The story line in the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams - "if you build it they will come" - is true for wildlife when it comes to supplying proper habitat.
But so is the opposite: If you let it go, so will they.
And that is the simple story behind why this will be the last year that the Ohio Division of Wildlife will be stocking ring-necked pheasants at North Turkeyfoot State Park in Henry County and the Maumee State Forest in western Lucas County.
Both areas have seen dramatic declines in the amount and quality of grassland habitat available for sportsmen to use over the last decade, the wildlife division noted. "Turkeyfoot has gone from roughly 400 acres of grasslands down to about 10 acres," noted Scott Butterworth, wildlife management supervisor for Ohio Wildlife District 2.
Butterworth cited "encroachment of brush" at Turkeyfoot and the same plus the growth of trees and a shade canopy in the state forest as the habitat changes that tend to rule out pheasants.
A little background: Neither North Turkeyfoot nor the state forest belong to the wildlife division, being assigned to the state parks and forestry divisions, respectively. Their use for hunting has been a bonus.
Neither parks nor forestry has a prime responsibility, as does the wildlife division, to supply ground for game. That concept is often misunderstood by those people who do not take time, or care, to understand the slightly differing missions among the various divisions within the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. So they then just lodge vague complaints against the "state" or "DNR."
In any case, neither forestry nor parks is flush with money; quite the opposite. They run on bubble-gum and bailing wire. They have no dedicated funding, like the wildlife division with its reliable pot of hunting, fishing, and trapping license money, so they live at the whim of the political circus in Columbus. Nowadays they could not afford to do much habitat management even if they want to.
Turning back to the birds, northwest Ohio pheasant hunters can take some heart, though, in knowing that two new areas not listed in the hunting regulations have been added to the list of pheasant release sites this year - the Tiffin River State Wildlife Area in Fulton County and the Ringneck Ridge tract of the Sandusky County Park District east of Gibsonburg.
Hunters will need a free permit to hunt Ringneck Ridge, a former private pheasant hunting club acquired by the park district. Call the park district in Fremont at 419-334-4495 or the ranger office at 419-637-2900 for permit details.
The two new stocking sites "will provide larger, high-quality areas for hunters to use," the wildlife division noted.
Pheasant hunting season opens Nov. 6 and continues through Jan. 10. Hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.
Butterworth said that some wild birds also will be available in such private habitat as CRP grassland in Williams and Defiance counties, and in the fields at Lake La Su An State Wildlife Area in Williams County. Wild populations which are stable but limited, explains the modern tradition of stocking birds to supplement them.
Statewide, the put-and-take gamebird season will mean the release of more than 15,000 pen-raised ring-necked pheasants at 30 public hunting venues.
The first releases are set for the evenings of Oct. 23 and 30, after shooting hours, in advance of the youth small-game hunting seasons on those respective weekends.
Other releases are set for Nov. 5, the day before the statewide ringneck opener, and Nov. 13, with the final release set for Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.
In northwest Ohio about 3,000 birds are to be stocked in allotments across the region at the following hunting areas: Killdeer Plains, Wyandot County; Wyandot, Wyandot County; Resthaven, Erie County; Willard, Huron County; Maumee State Forest, Lucas County; Oxbow, Defiance County, Turkeyfoot, Henry County, and the aforementioned Tiffin River and Ringneck Ridges sites.
A statewide list of releases can be viewed online at wildohio.com.
In related news the Wood/Lucas Chapter of Pheasants Forever has scheduled its popular youth pheasant hunt for Oct. 31, beginning at the Wood County fairgrounds in Bowling Green.
Young hunters ages 12 through 15 can participate in this well-supervised and guided hunt with fine bird dogs on prime game habitat.
The PF event is part of the annual Ohio youth small-game season, which is set for Oct. 24-25 and Oct. 31-Nov. 1. The local PF chapter provides instruction, guides, dogs, lunch, door prizes and a half day afield in prime habitat. Young hunters must have finished a hunter education course and must register by Oct. 21 for limited spaces.
The Wood/Lucas Chapter of PF is offering a hunter education course to certify young hunters who still need their paperwork.
The course is set for evenings between Oct. 12 through 15. To register and for location details call Norma Best at 419-353-3151. Other such courses can be found online at wildohio.com or by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.
For other details on the youth hunt itself, call Lou Best, hunt coordinator, at 419-353-3171.
Contact Steve Pollick at:
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