Looking Back At 2006 - And Forward To 2007
By Larry S. Moore
Ohio sportsmen have many things for which to be thankful. Looking at the national outdoor media, there are states, which still have blue laws prohibiting Sunday hunting. Michigan sportsmen lost their battle over dove hunting which may very well open the door for additional anti-hunting measures in their state. These are non-issues for Ohio sportsmen. While 2006 saw continued success there are significant challenges ahead.
Deer hunting doesn't get much better than Ohio right now. We are living in the good old days. Southwestern Ohio, and even Greene County, has seen a number of very large and record-book bucks killed. There is the growing threat of urban deer growth and how to contain the herd in populated areas. With the deadly Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) found in at least one instance in WV, Ohio has continued to collect samples at various deer checking stations for testing. So far, no CWD has been found in Ohio's herd. Look for 2007 to bring additional controls on the shipment of cervids and bringing of parts into Ohio. Aggressive steps are needed to protect the Ohio deer herd.
Youth hunting opportunities and the apprentice hunting license program appear to be a bright spot for recruiting new hunters. There have been over 10,000 apprentice hunting licenses sold. It is now up to all the mentors of the apprentice hunter to provide the proper instruction and keep hunting safe.
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The State Controlling Board recently released the funding for the ODNR to purchase thousands of acres of the forest in southeastern Ohio. Part of this is the Raccoon Experimental Forest Area. This is vital to research on a variety of species including grouse, forest songbirds, bobcats and wild turkey. With the former Mead lands sold several times through different companies, there was no guarantee how long the forest would remain for public access. ODNR and the State Controlling Board are due a huge thank you for this effort. However, it is barely a good start as Ohio is 47th in the nation in terms of land for public access. 2007 presents the challenge to do more in this area.
Lake Erie fishing has been nothing short of phenomenal in 2006. The forecast for 2007 remains strong. However Lake Erie is one of the most challenging areas in Ohio. First is the threat posed by the commercial fishermen who have over-harvested tens of thousands of tons of yellow perch. Many have been found guilty of racketeering and other felonies. The General Assembly failed to pass legislation imposing controls on this industry. I cannot understand how the General Assembly can ignore the violation of public trust and the rape of a public resource by corrupt operators. The General Assembly failed to protect the resources and the sportsmen dollars that fund the Division of Wildlife. It is a wrong that requires immediate attention in the 2007 General Assembly.
Lake Erie has experienced a number of invasive species that have dramatically altered the balance of nature. The impact of the shipping industry and the practice of dumping ballast water have resulted in the invasion of the non-native European species. The problem has been ignored. This is not just an Ohio problem but also truly a Great Lakes watershed problem. It requires the immediate attention of all the Great Lakes states.
The Ohio Division of Parks is an award-winning park system. New lodges are open or in the development stages. Still it is a Division that is basically broke. Fixing the park system requires immediate funding sources coupled with short and long-range plans. If hunting access and outdoor recreation are to be a cornerstone in the travel and tourism plans for Ohio, then a healthy state parks system is required. While the new parks grab all the headlines, the older parks face many infrastructure upgrades and service challenges. I hope the new ODNR leadership has the vision to successfully tackle the problem. The General Assembly has helped to create the problem through the recent funding shortages. The General Assembly must be a partner in correcting the funding.
Finally, firearm law reform gained a large step forward with the passage of HB 347 and the subsequent over ride of the Taft veto. Finally shooters and hunters will only need to know one set of laws when traveling across the state with our firearms. Despite what the big-city mayors' claim this law has not trampled them. There are plenty of laws against discharging a firearm in town, as well as along or on pubic roads. Firearm related businesses are still regulated under city zoning laws. They just have to be treated the same as all other businesses. It seems anything less would be called discrimination.
2007 promises to be an exciting year. My family is busy planning for some rabbit hunting, wild boar hunting, Lake Erie trips, camping at the state parks, and perhaps a vacation to one of the many great Ohio destinations. Have a Happy Outdoors New Year!
Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a Region Leader for Buckeye Firearms Association and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award.