For the record, hunting can begin on Oct. 13 in the Lake Erie Marsh Zone, and on Oct. 20 in the North and South Zone. If there's a problem, it's that late October should have a goodly number of "bluebird" days when the weather is warm and sunny. Waterfowl don't fly much in such weather leaving blind hunters sitting with little to do.
There's an answer, though. Instead of waiting for rare shots on such days, you can leave the blind and go hunting them where they are in such weather. Wood ducks, for example, aren't called woodies for nothing. They love streams and small rivers that wind through farm land with heavy timber on both shores. So, you seek them (with permission) there. I've made many an early hunt on such rivers, the best only 20-feet wide or so, and the technique is simple. Walk the stream well away from the water and move as quietly as possible.
Every 50 yards or so, ease in to the bank and use binoculars to glass up and down as far as you can see. Sometimes a small flock of woodies with be paddling quietly in mid-stream, then it's a matter of slipping down to where you're right across, walk to the bank and take your shots as they flush. It can be tough shooting, because the little birds are fast and jink madly through the timber in escaping. Sometimes too, they'll be nearly hidden in fallen timber branches or even well back under cutbanks. So, you look for not only ducks, but ripples spreading on the water, a dead giveaway for hiding birds.
A second choice is to hunt with a friend or two, and let them off near a bridge to walk through, while you head for the next bridge and walk toward them. Any birds flushed tend to follow the river, so when you hear shooting just wait with your finger on the safety and chances are they'll pass overhead. Wood ducks haunt the creeks and rivers seeking comfortable layup spots for the day, and while they'll usually fly off at dawn for some favorite picked corn or soybean field, then return and relax for an evening flight to the same place. But they'll also forge along shore for acorns, which they dearly love, and beechnuts. If they fill their crops on these, they might not fly at all.
Keep in mind that wood ducks also love little woodland ponds, especially those with extensive weed beds. Here they feed on greenery and also find tidbits of snails, aquatic insects, and other good things. One of the most productive ponds I ever hunted was a woodland pond of half an acre or so filled with water weeds and buttomball bush. That one provided limits until cold weather drove the remainder south for the winter. I missed them because woodies are the second best eating duck around. The first? In my opinion, teal rank No. 1, and they're often around in ponds too, in the early season.
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Hooks & bullets
• According to the Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio's environmental movement has had some amazing wins. On Saturday, Nov. 17 at COSI on 333 West Broad St. in Columbus, they intend to celebrate their victories, honor environmental heroes, and look ahead to the future. They plan to hold a Gala fund raiser including a cocktail hour with hundreds of environmental professionals, a silent auction, live music, and a dinner program. For more information or to register, call the Council at 614-487-7506
• Muskingum Watershed Conservation Distict (MWCD) rangers do more than protect area residents and park guests, they also protect our natural resources. Recently rangers at Charles Mill Lake conducted an extensive investigation to identify who was responsible for the illegal dumping of trash near the lake. They found evidence, went to a home in Ashland, and identified the suspects. A charge of littering was made that is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. A good day for the rangers.
• Miller Ferries to Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Island has contracted with Frazier Shipyards of Superior, Wisconsin to build a new drive-on,drive-off passenger/vehicle ferry for delivery in fall 2019. The vessel will be christened Mary Ann Market in honor of the family matriarch and the company's late owner. The new craft will be 140 feet long and 38.5 feet wide, and will accommodate 28 standard sized vehicles or 600 passengers.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.