The extra weekend of deer-gun hunting proved more beneficial for statewide hunters compared to those in theLima area.
While hunters statewide were harvesting many more deer than the three-year average, Lima area hunters were about average. Local hunters checked in 737 deer over the extra weekend while the three-year average for the extra two days is 753.
Numbers were up slightly in four local counties - Auglaize, Hancock, Putnam and Shelby - and down in three counties - Hardin, Logan and Van Wert. Allen and Mercer had the average in their counties.
Following are the number of deer checked in the nine-county Lima area with first number being the harvest numbers for 2020. The number following in parentheses is the three-year average harvest by youth hunters in 2016, 2017 and 2018 during the same time period.
Harvest numbers were: Allen 75 (75), Auglaize 74 (64), Hancock 102 (97), Hardin 111 (122), Logan 143 (164), Mercer 57 (57), Putnam 52 (48), Shelby 83 (78) and Van Wert 40 (48).
Statewide, hunters harvested 15,023 during the extra weekend compared to an average of 12,461 deer during the same two-day period.
Through Dec. 20, 174,778 deer have been harvested in the state. In addition to the 71,650 harvested during the deer-gun week, with the 15,023 taken during the extra weekend, 86,858 have been taken during nine days of gun hunting. Ohio’s youth hunters checked 5,795 white-tailed deer during the 2020 two-day youth gun season, Nov. 21-22. A total of 82,125 deer have been harvested thus far during the archery season.
Straight-walled cartridge rifles became legal deer hunting implements in Ohio in 2014, and continue to grow in popularity. During the deer-gun week and two-day gun weekend, straight-walled cartridge rifles were used for 45% of checked deer. Shotguns accounted for 44% of the total. In addition, 8% were taken with a muzzleloader, 2% with archery equipment, and 1% with a handgun.
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Winter is a time when many people remain cooped up in their homes. Many of us outdoor types don’t “hibernate” in the winter and like to enjoy being active in cold weather. That likely is more so this winter since so many people felt cooped up trying to avoid the COVID-19.
A great way to get out and enjoy winter is by birding.The basics are the same as spring, summer and fall birding, but with maybe a bit more patience and heavier clothing because bird-watching opportunities can flourish during the cold weather. Birds do not hibernate and are active and must feed because of their high metabolism.
By getting out, you might see visitors from the northern latitudes we don’t see at other times of the year. Some of those species include common red polls, evening grosbeaks snowy owls, pine siskins and red-breasted nuthatches.
You can see typical birds such as cardinals, blue jays, juncos, white-breasted nuthatches, tree sparrows, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, black-caped chickadees, gold finches, etc. You may have to take an extra look at the finches because they are quite drab in the winter months.
A great place to look for birds in among the state’s wildlife areas. One might see numerous bald eagles, different kinds of hawks and owls, trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes and a variety of waterfowl.
Remember wildlife areas are managed with hunter and fishing license fees and permits. Thus, be careful while hunting seasons are ongoing. It’s suggested you wear blaze orange as a precaution on these areas.
A number of wildlife areas and other places in the Lima area or close to the area offer some great birding venues.
An outstanding place to visit is Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, located off of Ohio 2 near Oak Harbor. Numerous species were cited during the Dec. 19-20 drive through of the area including several sandhill cranes, white pelicans, trumpeter swans and as usual a plethora of bald eagles. Dates for future winter drives are: Jan. 16-17, Feb. 20,-21, March 20-21. The wildlife drive covers seven miles. Gates open at sunrise and close one hour prior to sunset.
Among the top wildlife areas is Magee Marsh, known as probably the top spot in the nation for spring warbler migration. The area, located next to Ottawa national Wildlife Refuge, also is good for winter birding. Waterfowl, bald eagles, sandhill cranes and possibly a snowy owl could be among your sights there. Controlled hunting at on the area concluded Dec. 19. Visitors are welcome to drive to the boardwalk and beach area daily from sunrise to sunset.
Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area in Wyandot and Marion counties covers more than 9,000 acres and is located near Upper Sandusky. Watch for northern harriers and short-eared owls.
Big Island Wildlife Area in Marion County covers nearly 6,000 acres and is located near Marion off Ohio 95. You might see rough-legged hawks, bald eagles, short-eared owls, and waterfowl. This 5,872-acre wildlife area is near Marion on State Route 95. A wildlife observation deck is located off State Route 95 for viewing across the marsh and grasslands.
Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, located on the south shore of Sandusky between Fremont and Sandusky, covers a little more than 3,000 acres and is known for bald eagles and waterfowl.
Spring Valley Marsh Wildlife Area, covers nearly 850 acres just east of the Little Miami River, near Xenia and Waynesville. Watch for sandhill cranes, northern harriers, and bald eagles.
St. Marys State Fish Hatchery, which covers 150 acres on the eastern shore of Grand Lake St. Marys and has 26 ponds, is not a wildlife area. It is a good place to see waterfowl and sandhill cranes.
If you want to get a better view of these species, the DOW has resources available to assist visitors to these areas, including free maps at wildohio.gov.
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A final thought to end 2020. Want to impress your fishing buddies? Then tell them you know a person who studies fish is called an ichthyologist (pronounced: ick-thee-all-o-just).
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL