The Ohio waterfowling season barely is a week old and already it is coming under fire from some Lake Erie shoreline and marsh duck and goose hunters.
They contend the newly instituted three-zone system, which includes a special Lake Erie Zone in addition to North and South zones, and a nearly two-week season break at month’s end, will freeze them out of half the 60-day season. They also think that the Ohio Division of Wildlife caters more to the well-heeled lake-zone clubs than to waterfowlers of average means.
“A lot of people are very unhappy over the season,” said Toledo hunter Steve Fofrich. “You’re probably going to need ice skates,” he declared, referring to a delayed split that allows duck hunting till Christmas after the upcoming two-week break. “The ducks won’t have any marshes to sit in. We’re done when they freeze up.”
Fofrich also called the third, late Canada goose season Jan. 9 through 22 “basically worthless” because of freezeup. “By that time I’m pulling my ice-fishing shanty across East Harbor.”
Pat Lasher, a Curtice waterfowler, agrees. “We’re losing a lot of our time with that big gap from [the end of] October to [mid] November. I’m disappointed. Why do we have a Lake Erie marsh zone? A lot of guys are just looking to get out of [waterfowling].”
Other hunters head out of state to, say Missouri, or to the Canadian provinces, Lasher contended. He added, “I’m not going out solely to kill a bird. I just love going out there.”
Ironically, such comments come on the heels of what Ohio Division of Wildlife administrators billed as a season and regulations tailored anew to match hunter preferences as much as possible and optimize hunting opportunities when waterfowl typically are most abundant, according to past history in each region.
The comments also follow a forecast for one of the most promising forecasts of fall duck flights on record and setting of a 60-day season with a six-duck daily bag, the most liberal allowed under the federal framework.
Regardless of such considerations, weather conditions and to a lesser degree the progress of crop harvest are unpredictable factors in convincing ducks to stop in Ohio en masse rather than simply fly by.
Dave Scott, the state’s executive administrator of wildlife management and research, bristles a mite at criticism over a duck and goose season that barely has begun. “Right now is the time to hunt,” he asserted. No one can predict how the weather will progress, he added.
“Come to the open houses [in March] and give us feedback then,” said Scott in a reference to annual sessions each March in which Ohio Division of Wildlife personnel make themselves available to the public to discuss and take comments on proposed regulations. He said that administrators closely attend to comments, do not ignore them, and take them into serious consideration when making proposals to the rules-making, eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council.
In fact, Scott said, Larry Mixon, Sr., Wildlife Council chairman, publicly applauded the wildlife division’s attention to hunter interests, within the bounds of sound science, when it came time in late summer to set this year’s zones and seasons.
“We’re all about providing opportunity,” contended Scott. “We go to great lengths to give opportunities for input.” He noted that in addition to the district open houses each March, the wildlife division has conducted an online waterfowler survey each summer in an attempt to assay hunter preferences. [An announcement and discussion of the survey and its availability to waterfowlers was the lead item in this column July 26.]
Scott said the flyway process of setting waterfowl regulations is very complex and drawn out, and Ohio cannot act independently of other states and federal wishes. As for accusations that the division has been “bought off” by big, well-heeled clubs in the marsh region, Scott countered, “it is essentially laughable to say that we cater to them.”
Waterfowlers with issues but who do not or cannot attend a district open house or who do not or cannot fill out the waterfowl hunter-survey online can file comments any time via email. The address is email@example.com. In the subject line, be sure to state, “For Ohio Wildlife Council Members,” or “For Chief David Lane.” Or call 1-800-WILDLIFE.
Contact Steve Pollick at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.