Sorry, ice fishermen. It appears that my mentioning of ice fishing in my column once again has put a hex on your chances to get out on the hard water.
At the time of my last column, we were in a deep freeze and Mother Nature was making ice very quickly. Many people were already adventuring out on the ice of small bodies of water and the larger lakes were getting close to having five inches of ice as well. Then, just a few days later, spring weather and four inches of rain arrived wiping out all the ice and then some. It was bad news for ice fishermen, but awesome news for those of us that chase ducks and geese.
The recent warm temperatures and heavy rain falls made for a week of fabulous gunning for ducks and geese in the area. Many hunters had success in the fields and the temporary sheet water in the cornfields attracted the ducks and geese by the hundreds. A few days later, the roller coaster ride of weather dropped the temperatures to the teens again, freezing up the sheet water and chasing the birds back to bigger water.
Hunters who did their scouting and kept up with the changing bird patterns enjoyed some awesome gunning for a ten day span. Scouting and being versatile is extremely important to being successful for late season ducks and geese.
There are only a couple more weeks of duck season and a month is left for geese. There is still plenty of success to be had if you put in some effort and do your homework. And for those of you waiting to get back to ice fishing, I am sure Mother Nature will bring back the frigid temperatures about the time we start lambing out in the barn, so be patient.
• If you would like to pay it forward in the hunting community, consider becoming a hunter education instructor. There is always a need for more instructors in the area. A training academy for individuals interested in becoming hunter education instructors will be offered March 21 and 22, 2014 according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife.
Training will be held at the Division of Wildlife District Five Office located at 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, Ohio 45835. There is no cost to participate in a hunter education instructor academy. Those interested in attending must register by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE at least four weeks prior to the academy.
Participants must be at least 18 years of age, attend both days of training, and be experienced and safe hunters. Ohio currently has 1,700 volunteer instructors who train thousands of hunters each year to be safe and responsible in the field.
• If you are intrigued by coyotes and want to learn more about them, there is a free public program on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The program will take place at the ODNR Division of Wildlife District Three Headquarters, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron.
Whether reviled or revered, coyotes are very clever and adaptive animals. This is proven by their opportunistic and creative instincts to find food and habitat in a wide array of environments. Topics to be covered by Division of Wildlife officials include coyote biology, ecology, population trends and current status, dispelling myths about coyotes, and what to do if you encounter a coyote.
This program is best suited for ages 16 and up. The program is free but pre-registration is required as seating is limited. Call Jamey Emmert, Division of Wildlife at (330) 245-3020 or email Jamey.Emmert@dnr.state.oh.us.
• Ohio hunters donated 1,170 white-tailed deer to local food banks to benefit Ohioans in need during the 2013 hunting season, according to Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry and the ODNR.
To date, food banks have received approximately 58,500 pounds of venison and 234,000 meals for needy Ohioans. One processed deer amounts to approximately 50 pounds of venison and 200 meals.
Venison donations will be accepted through the end of the deer-archery season, Feb. 2, 2014. Go to fhfh.org to find a local Ohio deer donation program. Ohio ranks fifth nationally in hunter-donated venison, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Nationally, hunters provided more than 11 million meals to people in need.
Wild venison is among the most nutritious meats available. The meat is lean with little fat content and it is high in protein and iron. Wild venison has no additives or hormones, and is low in calories, fat and cholesterol when properly prepared.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife collaborates with FHFH to assist with the processing costs associated with donating venison to a food bank. The program allows for subsidy grants to be provided in allotments that are matched with funds generated or collected by local Ohio FHFH chapters.
Venison donated to participating food banks must be processed by a federal, state or locally inspected and insured meat processor. Hunters wishing to donate their deer are not required to pay for the processing of the venison as long as the program has available funds.
Ohio has 77 participating meat processors and 33 FHFH local chapters. Anyone interested in becoming a local program coordinator or a participating meat processor can go to fhfh.org and click on the Local FHFH tab. The website includes a list of coordinators, participating butchers and the counties they serve.
Hunters can also donate venison through Safari Club International’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program. Learn more at safariclubfoundation.org. Whitetails Unlimited chapters also use local funds for programs such as venison donation. Go to whitetailsunlimited.com to find a local chapter and make a donation.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!