The next weeks are going to be slow ones for hunters. Little to hunt and only rare sportsmen shows to get one out of the house.
There's an answer, though, one that takes you outside, offers some excitement, and improves your shooting. That's spending a few hours on those long weekends practicing your aim with trap, sporting clays, or skeet shooting.
Trap shooting is the easiest. To do it, you'll move from one station to the next with a trap throwing machine in the middle, take aim, yell "Pull," and make your shot at a clay bird that goes out either straight ahead, or angles left or right. It's fairly predictable, but still good practice, reminding shooters to aim above rising birds and lead those going left or right.
You can make the sport even better by buying a box of clay pigeons and a hand trap at a local sporting goods store, going out to a favorite farm where you have permission, and throwing your own. Start out pitching the easy ones, just ahead or a little left or right, then gradually make them tougher, throwing grass cutters, high risers, and some sharp to one side. It simulates the live birds better and is excellent practice.
If you're wondering where the nearest trap range is, there's bound to be one fairly close. I "Googled" the Ohio State Trapshooters Association and found they had 55 member clubs all over the state, some strictly for shooting and some with trap setups at fish and game clubs. All should welcome members, and many let the public shoot on weekends. Each club on the Web site had directions and phone numbers for easy checking.
The Division of Wildlife maintains its own trapshooting sites, all on wildlife areas. A quick check of "Ohio trap shooting" gave a DOW Web site that listed ranges from the Woodbury Wildlife Area in Coshocton to the Delaware Wildlife Area, Killbuck and Resthaven. All had an unsupervised trap range, so you'll need to take your own clay birds, etc.
One new and very nice place to trapshoot is the Cardinal Center Campground at I-71 (exit 140) and Ohio 61 about 30 miles north of Columbus. The center is the home of the Ohio State Trapshooting Association and will hold shoots every Saturday between March 17 and Nov. 17. It's an excellent facility that offers not only trapshooting, but camping, fishing, and other activities. Cost is $4 per round of 25 targets.
Sporting clays is a great way to sharpen your shooting eye, since it closely imitates real bird and small game hunting. It can be humiliating too, at least initially, as I found out more than once. I'd always considered myself to be a good wing shot, but when I visited my first sporting clays range my self esteem dropped dramatically. The clay birds came from every direction, including right over my head, and often enough two birds came out together, or one appeared seconds after the first.
I shot from well to poorly on sites from Wood Duck Run to the Cackling Rooster, and missed completely on the Beastly Snipe and Rabbit Run, which bounced over the ground like a clay bird gone mad. But it was great fun and good practice. To find sporting clay sites, you can "Google" again, checking the Ohio Sporting Clays Association, and you'll quickly find that there are at least 64 places in Ohio for this lively sport. All offer directions and phone numbers.
Skeet just might be the toughest shooting sport, since you shoot at two birds going in different directions. I personally don't care for it, since it teaches the shooter to shoot very rapidly, and in a live bird hunting situation hunters tend to blow the birds up. But some of the above 64 places also offer skeet, so you can try this sport. Remember, if you don't own a PC, your local library has several and employees can quickly teach you how to use one. Then search as you will.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Public fishing opportunities will be enhanced this spring when more than 80,000 rainbow trout measuring 10 to 13 inches will be released into 45 Ohio lakes and ponds. In our area, trout will be turned free in Quarry Lake Park in Marion on April 20, the Shelby City Reservoir No. 3 on April 5, Blue Limestone Park Pond in Delaware on April 5, and East Harbor State Park Pond on May 12, this last for youth only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
It's tax time now, and the ODNR would like to thank those who have contributed part or all of their state income tax refund to the Nature Preserves, Scenic Rivers, and Endangered Species check-off. Those donations, nearly $413,000 last year, have helped re-establish bald eagles, peregrine falcons, ospreys, and trumpeter swans, as well as rare plants like Virginia spiraea, dragonsmouth orchid,, and small-whorled pogonia. It provided needed money for good causes. This year, readers again can provide money for plants and animals in our state that truly need help.
The wild world comes alive after dark, and this year's Wildlife Diversity Conference will highlight some of Ohio's interesting and elusive nocturnal creatures. The conference is open to the public and sponsored by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. It will take place on March 14 at the Aladdin Shrine Center on Stelzer Road in Columbus. For additional program information and registration, call