The Ohio small game season is quickly approaching. Rabbit and pheasant hunting opens Nov. 2 and runs through Feb. 28 for rabbits with a daily bag limit of four.
Pheasant hunting season remains open through Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, with a daily bag limit of two rooster (male) birds. No hens (females) may be killed. Females are all brown. The males have a red and brown body, a green head and long tail feathers.
Statewide pheasant and rabbit hunting hours are sunrise to sunset. Right behind that is the fur opener. Fox and raccoon seasons will open Nov. 10 and run until Jan. 31 with no bag limit on either.
• A total of more than 14,000 ring-necked pheasants will be released at 24 Ohio public hunting areas this fall to provide additional hunting opportunities across the state, according to the ODNR.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife will release pheasants prior to the small-game weekends for youth hunters and more will be released for opening day, and prior to the Veterans Day and Thanksgiving holiday weekends. A table of scheduled release numbers and locations can be found at bit.ly/2018ohiopheasant.
• Outdoor enthusiasts interested in learning to field dress and butcher a white-tailed deer are encouraged to attend a free informational workshop on Wednesday, Nov. 14 according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The workshop will be held from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Antwerp Conservation Club located at 17814 Road 53, Antwerp 45813. The workshop is free of charge, but pre-registration is required by November 9, as space is limited. Interested individuals can register by calling Andrea Altman at 419-429-8321.
Trained professionals from the ODNR Division of Wildlife and Antwerp Conservation Club will partner to cover topics including field dressing, skinning, and butchering. This workshop is hands-on and portions will be held outdoors. Participants are encouraged to dress appropriately for the workshop and for the weather.
For more information on Ohio’s deer seasons and other hunting opportunities, please visit wildohio.gov.
• The 2018 acorn mast survey conducted on 38 wildlife areas throughout Ohio shows a well above average year for white oaks and below average red oak acorn production, according to the ODNR. Ohio’s fall crop of acorns is an important food source for more than 90 forest wildlife species, and mast crop abundance can influence hunting plans.
ODNR Division of Wildlife employees scanned the canopies of selected oak trees on wildlife areas to determine the percentage of trees that produced acorns and the relative size of the acorn crop.
Results showed that an average of 50 percent of white oaks and 47 percent of red oaks bore fruit this year. Over the past five years, acorn production has oscillated from above to below average, and this year red oaks were just below the 14-year average, while white oaks were well above average for the first time in four years.
In addition to determining the presence or absence of acorns, observers estimated the percentage of each tree’s crown that was covered with acorns. For 2018 average crown coverage of acorns for white oaks was just over 15 percent. Average crown coverage of acorns for red oaks was 14 percent this fall. Average crown coverage this year was well above average for white oaks, while red oaks were slightly below average.
Wildlife prefer white oak acorns because red oak acorns contain a high amount of tannin and taste bitter. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and squirrels concentrated near areas with heavy crops of white and chestnut oak acorns. In areas with poor acorn production, these animals are more likely to feed near agricultural areas and forest edges.
Past years with poor acorn production has translated to improved deer hunter success rates, particularly among archery hunters. This year’s excellent white oak mast crop may translate to lower hunter success rates in areas where white oaks dominate. Conversely, the below average red oak mast crop could increase hunter success, particularly after white oak acorns are gone.
Acorns are an important food source for many forest wildlife species. Numerous studies have linked the abundance of acorn mast crops to body condition, winter survival, and reproductive success of wildlife including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bears, gray squirrels and ruffed grouse. This is the 14th year the ODNR Division of Wildlife has completed the acorn mast survey. The results, including tables and historical numbers, can be found at: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/portals/wildlife/pdfs/research/2018 acorn mast survey.pdf.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.