Offseason walks on the wild side

When I’m asked why I fish and hunt I usually reply that the activities get me out into nature. When the follow-up inquires why I need to carry fishing rod, bow or gun to enjoy myself in the out-of-doors, I reply that doing so puts me in the game, so to speak, which I prefer. When stalking prey I am a player, rather than an observer — the difference between being down on the playing field and competing versus watching others interact from a seat in the bleachers.

Sometimes, though, I just want to observe and the bleachers suit me just fine. In fact, I experience a bit of relief once I bag my buck or turkey or the hunting season ends. I can sleep in, or get work done during the rut, without worrying that I should be “out there” during prime time, whether it’s during the spring walleye runs or the dove season opener. One of my new-found favorite outings to take, which I referenced in an earlier column, is visit my hunting grounds during the off season. The perspective such visits grant can be enlightening and are always enjoyable.

That’s why I hope to join in a summer walk through one of Ohio’s top waterfowl hunting destinations — an opportunity I just learned about and wanted to share here.

Magee Marsh open to hikers

Walkers, birders, and wildlife enthusiasts are encouraged to participate in the Hike the Dikes program at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge the second Saturday of each month June through September. The Hike the Dikes program is free and open to all ages and interest levels, and provides opportunities to explore the natural wonders of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. All walks are led by a trained and knowledgeable guide, from whom participants will learn about local wildlife such as birds, reptiles and amphibians, butterflies and marsh mammals as well as wetland plants and more.

Hike the Dikes is a partnership program between the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Each walk is hosted by one of the partner agencies. Hike dates for 2017 include July 8, Aug. 12 and Sept. 9.

Hikes begin at 9 a.m. and usually last one to two hours, depending on the weather. Starting locations are dependent on the hosting agency. Hikes in June, and July will meet at the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, located at 13229 West State Route 2, Oak Harbor 43449. Hikes in August, and September will meet at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center, located at 14000 West State Route 2, Oak Harbor 43449.

Anyone who attends three or more Hike the Dike walks in 2017 will receive a free hiking stick. For more information call Magee Marsh Wildlife Area at 419-898-0960 ext. 21 or Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge at 419-898-0014. To learn about other available programs, visit


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