Getting a little antsy about staying at home?
Not an angler, a shooter who can go to a range, a hiker, a bicyclist or a pet owner who enjoys walking your canine buddy?
Why not try birdwatching? Don’t laugh. More than 45 million people in this country watch birds. Some take this sport very seriously and spend not only money, but hours and hours going to special birding locations looking for specific species.
My wife, one daughter and I have taken special one-day ferry trips across Lake Erie to Canada seeking warblers during their spring migration. We have gone to several great birding spots along the Lake Erie shores, especially during National Birding Week. That activity has been canceled this year and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area with its famous birding boardwalk is closed indefinitely.
However, there still are plenty of places one can bird. Even your own neighborhood or front or backyard can be a prime spot. Take a pair of binoculars on a walk whether it be to your local park, a walk around the neighborhood or a trip to a local reservoir or lake.
These are unprecedented times so don’t make cavalier decisions. Maintain social distancing and keep personal health and safety as top priorities.
You also can casually look out your windows and watch whatever comes to your feeders. Colorful birds that are easy to identify can be found in your yards like cardinals, bluejays, robins and mourning doves along with a few species of woodpeckers, finches, etc.
You can start a bird life list and a list of all of the different birds you see.
For more info on birds in Ohio, check out wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife-watching/birding-resources.
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Another way to get outside during the pandemic is to go wild turkey hunting. It’s almost a perfect way to social distance since safety and distance are top priorities during the hunt.
Experienced hunters also can help youth during the season by participating in special mentor hunts at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, near Harpster, and the recently-purchased Andreoff Wildlife Area in Hardin County.
These hunts will take place in weekly sessions in late April (April 20-26, April 27-May 3) and the first two weeks in May (May 4-10, May 11-17). Hunts also are available during the youth turkey season on April 18-19.
These hunts require a non-hunting mentor to be with the mentee, who is either a youth or adult who has never harvested a wild turkey. For the youth hunt, youth must be 17 years old or younger on the date of the hunt to participate. Mentees are eligible to participate just once. Eight permits are available for the spring turkey season on the two wildlife areas and are available to both youth and adult hunters.
According to an Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) press release, all permits will be for a mentor and mentee style hunt. Mentees are responsible for providing their own mentor. Either the mentee or mentor can register. The registrant must specify whether they are the mentee or mentor in the affiliation line during registration. After registering, they will be contacted for their partner’s information. Participants will receive special hunt rules, a permit, and map of the area via email prior to the hunt session.
Mentors and mentees are required to meet special criteria. They are:
Mentor - A person who is at least 21 years of age and applies for a “learn to” hunt for an opportunity to teach a learner to hunt. Mentors are required to be fully licensed for the species they are applying to hunt and must have purchased an Ohio hunting license and Ohio wild turkey permit for more than three consecutive years.
Mentee - A person learning to hunt alongside a mentor. To qualify for a wild turkey hunt, learners must not have held an Ohio turkey permit for more than three consecutive years or registered a turkey harvest as a landowner within the last three years.
Registration is taken on a first come, first serve basis and is open now. To register visit https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/educationregistration/.
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No DOW public shooting ranges for firearms are located in the Lima area, but there are two archery ranges open to the public free of charge.
One is located behind the Wildlife District Two office in Findlay while the other is located at the St, Marys State Fish Hatchery. Both ranges are open during daylight hours.
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Ohio will receive nearly $20 million in grant money to support conservation programs from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These grants come from excise taxes paid on hunting, shooting and fishing equipment and boat fuel last year by sportsmen and sportswomen.
The state will receive $7,465,712 in fiscal year 2020 for sportfish restoration and $12,234,327 during fiscal year 2020 in state wildlife grants.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL