If you can conjure up a northeaster for a week from tomorrow, or jump-start the corn harvest, then you can assure yourself of optimum conditions for a great opening morning for duck and goose hunting in northern Ohio.
For nasty weather and fields of cut corn to glean are prime factors in duck hunting success hereabouts. Bluebird weather usually just does one of two things - keeps the birds fat and happy and rafting out in the big lake, or encourages them to keep right on flying south, bypassing the region.
"It will be heavily weather-dependent, as usual," agreed Dave Sherman, a biologist at the state's Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station in Ottawa County.
He added that good numbers of wigeon and wood ducks, plus some blue-winged teal, should remain in the region for the opener. "It should be good for the youth hunt, too," added Sherman, referring to the statewide waterfowling weekend for hunters ages 15 and under tomorrow and Sunday.
Overall duck numbers this fall are very similar to those of 2004, slightly lower but not noticeably so, Sherman said. Hunting all along the Mississippi Flyway last year was fairly poor, he added. At least some of it can be blamed on weather - good or bad - and the timing of harvests.
As always, check the digests of general and special waterfowl hunting regulations before heading afield. Terry Sunderhaus, law enforcement supervisor for Ohio Wildlife District 2, said that the most frequently ticketed violations last year were carrying an unplugged gun (three-shot maximum) and using shells loaded with other-than-nontoxic shot.
Lead shot has been banned since the 1987-88 waterfowl hunting seasons. Approved shot listed this year by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service includes bismuth-tin; iron (steel); iron-tungsten, iron-tungsten-nickel, tungsten-bronze, tungsten-matrix, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-tin-bismuth, and tungsten-tin-iron-bismuth.
Sunderhaus also calls attention to the law regulating hunting from boats on rivers, which is a constant source of confusion to some hunters.
Written permission of the landowner is required to hunt from boats on rivers or streams when the craft is anchored, tied to the banks, or tied to any structure in the stream. It is illegal to set decoys in the river or go ashore to retrieve game without permission of the landowner. The only exception is when the river or stream passes through public property on which hunting is permitted.
The wildlife lawman notes that this is not new and has been on the books since 1953. It is highlighted in the digest this year "as a reminder to waterfowl and other hunters about how the law is set in the state of Ohio.
"In a nutshell, any time you are on private property in Ohio - hunting, fishing, or trapping - you need the landowner's permission. By policy the Ohio Division of Wildlife accepts a landowner's verbal permission as sufficient. We have a lot of landowners who are hesitant about signing anything."
Too, only the landowner - not a neighbor or a relative or friend - can file a trespassing complaint, Sunderhaus added. He noted that walleye or other stream fishermen similarly must seek landowner permission to wade or anchor or tie up on a stretch of stream, for the landowner owns the bottom.
On the other hand, it is OK to float or drift any stream, as long as you do not anchor or tie off the watercraft or decoys. No permission needed.
In related news, the Metroparks of the Toledo Area have new rules for duck hunting in the Maumee River adjacent to parklands:
Duck hunting will be permitted in the slack-water pool a mile upstream of Providence Metropark and Grand Rapids. Waterfowl hunting will be allowed first-come, first-served daily, and duck-blind permits will not be needed this year.
However, hunting is permitted from boats or floating blinds only, with no hunting from shore. Floating blinds must be removed daily, and no permanent blinds are allowed. Boats and blinds may be anchored but not fastened to the banks or ground.
All hunting also must be conducted at least 400 feet from improved areas, such as buildings, trails, campgrounds, homes, and marinas. No shooting toward improved areas is allowed. No boats or blinds are allowed inside of the No Boats buoys when present. For other details, call the Metroparks, 419-407-9700.
The 2005 youth pheasant hunt by the Wood/Lucas Chapter of Pheasants Forever is set for Oct. 29 at Bowling Green and Dec. 10 at Maumee Bay State Park.
The Oct. 29 hunt is set for a new venue this year, the Wood County Fairgrounds on Poe Road in Bowling Green. Morning and afternoon sessions are planned around a lunch and program period.
Special guests for the lunch program this year include Janine Newhouse, education coordinator for PF's Leopold Education Project, and Cheryl Riley, PF national program youth coordinator.
Hunters ages 12-15 are eligible to apply. They must possess a valid 2005 hunting license and join the Pheasants Forever Ringnecks program. Young hunters must be accompanied by licensed, nonhunting adults.
For an application, call Norma Best, 419-353-3171. The deadline is Oct. 19. Adult volunteers also can contact Best about assisting in the hunt and lunch program.
On a related note, Ohio environmental educators are invited to participate in a Leopold Education Workshop set by Pheasants Forever, which runs from 7 p.m. Oct. 28 until noon on Oct. 30, at Widewater Retreat Center in Liberty Center.
The workshop curriculum is innovative, involves critical thinking, and is grounded in conservation and environmental principles outlined in the classic writings of the late Aldo Leopold, renowned conservationist and father of modern wildlife management. For other details visit the program Web site, www.lep.org.
Sponsorships are available from Ohio Pheasants Forever chapters to cover the $100 fee. Registration is limited to 25. Organizations interested in helping underwrite a participant's fee also can contact Lou Best, local coordinator, at 419-353-9573.
Workshop participants are to be part of the youth-hunt lunchtime program. For details contact Newhouse, toll-free, at 1-877-773-2070.