Several counties in northwest Ohio will offer some of the best hunting prospects for ring-necked pheasants and cottontail rabbits when the upland game seasons open next Friday.
State wildlife biologist Scott Hull named Williams and Defiance counties, and Hardin, Wyandot and Marion counties among the top mini-regions in the state to pursue pheasants.
"There are three premier regions for wild pheasant hunting," said Hull, who leads upland research at the state's Olentangy Wildlife Research Station. The aforementioned northwest Ohio areas are two of them, with the third being Madison, Fayette, Ross and Pickaway counties in south-central Ohio.
These counties all have relatively large amounts of idled cropland in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, and that means more of the prime habitat needed for pheasants - grassland nesting cover. "Williams and Defiance counties have the most [CRP] in the state, and Ross is not far behind," Hull said.
Too, each of the mini-regions has a top-rated state wildlife area with hundreds of acres of excellent upland habitat - Lake La Su An in Williams County, Big Island in Marion County and Deer Creek in Pickaway County.
Population trends for pheasants are about the same as for 2004, with a "pretty good" summer nesting season this year, the biologist said. Statewide, the pheasant population is in the "upper hundreds of thousands but shy of a million," he added.
Each year about 200,000 birds, both wild and stocked, are bagged by hunters. Up to 250,000 hunters are said to participate at some point in the season.
Rabbit numbers are down somewhat from 2004, but well within the 10-year average, Hull said. In any case, finding land with good cover is the key to finding either rabbits or pheasants. Hunters are reminded that they must obtain permission from the landowner to hunt private land.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife also annually raises and releases 15,000 ringnecks for the upland season, of which about 3,000 are allocated to Ohio Wildlife District 2, the northwest region. Stockings will be conducted for opening day, the second Saturday of the season, and for Thanksgiving Day.
The rabbit season runs from Friday, Nov. 4, through Feb. 28, with a daily bag limit of four. Pheasant season runs Nov. 4 through Jan. 2 with a daily limit of two roosters, or cocks. Both seasons will be closed during the statewide deer-gun season, Nov. 28 through Dec. 4.
A season for bobwhite quail, limited to 16 southern Ohio counties, is set for Nov. 4 through 27.
For hunters venturing into Geauga and Ashtabula counties in northeast Ohio, be advised that snowshoe hares are not legal game and may not be taken. The hares have been reintroduced to northeast Ohio after a century's absence. To avoid confusion with cottontails, portions of the two counties are closed to rabbit hunting Nov. 4 through Dec. 4.
A map of the closed snowshoe hare zones can be viewed by visiting the section on hunting regulations on the state Web site, www.ohiodnr.com/wildlife.
An American white pelican, an uncommon visitor to this region, has been observed at least twice within the last week along the mudflats of the Maumee River just upstream from the Toledo Zoo.
Similar observations of a white pelican were made last February in the same area.
White pelicans, which have a wingspan of nine feet, usually travel along the country's Central and Pacific flyways.
The 2005 Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch hatches, though not washouts, were nothing to write home about, according to ODW results.
Travis Hartman, a biologist at the state's Lake Erie Fisheries Research Station at Sandusky, said that trawl results would rank the 2005 walleye year-class at 13th among 19 years of records that began in 1987.
"It's fair to compare 2005 with 2000 and 2004 year-classes," Hartman said. "There will be a few fish there but nothing substantial." However, the 2002 year-class "was a total bust."
The super year-class of 2003, which is expected to provide superb angling opportunities for 2006, currently ranges from a slightly sub-legal 14 1/2 inches to 18 inches, the biologist noted. The legal keeper minimum is 15 inches. Almost all '03s should be legal by next spring.
The yellow perch 2005 year-class compares to 2000, which "is not a large perch year-class in the present fishery," Hartman said. "The recent poor year-classes of 2002 and 2004 came in well below this year." The better year-classes of '01 and '03 showed nearly fourfold and more than tenfold production, respectively, over 2005, which ranked 10th among the 19 years of perch indexing.
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