Hunters have lots of friends. A trusted, well used gun is one. A favorite hound, if he has one, is another. And a solidly built pickup with four-wheel drive is yet another.
But there's one friend that turns up only occasionally, though when it does can produce more game than any other. That's snow, a nice, soft several-inch fall during the day or evening with plans to hunt the next morning. Snow is a friend indeed.
The upcoming statewide muzzleloader season, which will run Dec. 27 through Dec. 30, is a prime example if that snowfall comes on the 26th or even Christmas day. And if it does, I can almost guarantee that the kill around Huron County will increase dramatically because the whitetails will be hard pressed to get away. Take a walk through woods and fields and look for fresh tracks. When you find one that's good sized, just stay on the trail until you find the animal. If it goes into thick brush and no tracks come out, he or she is sure to be there. No guessing.
And if you can hunt with a partner and place him off to one side looking in all directions while you track, or put him at the end of that thicket while you bull through, the odds of eating venison are great. Hitting a deer hard when no snow is down can make tracking very difficult, especially if the wound closes up. But on snow, you can stay with the animal and get a second shot. And if your luck isn't good during the primitive weapons season, remember the archery season lasts until Feb. 3 and there's sure to be a good snow or two in that time.
I remember a late-season hunt when two partners and I went out on fresh snow and picked up the tracks of three does. We were wearing white outfits (mine was a karate suit) and white hats, and while one tracked the other two spread out on either side. We jumped them in a thicket and off they bounced, snorting, waving tails, and looking over their shoulders. Then we jumped them again and they ran, but the third time they milled around looking puzzled until one of my partners was in range. He got one with a ribcage shot.
I've mentioned before the business of hunting ringneck pheasants on some public hunting areas, left over birds that escaped hunters on Thanksgiving day releases. You can walk forever on clean ground hoping to jump one of these now wary birds, but on snow their splay footed prints show up readily. Herd the bird toward open ground and be ready for a long shot, and you might well pick up one of the gaudy creatures or even two.
Then there are rabbits, animals that move at night and leave lots of tracks. Hunt them after a snow fall an you'll waste no time at all. See a brushpile with no tracks going in? Ignore it. Find one with tracks in, but not out? Jump on it and be ready to shoot. I remember once walking around a farm pond with thick cattails along the shore. I walked briskly because there were no prints, then along the end they were thick and I kicked the yellow plants. The rabbit that squirted out only made 20 yards.
Rabbit hunting on snow can be an education for when no snow is available, too. On one hunt I saw a little swale of curled over grass 30 yards out into a bare picked soybean field. I'd have ignored such a place usually, but this time cottontail tracks led directly toward it. The rabbit that jumped out never had a chance.
Finally, comes coyote and fox hunting. Without snow and at least dogs, it's almost impossible, but on a fresh fallen blanket it's easy. Again, pick up a fresh set of tracks and just start walking, again hopefully with a white outfit and a flat shooting rifle. If a friend comes along, put him off to one side and looking around, but either way the curious animal is going to stop eventually, and turn to see what's following him. Then, if you're accurate, the walk pays off.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at email@example.com
Ohio hunters took 103,195 white-tailed deer during the state's week-long deer gun season. In 2006, hunters killed a total of 111,672 deer during the same period. Inclement weather on the opening and closing days of the week hampered hunter efforts. Counties reporting the highest number of deer brought to Ohio check stations included Tuscarawas 4,266, Guernsey 3,765, and Harrison 3,389. In our area, Huron County gunners bagged 1,133, Richland 1,288, Seneca 963, Erie 303, and Lorain 835.
Duck and goose hunters looking for something different might find it in Williamson County in southern Illinois. The county calls itself "The Waterfowl Capital of Southern Illinois," and offers a dozen hunting and gun clubs who will provide guides and often accommodations as well as field and water hunting. For details, call the Williamson County Tourism Bureau at (800) GEESE-99.
Southeastern Ohio's Hocking Hills region has launched a weekend package with special travel savings for any AAA member. Held Jan. 4 to 6, the Show Your Card and Save weekend features good times and substantial savings of 30 percent off at dozens of Hocking Hills cabins, B & Bs, and motels, as well as discounts on dining, hikes, and more. To book lodgings and plan the weekend, visitors should call (800) HOCKING.
Alexandria, Va. Planning your next fishing adventure just got a little easier with a new fishing guide and charter locator at BoatUSAngler.com.
The Web site is the online home of BoatU.S. Angler, a membership program that offers services, fishing tips and safety information just for trailer boat anglers.
"Whether you're thinking about staying in state or traveling across the country, we can help you make the right choice when seeking professional guide services and charter operators," BoatU.S. Angler Director Mike Pellerin said.
Anglers can easily search by region, state or even by species. Included with each fishing guide or charter company listing is full contact information and links to their Web sites. Many listings also have detailed descriptions on their business and the types of species available, boats and equipment being used, professional credentials, or other relevant local information.
Included at the Web site's "How-To" section is the feature, Hiring a Fishing Guide or Charter, written by BoatU.S. Angler Fishing Pro and Guide Steve Chaconas.
The locator also includes an informal rating system that allows customers to share their experience online.
The locator is available free to any angler atwww.BoatUSAngler.com Fishing guides that offer BoatU.S. member discounts are also included.
Guides or charter operators wishing to be included on the locator may send their information to info@BoatUS.com. Anglers who have fished with a guide but don't see their name may also add it by clicking on the "Suggest a Guide or Charter" button at the bottom of every listings page.
BoatU.S. Angler is a new program from the nation's largest association of recreational boaters whose mission is to protect the interests of boat-owning freshwater anglers, increase boating safety, provide consumer assistance and ensure fishing remains worry-free.
FINDLAY Two "Passport to Fishing" instructor workshops will be offered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife.
The workshops will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 3 and Feb. 7 at the Wildlife District Two Headquarters, 952 Lima Avenue, Findlay, Ohio 45840.
"Passport to Fishing" is sponsored in part by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. It is a quick and easy program intended to be used with half-day and whole-day fishing events. Fishing fundamentals are taught including casting, knots and rigging, habitat and handling. It is tailored so that instructors, even without much knowledge of aquatic education, can teach young people how to fish. Passport is geared toward youngsters ages 4 to 17, and is promoted as an easy way to learn the basics of angling, get kids outdoors and on the road to a lifetime of recreational activity.
Interested individuals can register by calling Jennifer McCray at (800) WILDLIFE or at (614) 265-6539.