As northern Ohio hunters prepare for the start of the waterfowl season next week, there might be a new priority. It has been suggested that before returning to that old, reliable marsh they have hunted religiously, they should first check the water level.
Mike Ervin, waterfowl biologist for the Division of Wildlife and an Ohio committee member on the Mississippi Flyway Council, said the landscape in some traditional duck and goose hunting grounds might have changed.
“The drought this summer has had an impact on many of the wetlands,” Ervin said.
“Mother Nature has helped a little with some of the recent rains, but we still need to get more water back into many of these wetlands. Some areas that hunters have used in the past might be dry, and many of them with water in them will be lower than in previous years.”
Duck and goose hunters will find the state remains divided into three zones for both seasons, with the dates designated for each season with the intent to maximize the hunting options when waterfowl are most abundant.
The North Zone extends across roughly the top half of the state down to I-70, with the remainder of the state below that line designated as the South Zone. The Lake Erie Marsh Zone for duck hunting begins at the intersection of I-75 at the Ohio-Michigan state line, and extends south to the Turnpike and east in a wide band to the Lorain County line.
The Lake Erie Goose Zone includes everything north of the Turnpike in Trumbull, Portage, Summit, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Erie, Sandusky, and Ottawa counties, and portions of Wood and Lucas counties that lie east of I-280 and I-75.
Maps that outline the precise hunting zones, bag limits, and the specific rules for Ohio’s waterfowl hunting seasons can be found at www.wildohio.com and in the Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations and in Ohio Waterfowl Hunting Seasons Publication 5295. Daily shooting hours run from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Ohio’s North Zone and Lake Erie Marsh Zone general waterfowl seasons open on Oct. 13 for ducks, coots, and mergansers and runs through Oct. 28. In the Lake Erie Marsh Zone, a second segment of the duck season runs from Nov. 10 to Dec. 23.
In the North Zone, the waterfowl season opens again from Nov. 24 through Jan. 6.
For goose hunters, the first segment of the season runs from Oct. 13-Oct. 28 in both the North Zone and the Lake Erie Goose Zone.
A second segment in the Lake Erie Goose Zone takes place from Nov. 10 through Jan. 10.
Ohio’s North Zone goose hunters will have additional opportunities from Nov. 24 through Jan. 6, and again from Jan. 12 through Jan. 29.
While the drought might complicate things initially, Ervin expects waterfowl hunters will find its long term effect to be a beneficial one. The retreat of the waters allowed for an explosion of vegetation to take place, providing a lot more for ducks and geese to feed on.
Ervin expects the waterfowl hunters to find good numbers of ducks and geese this season. A strong hatch on the prairies should put a lot of ducks in the flyway, he said.
The Canada goose numbers are also strong, with less reliance on the migrating numbers of geese and more on a growing resident population, he said.
“There are a lot of ponds around, so they’ve got more habitat to use, and their numbers have exploded. They’ve really taken off,” Ervin said. “It’s to the point now where we are trying to reduce the population.”
Given that burgeoning flock of Canada geese, the bag limit has been increased to three from the previous limit of two, and the season will now run for 78 days.
Ohio hunters harvest more Canada geese than any other waterfowl.
In Michigan’s South Zone, the season for ducks runs from Oct. 6 through Nov. 30 and reopens from Dec. 29 through Jan. 1. The main Canada goose season for most of the South Zone takes place in the same time periods.
Special dates apply in certain areas designated as goose management units (GMUs). Detailed information on Michigan’s waterfowl hunting zones, specific seasons and bag limits is available at www.michigan.gov/dnr.
Contact Blade outdoors Editor Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6068.