spark of firearms sales the number of people employed in the industry has similarly revved up to tune of nearly 25,000 additional employees over the past two years.

The firearms industry now gainfully employs a total workforce that is just shy of 288,000 people. A good number of these high-paying jobs exist here in Ohio, too.

All figures come from the National Shooting Sports Foundation – the trade association that represents the multi-faceted firearms industry. These numbers are detailed in the organization’s eight-page “Firearms and Ammunition Industry Economic Impact Report 2016.”

Even the news organization CNN was impressed enough to recently publish an on-line business story about the subject.

In its report summation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation notes that nearly 133,000 people are employed directly in the industry with even more people – a shade more than 155,000 – being employed in support businesses.

And these are not minimum wage jobs, either, says the Foundation. The average person employed in the firearms industry collects a paycheck valued at $50,180 annually with a total all-employees’ estimated annual wage package of $14.4 billion.

Even more impressive is the overall estimated annual economic impact to the nation, which is valued at $49.3 billion.

In terms of tax revenue that flows from the worker’s paychecks and the industry’s share of such support, together they turn over $6.2 billion annually in taxes to local, state and federal governments, the Foundation says.

“Our industry is proud to be one of the bright spots in this economy,” the Foundation says in its detailed report.

The Foundation further breaks down the figures on a state-by-state basis. And Ohio does very well for itself, the Foundation says.

In its state-by-state economic impact report segment the Foundation says 11,124 Ohioans are employed directly and indirectly in the firearms industry. That’s good for 6th place in the total number of people employed in the industry on a state by state basis.

These workers earned $369 million in 2014, too; the last year such figures are available.

Perhaps surprisingly increasingly firearms-intolerant California is ranked second in terms of total firearms industry-related employment, only behind firearms-friendly Texas.

Rounding out the remaining Top 10 firearms-related employment states were Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, North Carolina, Illinois, Missouri, and Michigan.

Of course, job growth is directly tied in with firearms sales, and though dips and downturns have occurred so have leaps and bounds.

In 2013 the FBI conducted just over 21 million background checks on prospective firearms buyers. That figure rose to more than 23 million last year, and if the gun-buying trend continues the FBI is projecting it will perform even a greater number of the federal background checks in 2016.

To illustrate this exponential growth in background checks – which translates into people buying firearms – in 1998 (the background check’s first year) a total of 892,840 such reviews were made. That figure exploded to 9.14 million the following year.

And for the first three months of 2016 alone the FBI performed nearly 7.7 million background checks on prospective gun buyers.

Importantly for wildlife management is that the combined federal excise tax paid by all applicable firearms-related business totaled $864 million. This tax revenue stream eventually returns to the states via the Pittman-Robertson Act, which fuels individual states’ wildlife management projects on a cost recoup basis.

All good stuff, reiterates the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

 “The economic growth America's firearms and ammunition industry has experienced over the years has been nothing short of remarkable,” the Foundation says also in its report.

“Over the past couple of years, the industry's growth has been driven by an unprecedented number of Americans choosing to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear arms and purchase a firearm and ammunition.”

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn