Friday, October 26, 2018

(UPDATED) First tweleve days of Ohio's 2018 fall turkey season is off to (very) slow start

The first twelve days of Ohio’s 2018 fall turkey hunting season is a fowl ball when stacked up against its 2017 counterpart.

And compared to the first twelve days of the 2016 season, this year’s fall turkey-hunting season’s duodenary start.

For 2018 the first twelve-day turkey kill stood at 331 birds. For the same twelve-day period in 2017 that number was 364 birds; not a huge difference.

Where the figures diverge in a big way is the difference between the first twelve days in 2018 and the first twelve days in 2016, which saw a whopping kill of 685 turkeys, both hens and toms since any turkey is fair game during Ohio’s fall turkey-hunting season.

Of the 57 Ohio counties opened to fall turkey hunting season in both 2017 and this year, 20 of them have recorded increases, eight have posted identical tallies, and the rest of the group have seen declines: some markedly so, too.

In the summaries, you’ll see that the fall harvest total for the first 12 days of the 2016 season is approximately double the 2017 and 2018 totals over the same period,” said Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist, Mark Wiley.

Fall harvest in 2016 was exceptional, whereas harvest during 2017 and 2018 (first 12 days) were much closer to Ohio’s average. The bulk of that difference lies within southeast and east-central counties, which had evidence of phenomenal poult production and survival in 2016.”
Wiley said too that spikes in fall turkey harvest sometimes occur in years with high reproductive indices. 

Among the counties that have seen first twelve day increases, the 2018 figures (with their respective 2017 numbers in parentheses) are: Belmont – 7 (4); Gallia – 12 (9); Geauga – 13 (4); Harrison – 18 (13); Holmes – 11 (9); and Meigs – 6 (4).

Yet some counties saw first twelve day declines that are dramatic. Among them - with their 2018 figures first and their respective 2017 numbers in parentheses - are: Ashtabula – 10 (18); Coschocton – 18 (26); Guernsey – 12 (14); Jefferson – 3 (7); Lorain - 1 (7); Morrow – zero (4); Stark – 4 (13); Trumbull – 6 (14); and Vinton – 5 (10).

However, the gap is a chasm when the first twelve days of the 2016 season and the first twelve days of the current season are examined side-by-side. Of the 52 counties which had a fall turkey season in 2016 and again this year, fully 44 thus far have experienced declines. Only four counties have so far posted gains with the remainder showing identical first twelve-day kills.

Among the counties with whopping first twelve-day declines from 2016 to 2018 - with the 2018 figure first and their respective 2016 figure in parentheses – are: Ashland – 5 (11); Ashtabula – 10 (21); Coshocton – 18 (25); Gallia – 12 (18); Hocking – 4 (17); Holmes – 11 (30); Jackson – 4 (22); Licking – 9 (15); Mahoning – 3 (10); Meigs – 6 (27); Morgan – 3 (21); Muskingum – 5 (21); Noble – 6 (24); Perry – 4 (23); Pike – 3 (15); Ross – 3 (13); Stark – 4 (11); Tuscarawas – 7 (32); Vinton – 5 (16); and Washington – 6 (21).

The four gainers – with their 2018 first twelve-day number followed by their respective 2016 first twelve-day number – are: Belmont – 11 (10); Lake – 4 (3); Geauga – 13 (10); Summit – 5 (4).

However, said Wiley, Ohio’s fall turkey harvest total is not a reliable indicator of current turkey population status or trend. Variables like hunter effort likely influence fall harvest as much or more than turkey abundance. Hunter effort is challenging to measure for the fall turkey season.

It must be remembered that fall turkey hunting is markedly different from its spring sibling. It is widely understood that in autumn many turkeys are taken opportunistically; by archery deer hunters who have a flock come underneath a tree stand, by waterfowlers jump-shooting a woodland stream and who “spook” a family flock, that sort of thing.

There are some serious fall turkey hunters, though. These are the hunters who embrace using a specially trained bird dog to break up a flock and then immediately come to a stop, keeping the canine close. The hunter then uses hen-style “come back” call methods to lure in the young birds. 

The same can be done by a hunter charging forward.

Also, the total fall turkey-hunting season kill for 2013 through 2017 was: 2013 (1,037); 2014 (1,239); 2015 (1,537); 2016 (2,168); and 2017 (1,060). By comparison, the spring 2018 turkey hunting season saw a total kill of 22,571 bearded birds only.

