FIRELANDS OUTDOOR NOTEBOOK - Some like turtle grabbing to spice up the outdoors

Are you getting tired of humdrum sports? Of catching the same bass in the same farm ponds? Or shooting just one more woodchuck? Or loafing along a creek trying for bullheads and sundaubers? If that's your problem well into this long, hot summer, there's a sport that's not only exciting, but just a little dangerous and not for the faint of heart. They call it turtle grabbing.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

Are you getting tired of humdrum sports? Of catching the same bass in the same farm ponds? Or shooting just one more woodchuck? Or loafing along a creek trying for bullheads and sundaubers?

If that's your problem well into this long, hot summer, there's a sport that's not only exciting, but just a little dangerous and not for the faint of heart. They call it turtle grabbing.

I've never done it and never will, but a friend called me up once upon a time and said "Let's go grab some snapping turtles."

And I said "Sure, I'll hold the burlap bag for you." And off we went. The technique is simple. You wade down a stream or drainage ditch or whatever, and carefully feel back beneath the banks, probing muskrat holes and shelves washed out by current. Snapping turtles are nocturnal, so they spend their days sleeping in such places and waiting for nightfall to go foraging for dinner.

Typically, (not always) they crawl into such places and go to sleep without turning around, so usually their head is facing in and the tail toward the water.

My courageous turtle grabber said "All you have to do is gently feel around and when your fingers touch a shell, run an index finger around the back. The front (head) part of their shell is rounded, but the back has a deep notch. So, you feel for that notch and the tail will be right below it. Grab the tail and pull him out. Nothing to it. Of course, if the part you feel is rounded, the head is right below it. Then you'd better remove your hand in a hurry." OK.

So, we started down a drainage ditch that had about two feet of water in it. My friend hadn't explored 20 feet of bank before he said "Here's one." and pulled out a nice six-to-seven pounder. He pitched the reptile up on the bank where I grabbed the hissing, snapping critter by its tail again and lowered it into the burlap bag.

Fifty feet further on he said "Here's another." and jerked out a dandy of at least 15 pounds. I could almost hear the soup pot bubbling.

Then he suddenly jumped back, said something unprintable, and nearly fell full length in the ditch. I saw a water snake of at least four feet shoot out from beneath the bank and hurry downstream. He'd put both hands on its coils, but apparently the snake was too surprised to bite. Or missed. He got another further along and said "You see how it's done. Your turn now." "I don't think so. I'm happy right where I am." We took one more, then an angry muskrat bit his thumb, and he decided four was enough. "Let's go home."

Again, it's a lively business, and snapping turtles are everywhere. You can grab for them in little creeks with just inches of water and an occasional pool, in ditches, fair sized streams and even farm ponds so long as you have a fishing license. But if grabbing is a little more than you'd like to try, you can still get snapping turtles.

Many a time I've rigged a four foot piece of trotline cord with a heavy duty steel hook baited with a piece of fish or tough woodchuck meat and placed it barely submerged in little creek pools tied to a willow limb above.

Usually, I'd place the lines in the late evening and check them next morning. It was routine to catch five or six turtles that way. Or set them in farm pond shallows where turtle tracks showed or droppings were about, and tied each to a white plastic gallon jug, leaving the jug on dry land.

When a turtle ate the meat he towed the jug behind, which made them easy to find. Whatever your choice, turtle meat is tasty. Fry it like chicken or make turtle soup and you'll go hunting snappers again.

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at richmart@neo.rr.com n There will be a Trailblazer Charity Shoot Aug. 25 at the Hidden Haven Shooting Preserve & Sporting Clays on Buckeye Road near Sugar Grove, Ohio. The main event will be a 100 bird shoot at a cost of $250 per person, which includes ammo, lunch, a registration bag of gifts, and one golf cart per team. Proceeds will be used to introduce youth to shooting sports. Call Kari at (614) 888-4868, ext. 201 for more information.

Most outdoorsmen know that hunting and fishing are big business in Ohio, but what about boating? It's much the same. According to a recent study, the recreational boating industry generates an estimated $3.5 billion for Ohio's economy, and supports more than 26,000 jobs. The new study showed a significant increase in recreational boating's impact, as compared to similar data compiled in 1999 by Ohio State University. That year, recreational boating's impact was set at $1.4 billion in Ohio, with support for 19,500 jobs.

The Division of Wildlife is asking for a 70-day goose season this year. Presently, the state is divided into zones with either a 40-day or 60-day season. Proposed plans are to take the Lake Erie Zone and combine it with Lake and Ashtabula counties. To do that, the DOW would have to front load the season by starting it one week before the general waterfowl hunting season and conclude the first segment just before the start of the deer firearms season.