For the record, hunting can begin on Oct. 13 in the Lake¬†Erie Marsh Zone, and on Oct. 20 in the North and South Zone. If¬†there’s a problem, it’s that late October should have a goodly number¬†of “bluebird” days when the weather is warm and sunny. Waterfowl¬†don’t fly much in such weather leaving blind hunters sitting with little to do.
There’s an answer, though. Instead of waiting for rare¬†shots on such days, you can leave the blind and go hunting them where they are in such weather. Wood ducks, for example, aren’t called¬†woodies for nothing. They love streams and small rivers that wind¬†through farm land with heavy timber on both shores. So, you seek¬†them (with permission) there. I’ve made many an early hunt on such¬†rivers, the best only 20-feet wide or so, and the technique is¬†simple. Walk the stream well away from the water and move as quietly¬†as possible.
Every 50 yards or so, ease in to the bank and use¬†binoculars to glass up and down as far as you can see. Sometimes a¬†small flock of woodies with be paddling quietly in mid-stream, then¬†it’s a matter of slipping down to where you’re right across, walk to¬†the bank and take your shots as they flush. It can be tough¬†shooting, because the little birds are fast and jink madly through¬†the timber in escaping. Sometimes too, they’ll be nearly hidden in¬†fallen timber branches or even well back under cutbanks. So, you¬†look for not only ducks, but ripples spreading on the water, a dead¬†giveaway for hiding birds.
A second choice is to hunt with a friend or two, and let¬†them off near a bridge to walk through, while you head for the next¬†bridge and walk toward them. Any birds flushed tend to follow the¬†river, so when you hear shooting just wait with your finger on the¬†safety and chances are they’ll pass overhead. Wood ducks haunt the¬†creeks and rivers seeking comfortable layup spots for the day, and¬†while they’ll usually fly off at dawn for some favorite picked corn¬†or soybean field, then return and relax for an evening flight to the¬†same place. But they’ll also forge along shore for acorns, which¬†they dearly love, and beechnuts. If they fill their crops on these,¬†they might not fly at all.
Keep in mind that wood ducks also love little woodland¬†ponds, especially those with extensive weed beds. Here they feed on¬†greenery and also find tidbits of snails, aquatic insects, and other¬†good things. One of the most productive ponds I ever hunted was a¬†woodland pond of half an acre or so filled with water weeds and¬†buttomball bush. That one provided limits until cold weather drove¬†the remainder south for the winter. I missed them because woodies¬†are the second best eating duck around. The first? In my opinion,¬†teal rank No. 1, and they’re often around in ponds too, in the early season.
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Hooks & bullets
‚ÄĘ According to the Ohio Environmental Council,¬†Ohio’s environmental movement has had some amazing wins.¬†On¬†Saturday, Nov. 17 at COSI on 333 West Broad St. in Columbus, they¬†intend to celebrate their victories, honor environmental heroes, and¬†look ahead to the future. They plan to hold a Gala fund raiser¬†including a cocktail hour with hundreds of environmental¬†professionals, a silent auction, live music, and a dinner¬†program. For more information or to register, call the Council at 614-487-7506
‚ÄĘ Muskingum Watershed Conservation Distict (MWCD) rangers do¬†more than protect area residents and park guests, they also protect¬†our natural resources. Recently rangers at Charles Mill Lake¬†conducted an extensive investigation to identify who was responsible¬†for the illegal dumping of trash near the lake. They found evidence,¬†went to a home in Ashland, and identified the suspects. A charge of¬†littering was made that is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a¬†$500 fine. A good day for the rangers.
‚ÄĘ Miller Ferries to Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Island has¬†contracted with Frazier Shipyards of Superior, Wisconsin to build a¬†new drive-on,drive-off passenger/vehicle ferry for delivery in fall¬†2019. The vessel will be christened Mary Ann Market in honor of the¬†family matriarch and the company’s late owner. The new craft will be¬†140 feet long and 38.5 feet wide, and will accommodate 28 standard¬†sized vehicles or 600 passengers.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email¬†protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.