Ohio’s 2018 fall turkey-hunting season continues through November 25th. One bird of either sex is permitted.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Ohio's 2018 to-date deer kill is on a rapid rise

Ohio’s archery deer hunting appears to have lit a fire with the arrival of much cooler weather.

The to-date deer kill as of October 23rd stands at 19,626 animals; a figure that represents a 1,502 animal gain in deer killed over the comparable October 24th, 2017 to-date figure, a look at the weekly tally provided on-line from the Ohio Division of Wildlife each Wednesday afternoon. The tallies continue through to the end of Ohio’s various deer-hunting seasons in early February.

Likewise, the to-date figure is a 6,576 animal increase over last week's reporting period.

Up until this current reporting period the 2018 numbers were trailing their respective 2017 counterparts. Most experts attributed the shortfall to the unseasonably – and even, record-breaking -warmth that stalked Ohio during October’s first couple of weeks.

And an abundant hard mast crop has not aided hunters, either. The Wildlife Division also notes in another report that the statewide proportion of white oak trees bearing acorns (hard mast) is up 22 percent over last year. White oaks are a preferred forage for deer. It is widely held that when mast is heavy that deer need not wander far and wide to feast, thus making themselves less visible to hunters.

Conversely, the red oak mast -a less desirable deer food source – is said to be down 10 percent this year, though some areas did see a greater supply of this nut, too.

Back to the current to-date deer kill. Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 65 showed gains over their previous respective October 24, 2017 reporting period while two counties – Erie (127) and Shelby (107) – reported respective identical weekly reporting figures. The remaining 21 Ohio counties saw declines between the two periods.

Among the counties posting gains between their respective 2017 and 2018 to-date reports (with their 2017 numbers in parentheses) were: Ashland – 347 (292); Brown – 253 (203); Coshocton – 695 (579); Defiance – 182 (130); Gallia – 186 (158); Geauga – 260 (254); Guernsey – 356 (316); Hancock – 154 (120); Hardin – 152 (106); Holmes – 481 (442); Knox – 483 (406); Medina – 330 (263); Meigs – 264 (198); Mercer – 105 (67); Noble – 248 (185); Paulding – 110 (81); Portage – 351 (311); Seneca – 227 (174); and Warren -162 (139).

Among the counties posting declines between their respective 2017 and 2018 to-date figures (with their 2017 numbers in parentheses) were: Adams – 299 (318); Ashtabula – 598 (650); Cuyahoga -245 (277); Fayette -26 (31); Franklin – 117 (139); Highland – 200 (233); Lake – 152 (173); Lorain – 317 (316); Lucas – 114 (150); and Trumbull – 609 (620).

In terms of antlered deer being taken to date, for the October 24th, 2017 reporting period the number was 5,824 animals while for the October 23rd, 2018 reporting period the figure was 6,735 animals.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Ohio's deer hunters gaining ground on 2018 to-date deer kill

Some 18 days into this year’s lengthy aggregate Ohio deer-hunting season and the state’s hunters made up for lost time during the past week.

The to-date deer kill as of October 17th stands at 13,050 animals. That figure is only 242 fewer deer than were killed during the same 18-day reporting period, ending October 17, 2018.

It’s also a huge jump from the October 10th, 2018 to October 10th, 2017 respective differential. Last week the gap stood at 2,165 animals, and only six of Ohio’s 88 counties had recorded 2018 to-date gains over their respective comparable to-date 2017 figures.

However, data gleaned from the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Wednesday weekly tally – made available due to the state’s computer-based deer harvest reporting system – shows that for the current to-date reporting period, 41 Ohio counties recorded gains over their respective and comparable 2017 to-date numbers.

Among the current to-date gainers (with their respective 2017 to-date numbers in parentheses) are: Brown – 169 (136); Coschocton – 497 (419); Gallia – 121 (97); Geauga – 198 (186); Hancock – 110 (85); Hardin – 112 (77); Knox – 320 (275); Medina – 224 (203); Meigs – 171(146); Noble – 179 (132); Preble – 90 (74); and Seneca – 147 (123).

