Upland hunting ups and downs

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

Nathan Stricker is a wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife and for a decade and a half has served as my primary source of information about Ohio’s upland game birds and animals to share with listeners on my weekly radio show, Buckeye Sportsman. During a recent interview, he offered us his annual upland game forecast, primarily of pheasants, rabbits and quail, for the start of those popular hunting seasons. Stricker, a farm boy from western Ohio, runs beagles, primarily pursuing cottontails, and I hunt with an English setter, targeting wild pheasants.  

A week ago that would have been plural, as in setters, but the pup I kept from a litter last summer was struck by a car ten minutes into his first ever “real” hunt. We were in northern Michigan, where I hoped to break-in 14-month-old “Henry” on hard-holding, highly scented woodcock. He either jumped a deer or got turned around in the thick cover and panicked, ignoring my whistle and nicks on the training collar, sprinting a half mile through deep woods before crossing a rural road at the wrong time. Alas, his first hunt was his last. Henry was the lone pup remaining from a litter of 8, and the rambunctious little male stole the hearts of our son, my wife and, eventually, me — who had no intention of keeping one of the pups. Losing him was tough.     

But I still have his mother “Tailer” to chase pheasants with this fall, a passion of mine. I used to be a pheasant “purist” pursuing only wild birds back when we had more acreage enrolled in CRP and habitat to support better populations of wild roosters. These days I take advantage of each of the four annual releases conducted by Stricker and his peers at wildlife areas across the state, and have come to enjoy the confidence that comes with busting brush in areas that we know actually hold birds. That said, we usually round-out the hunting day by heading to some coveted private land covert, where we can usually kick-up a wild rooster or two over the course of the season now underway.   

Final pheasant releases underway

Speaking of upland hunting, the final of four pheasant releases on public wildlife areas by the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) will take place prior to the long Thanksgiving weekend, following rooster stockings for the second youth upland weekend, opening day and Veteran’s Day earlier this month. Pheasants will be released after shooting time on Wednesday, November 25, at the following locations: 
• Central Ohio: Delaware Wildlife Area.
• Northwest Ohio: Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, Oxbow Wildlife Area, Resthaven Wildlife Area, Ringneck Ridge Metro Park, Tiffin River Wildlife Area, and Wyandot Wildlife Area. Pheasant hunting within the Ringneck Ridge Area in Sandusky County requires a free permit from the Sandusky County Park District.
• Northeast Ohio: Camp Belden Wildlife Area, Charlemont Metro Park, Berlin Wildlife Area, Grand River Wildlife Area, Highlandtown Wildlife Area, Spencer Wildlife Area, West Branch Wildlife Area, Zepernick Wildlife Area.
• Southeast Ohio: Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area, Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area, Pleasant Valley Wildlife Area, Salt Fork Wildlife Area, Tri-Valley Wildlife Area. This is the first time the Division of Wildlife has released pheasants at Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area.

• Southwest Ohio: Caesar Creek Wildlife Area, Darke Wildlife Area, Fallsville Wildlife Area, Indian Creek Wildlife Area, Rush Run Wildlife Area, Spring Valley Wildlife Area.

The new shooting range at the Spring Valley Wildlife Area is open, after being closed for repairs and major enhancements, as well as construction of a new Outdoor Education Center. The $5.5 million range improvements include upgraded backstops and 65 rifle shooting stations. Along with a new entrance and parking lot, other additions include restroom facilities, range master building, outdoor education center, and static archery range. The renovated shotgun range features target launchers and designated shooting stations.

The new range entrance is located at 3570 Houston Rd., Waynesville, 45068. Current hours of operation are Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors are required to have a valid Division of Wildlife range permit upon arrival. The range is situated on the 842-acre wildlife area in southwest Ohio, just east of the Little Miami River, eight miles south of Xenia and four miles north of Waynesville.

All persons age 18 and older shooting on Division of Wildlife Class A, B, and C ranges are required to purchase a shooting range permit, available at all hunting and fishing license outlets. Permits are not sold at the shooting ranges. These permits partially offset the cost of operations, maintenance, trash removal, and improvements. Shooters age 17 and under do not need a permit, but are required to be accompanied by and directly monitored by an adult (age 18 years or older) holding a valid shooting range permit.

You can purchase an annual or daily shooting range permit through the Division of Wildlife’s online store at wildohio.gov, on the HuntFish OH app, or any location where hunting and fishing licenses are sold. An annual permit costs $24 and a daily permit is $5. An annual shooting range permit and hunting license combo is available to Ohio residents for $29.12. Visit wildohio.gov to find out more.

Vets get state park stay discounts

Through the end of November, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), in cooperation with US Hotels, is offering offer U.S. military, both active duty and veterans, a 30% discount off one camping, getaway rental, state-operated cabin, or resort lodge stay this month. 

To check availability or to make a reservation for state-operated camping, cabins, and other facilities, visit reserveohio.com. Use the promo code “VETERAN” when making a reservation. This discount is subject to availability and applies to new reservations at open campgrounds, as well as new cabin reservations at Buck Creek, Cowan Lake, Dillon, Lake Hope, Hocking Hills, Malabar Farm, Mohican, Pike Lake, and Pymatuning state parks. 

Great Ohio Lodges, a division of US Hotels, will also offer a 30% discount to all veterans and active duty military personnel throughout November on lodge rooms at their eight properties (Burr Oak Lodge, Deer Creek Lodge, Hueston Woods Lodge, Maumee Bay Lodge, Mohican Lodge, Punderson Manor Lodge, Salt Fork Lodge, and Shawnee Lodge).  To check availability or make a reservation, visit www.greatohiolodges.com, select the park you are interested in, and use promo code: VETERAN when making a reservation. Or, you can call the lodge directly to make your reservation over the phone.

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