Hunting sheds, darters and fur auctions

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

It’s no secret that Ohio whitetails are well-known for the size and quality of their antlers — both on the animal and after the antlers have been shed. I learn quite a bit about the resident deer population in the areas I hunt by going out this time of the year in search of shed antlers, including the locations of bedding areas and discovering new travel routes. 

A whitetail buck grows its first set of antlers when it is one year old, when they begin growing in the early spring. The developing antler is covered with a thick velvety skin rich with blood vessels and nerves. Decreasing day length in the late summer and early fall triggers several physical changes in a buck, including termination of the blood supply to the antlers. The antlers begin to harden soon thereafter and by August or September, the velvet is shed as the buck rubs his antlers against trees and other solid objects in the fields and woods. The buck is left with a rack of hard, polished antlers.

However, unlike horns of cattle, antlers are not a permanent part of a buck’s body. Here in Ohio, bucks typically “shed” or drop their antlers in December and January, following the fall breeding season, making this time of year a popular time to go hunting for antler sheds.

As for the rules regulating the winter activity, you can legally keep an antler that naturally shed from a deer as long as you obtain it on land you are legally permitted to be on, which includes having written  permission from the landowner when shed hunting on private land. It’s also notable that while visiting public lands in Ohio, you may only harvest nuts, mushrooms, berries, or pick up naturally shed deer antlers during the daylight hours. You can learn more about special regulations that apply to all properties owned, leased, or under control of the ODNR Division of Wildlife at wildohio.gov.

ACEP-WRE apps taken

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) continues to accept applications for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Wetland Reserve Easement Program (ACEP-WRE). The program provides financial and technical assistance to Ohio landowners wishing to protect and restore critical wetlands by enrolling property into conservation easements. Applications for ACEP-WRE are taken on a continuous basis; however, landowners are encouraged to contact their local NRCS Service Center prior to the Feb. 18 deadline for fiscal year 2022 funding. 

Many of Ohio’s landowners can take advantage of the program, as eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can successfully be restored; croplands or grasslands subject to flooding; and previously restored wetlands and riparian areas that connect protected wetland areas. 

ACEP-WRE enrollment options include permanent easements, 30-year easements, and 30-year contracts. NRCS staff are available to help landowners plan and implement individual projects and the agency will pay a percent of the purchase value as well as restoration costs for each easement option. For more information, visit ACEP-WRE in Ohio or contact Michael Hasty, Ohio ACEP-WRE easement coordinator, at 614-255-2442 or michael.hasty@usda.gov.

Rare darters re-emerge

A minnow species that was believed to have vanished from Ohio waters more than 80 years ago has been discovered in the Ohio River. The two darters captured were the first in Ohio since 1939 when Milton B. Trautman captured seven in the Walhonding River. Since that time, the species was believed to be extinct in Ohio, but may still survive in neighboring states. Because there is “little historical information” on the status of longhead darters in the country, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, its unknown if that’s the case.

“Throughout its range, this fish is uncommon and the American Fisheries Society lists the longhead darter as threatened in all states where it occurs,” the agency said. Ohio officials say two longhead darters were captured “this fall during Ohio River electrofishing bass surveys.” The division did not say what became of the two fish captured in the Ohio River.

OSTA fur auctions

The Ohio State Trappers Association (OSTA) will hold a fur auction on March 12 in Kidron, followed by their annual banquet in Waldo on March 19. In addition, the organization is committed to getting furs for displays planned for displays across Ohio. According to a group spokesperson, the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) is planning to open about 23 new facilities for the public with educational displays including on furbearers of Ohio, for which OSTA needs donations of quality furs. They are especially in need of fox, coyote, beaver, skunk and otter, as well as muskrat, possum and raccoon.

For more information on the auctions, the banquet and the call for quality pelts, visit ohiotrapper.org or contact OSTA Auction Coordinator Brian Coots at 254-383-2623 between the times of 5:00pm to 9:00pm. 

MWCD ‘BUILDS’

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) has been awarded a $1.55 million grant from the Ohio Department of Development, Ohio BUILDS water infrastructure grant program. 

Governor DeWine created the Ohio BUILDS water infrastructure grant program to reduce or eliminate the local financial burden associated with critical infrastructure needs, such as the construction of new water systems, the replacement of aging water lines, and the installation new water mains. Grants are also funding projects to prevent sewer system backups and replace failing household sewage treatment systems with new sewers.

The grant awarded to MWCD will fund the building of a new 8,000 gallon per day wastewater treatment plant, two new pump stations with force mains, and gravity collection to tie-in the existing marina building, restrooms, and rental cabins along with a new RV dump station at the North Fork area of Leesville Lake. Currently, onsite sanitary sewage is collected in a number of holding tanks, which are periodically pumped out.  Installing this new treatment will eliminate possible threats to water quality. The project is currently under design, and construction will begin later this year. For more information, visit mwcd.org.

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