Among the current to-date laggards (with their respective 2017 to-date numbers in parentheses) are: Adams – 184 (234); Ashtabula – 431 (487); Cuyahoga – 183 (224); Franklin – 75 (109); Green – 63 (81); Lake – 108 (131); Lorain – 210 (246); Licking – 372 (391); Lucas – 66 (113); Muskingum – 256 (272); Perry – 99 (129); Pike – 84 (113); Summit – 179 (215); Trumbull – 422 (474); and Williams – 127 (140).

One county – Warren – posted an identical to-date 2017 and to-date 2018 deer kill number: 107 animals.

Perhaps interestingly the number of antlered deer killed to-date thus far is running ahead of the 2017 to-date figure. Those numbers are 4,076 and 3,927, respectively.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Heat thus far appears to be melting Ohio's 2018 to-date deer kill

Some 12 days into Ohio’s all-inclusive four month-plus deer hunting season and it is obvious that heat has not been treating participants – or deer -very well.

As of October 10th, the to-date deer kill stands at 7,072 animals. That is a drop of 2,165 from the October 10th, 2017 to-date deer kill of 9,237 white-tails. By coincidence, this year’s to-date deer hunting calendar and that of last year are identical with the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s weekly reporting periods ending on Wednesdays.

The current weekly to-date report also shows that only six of Ohio’s 88 counties saw increases between their respective comparable 2017 to-date and 2018 to-date reporting periods. These counties – with their 2017 to-date numbers in parentheses – were: Brown – 96 (88); Coschocton – 291 (266); Gallia – 79 (64); Greene – 44 (43); Noble – 106 (93); and Vinton – 97 (96).

Obviously then the remining 82 Ohio counties saw drops between the two do-date tallies, and some declines were significant. Among those counties showing declines – again with their 2017 to-date numbers in parentheses – were: Adams – 103 (152); Ashtabula - 349 (255); Cuyahoga – 106 (167); Guernsey – 112 (163); Knox – 158 (190); Lake – 73 (102); Lucas – 43 (77); Muskingum – 144 (188); Morrow – 50 (76); Pike – 49 (82); Ross – 88 (123); Richland – 132 (179); Trumbull – 275 (356); Washington – 47 (102); and Williams – 70 (103).

The drop in the to-date kill appears most notably perhaps with antlerless animals. Last year the to-date number of antlerless deer killed was 6,569 animals. This year, the to-date figure stands at 4,912 antlerless deer, or a drop of 25 percent. The drop for antlered deer was roughly 18 percent.

A couple of other interesting 2018 to-date buck verses antlerless deer tidbits is that two counties saw identical kills. Jefferson County has thus far has seen 26 antlered and 26 antlerless deer being killed. Meanwhile, in Scioto County the numbers are 38 antlerless and 38 antlered deer killed to date.

And Ottawa County actually has thus far recorded more antlered deer killed than antlerless deer taken – nine for the former and eight for the latter.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, October 8, 2018

Ohio Wildlife Division tries to calm jittery critics over Lake Erie law unit's future

Out-going Ohio Division of Wildlife chief Mike Miller has gone on the defensive against claims that the agency is attempting to dissolve its vital Lake Erie Law Enforcement Unit.

This perceived threat, critics say, would come about through increasing reliance on elements of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Watercraft Division law enforcement wing. The assertion stems from charges that the Natural Resources Department – and by extension, the Wildlife Division – has been over-working the Lake Erie law section, and also failing to adequately supply the necessary manpower to watch over both commercial and recreational fishing on Ohio’s share of Lake Erie, the state’s 200-plus miles of shoreline, as well looking out for the rest of Ohio’s north coast natural resources.

Most recently, alarmists have sounded that Miller has met with officials attached to the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association in an effort to solicit support for a major overhaul of the Wildlife Division’s Lake Erie law enforcement unit.

Miller – who almost certainly will not be asked to stick around come January regardless of who becomes Ohio’s next governor - denies that he has told the LECBA that new Lake Erie law enforcement protocols are in the works; only that a free exchange of ideas between the state and the president of the group was recently conducted.

That take was second by the LECBA’s president, Paul Pacholoski. The LECBA represents many Lake Erie Western Basin charter captains,

We are not going to merge with anyone nor begin replacing any Wildlife Division staff with officers from Parks and Watercraft,” Miller said. “It hasn’t happened. It’s not happening. It’s not going to happen.”

