Hunters pursuing ability to carry handguns

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More and more states are allowing hunters to carry firearms for personal protection and more are poised to allow them. Some states limit this to bowhunters. Some allow it only for hunters who have a concealed carry permit (CCW). Ohio is among those.

Ohioans many not use the pistol or handgun to hunt with and must follow all CCW rules state-by-state regulations vary, but about a dozen states continue to prohibit bowhunters from carrying a firearm for personal protection.

Many hunters recommend getting a CCW permit for this purpose. Remember, some of us are hunting in remote areas.

It might not be unusual to come across a drug deal (they happen in wildlife areas all the time), a meth lab or marijuana growers.

Some hunters think carrying a handgun for personal protection should be as essential as carrying your bow to your blind or stand. When Ohio allowed hunters with a CCW to carry a handgun, some personnel in the Division of Wildlife were not happy about it. Today, some still are not thrilled with the law It was not all that many years ago that a serial killer in southeast Ohio took aim at hunters and fishermen. And while a handgun may not have prevented these sniper shootings, many personal attacks can be thwarted with the aid of a handgun. The feeling of security is immeasurable.

Thomas Lee Dillon killed five known people between April 1, 1989-April 5, 1992. The remorseless killer died at Corrections Medical Center in Columbus on Oct. 21, 2011. He was serving 5 terms of 30 years to life for aggravated murder and also an additional 15 years for gun specification. Two hunters and two anglers were among his known victims. Dillon missed when he fired at another hunter.

Officers from three counties, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the FBI investigated the shootings. The FBI joined the investigation when Dillon’s fourth victim was shot on federal property.

Dillon’s crimes were featured on Discovery Channel’s The FBI files in an episode called “Human Prey” in 1998.

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While much of the news surrounding bald eagles these days centers on their continuing population, a couple of recent events show how long-lived the nation’s symbol can be.

A dead bald eagle found along a roadway near Henrietta, N.Y., on June 2 was determined to be 38 years old, according to its leg band number. Apparently the eagle, found with a freshly killed rabbit nearby, had been struck by a vehicle. Vehicle collisions are the major cause of death for eagles in many states.

Records at the bird banding lab at at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland indicate this is the oldest bald eagle in the country found to date. The second oldest bald eagle documented is 33 years, 5 months.

The first news about eagle longevity came a month ago when an eagle spotted at Monroe Lake outside of Bloomington, Ind., was determined to be one that was nearly 27 years old.

The female eagle, which had returned to Monroe Lake several times and had offspring, was taken from a nest in Whitestone Harbor in southeast Alaska on July 22, 1988. This eagle, which showed indications she is still raising young, also was sighted in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee over the years.

Young bald eagles are beginning to leave their nests to begin lives on their own.

At 10 to 12 weeks old, young eagles leave their nests and begin to learn to take care of themselves. By the time they are 17 weeks of age, the eaglets are independent and ready to begin migration.

According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, there is a high likelihood that the eagles hatched this year will return to Ohio to nest and raise their own young.

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Black bear sightings are becoming more common in Ohio with an estimate of between 50 to100 bears living year-round in the Buckeye State. Breeding usually occurs from June to mid-July, so the possibility of seeing a bear is highest during this time of year.

Researchers rely partly on reports of bear sightings from Ohio residents to help track the population. Wildlife biologists began keeping records in 1993, when only 25 bears were reported. Neighboring states have growing bear populations and it’s likely that black bears are moving into Ohio in search of new territory.

Pennsylvania boasts a black bear population of approximately 17,000, while an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 black bears live in West Virginia. Consequently, bear sightings usually occur along the eastern side of Ohio.

However, a few years ago, a black bear was sighted by wildlife officers in Fulton County. The bruin, which apparently came into Ohio from Michigan, was hit and killed on a rural road not many days after been spotted in the county.

A bear visit in Indiana, the first such in more than 140 years caused a stir recently. It entered the Hoosier state from the west side of Michigan and had been wandering in Indiana. Its movements were tracked from near Muskegon, Mich. Wildlife officials from both states are working together to track the bear’s movements. Indiana wildlife officials there figure the bear eventually will go back to Michigan where the environment in more to a bear’s liking.

Michigan has a large bear population, but most bears live in the Upper Peninsula or northern lower part of lower Michigan. However, bears have been seen as far south as Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor area), which is not far from the Ohio border as the crow flies.