"Hoo, hoo-hoo...hoo, hoo-hoo" — it's a 4 a.m. wake-up call that has been softly drifting from the Norway spruce and pines on Muskellunge Creek bottom with surprising regularity in recent days.
It is the calling of great horned owl mates as they announce their nesting territory to all comers. These large, fearsome-looking owls with five-foot wing spans are not nicknamed Flying Tigers for nothing.
At a time of year when lots of other wildlife is hunkered down against the cold, great horned pairs are full-bore into nesting and on the verge of egg-laying, according to bird authority Mark Shieldcastle. So the calling and increased activity among these otherwise fairly inconspicuous night-predators is worth noting.
"It could happen in the next week or two," said Shieldcastle about egg-laying and incubation. Research director for the Oak Harbor-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory, he added, "the first of the bald eagles will be starting soon too."
The big owls, being predators, get a jump on producing young so that their offspring are ready to hunt and eat when prey species are just beginning to produce their own young —owl food — in the spring.
Such is the way nature works, and that "hoo, hoo-hoo" in the middle of the night is the call of the wild that says so.
• Limited public opportunities to fish for trout on Cold Creek, one of Ohio's most unique streams, are being offered via a special lottery by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
A half-mile section of the creek, located at the Castalia State Fish Hatchery in Erie County, again will be open to a limited number of anglers on selected dates between March 28 and Oct. 28.
Submit an application form and a nonrefundable $5 application fee by Jan. 31 to be eligible for the random drawing. Application forms can be obtained by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE. Applying online at wildohio.com is only $3.
Only one application is allowed per person. Additional information is available online at wildohio.com or by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.
Approximately 90 adult and 50 youth permits will be issued. Individuals selected will be allowed to bring two adults and three youths under the age of 16 (no more than six people total). Successful applicants will be notified by mail of their fishing dates.
In a related offering, anglers interested in learning the art of fly fishing and practicing their skills on Cold Creek at the Castalia hatchery can apply for a lottery for beginning fly-fishing clinics.
In all 135 slots are available for the program, which includes morning and afternoon sessions each Friday from April 29 to June 3. The deadline for submitting to this lottery is March 25.
In addition to fly-fishing instruction by state wildlife staff and members of Trout Unlimited, attendees will be able to test their newly acquired skills by fishing for the abundant rainbow trout found in Cold Creek. Anglers may also encounter an occasional brown trout.
Instructors will offer sessions from 8 a.m. until noon, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on April 29, May 6, May 13, May 20, and June 3.
To apply, submit a postcard listing name, address, and phone number. The applicant may bring one guest, but the guest's name must be listed on the postcard at the time of submission. Only one postcard per applicant and guest is allowed and no duplicates may be submitted. Postcards should be sent to: Ohio Wildlife District Two, 952 Lima Avenue, Findlay, Ohio 45840, Attention: Linda Ringer.
Successful applicants will receive an assigned session date and time. Permits are nontransferable. For more information call 1-800-WILDLIFE or visit ohiodnr.com online.
• In memoriam — Paul J. Gurtzweiler, 63 died Jan. 6 and his obituary was duly posted in The Blade. But an outdoors postscript is in order:
Gurtzweiler of Perrysburg Township was featured in this space Nov. 16 in a story about him and his life-long deer-hunting buddy, Tim Voland,of Pemberville. My son, Andy, and I were invited to take Paul's place in Tim's remote Upper Michigan deer camp last November, for Paul was too ill with terminal cancer to go.
Well, Voland said, Paul rallied a mite by the end of November was able to accompany a nephew, Andy David Rakebrand of Dundee, Mich., to Roulette, Pa., in the heart of the state's north-central deer country. This for one last hunt in that state's rifle season.
Uncle and nephew met Andy Rakebrand — Andy David's father — on their old hunting grounds deep in Potter County. The men had cleared a four-wheeler trail up the ridge to a blind they had built for Paul, who once was a mountain goat of a man but now too weak to walk. As providence would have it, Paul killed a fine 8-point buck there opening morning with his trusty old Model 70 Winchester.
"It was an absolutely beautiful buck," said Voland, who hadn't known immediately that his ailing buddy had gone back for one more brief hunt on their old stomping grounds. He was overjoyed for his best friend. "It was the nicest Pennsylvania buck I've seen in years."
• The 38th annual Fort Meigs Sertoma Wild Game Dinner is set for Friday at 6 p.m. at Holland Gardens, 6530 Angola Rd., Holland. Tickets are available at the door. Proceeds will benefit hearing and speech charities. For other details call George Damasco 419-340-6529 or Gilbert Papay 419-882-8967.
Contact Steve Pollick at: email@example.com or 419-724-6068.