Miller did say that the Lake Erie Law Enforcement Unit is now – at least temporarily – being supervised from the agency’s Wildlife District Two (Northwest Ohio) Office in Findlay. That is because Wildlife Division law enforcement official Jeff Collingwood had requested to return to the District Two office where can supervise both that segment’s law enforcement section along with the Lake Erie section, Miller said.

It’s an experiment that’s been discussed before to see if it can work in the future, and it has been working for the past six months,” Miller said.

Similarly, Miller says, the current staff of six Wildlife Division law enforcement officers will continue to use as their bases of operation both the agency’s offices in Sandusky as well as Fairport Harbor.

Lake Erie has always been a priority for us,” Miller said continuing, during a recent conversation with “Ohio Outdoor News,” noting too that the agency has filled three Lake Erie fisheries biologists vacancies in recent times.

We’ve often pulled officers from other parts of the state to work enforcement projects like the walleye runs on the Maumee River or when the fishing is really going strong on Erie and during the ice-fishing season,” Miller said also.

As for talk that the Wildlife Division will increasingly rely on Parks and Watercraft Division lae enforcement officers instead of its own crew of commissioned personnel, Miller said it only makes sense to partner together and utilize each others physical assets in order to comb the lake’s vast open waters.

That’s a benefit for both of us,” he said.

Pacholski said he met with Miller recently to go over Lake Erie’s international quota system along with possible future changes to walleye limits, the up-coming changes to non-resident Ohio fishing license fees, as well as increasing fish and habitat studies in the Maumee River and its embayment.

As always, we at LECBA strongly support the Sandusky office for both its enforcement and fishery management program,” Pacholoski told “Ohio Outdoor News” also.

(The) LECBA is always glad to partner with the Ohio DNR to protect the Lake Erie fishery.”

Pacholoski said too that “different ideas were thrown out by both myself and the Chief, none of which involved drastically altering the agencies law enforcement unit or combining agencies.”

With our skyrocketing population of walleyes, we feel their protection for the future is extremely important. A strong enforcement presence for both the commercial and sportfishing industry in Ohio has always been one of our issues,” Pacholoski said. “I must reiterate, these were just ideas.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Senate moved to break National Park maintenance funding logjam

In a key vote that brings vital upgrades to the country’s national parks system one step closer to fulfillment, the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee overwhelmingly passed the proposed “Restore Our Parks Act.”

The October 2nd bipartisan vote was even close: Nineteen to four, and included those from a Senate Independent, several Democrats and a number of Republicans, among them being Ohio’s junior senator, Rob Portman.

Behind the move is an effort to address the nearly $12 billion in deferred maintenance backlog of the National Park Service. Such a dam-burst in allowing money to flow to correct this infrastructural backlog would come from a so-called “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund.”

The Fund would be the recipient of moneys from existing “unobligated” revenues the federal government receives from on-shore and off-shore energy development.

Various other conservation-related accounts also tap into this fund, thus being “obligated.”

The dollars coming from this additional fiscal bit of government largress would henceforth flow into an account earmarked specifically for National Park Service maintenance projects that have been deferred on an on-going basis.

While that sounds like a no-brainer, note that every unspent in every unused federal government account is credited against the federal deficit. Consequently, if one billion dollars is not being spent from Account “X” than the federal deficit looks like its one billion smaller.

Such book-keeping slight of hand is a key reason that administrations of both parties like to keep those dollars where are, unspent.

Yet the needs clearly outstrips the perceived withholding of revenues, the program’s backers contend.

This bipartisan legislation will help tackle the more than $100 million maintenance backlog alone at Ohio’s eight national park sites,” said Portman, who went on to thank his Senate committee colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

We can no longer wait to fix the $12 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks and ignore the long-term effects of allowing these national treasures to simply crumble,” also said Senator Mark Warner from Virginia.

Heralding the committee vote as well was Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association, a non-partisan organization designed to advocate for the country’s national parks system.

The importance of preserving our history, culture and public lands is something we can all agree on,” Pierno said.

Tackling the deferred maintenance in our national parks is not a political issue but an American one, and all who are supporting this important legislation recognize that. We commend the dedication and leadership of those senators for working in a bipartisan way to push this important bill through Congress, and making a strong investment in our national parks.”

The proposal now moves to the Senate where its fate will be determined by all of its 100 members and then will need to wind its way through the entire legislative labyrinth.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn