By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show
As is being experienced by many Ohio families, with a wife and a college-sophomore son working/studying from home and being underfoot with me these days, life is a bit different. During an average workday I’m used to sharing the house with no more than a part-time cat, and enjoy the solitude. In fact, I’ve realized that as a bit of a recluse I’ve have been practicing social distancing for years, so the isolation we are asked to practice during these anything-but-average times is less of a strain on me than, say, a librarian or a college student, who thrive on much more social interaction.
I won’t go into detail on how we are managing things in the Armitage household, beyond having hidden all the sharp objects. What I will share is that, like most of you interested enough to read a column about the outdoors, let alone likely enjoying a rural lifestyle, we family members agree that we are fortunate. Most of our favorite activities take place outside and, to a great degree, can be enjoyed with minimal contact with others, if not alone. We’ve been hunting for shed antlers since February and soon will be hiking the hills and hollers in search of morel mushrooms. I’m spooling fresh line on the fishing rigs as we speak, awaiting the crappies to begin their annual move to the shallows where they are pushovers for a minnow and bobber lobbed from shore. Spring turkey hunting season begins late this month, and I’ve never pursued Ohio long-beards with more than one family companion and, like most gobbler-chasers, typically go it alone.
Unlike many of you, I am not blessed with acreage out my back door, but a postage-stamp-sized suburban lot. But that didn’t stop me from tapping our lone maple for syrup last month, turning-over the 10X10 garden spade by spade and video-taping our resident cardinal as it attacked it’s reflection in a dining room window. Sometimes I just go stand outside, day or night, and it gives me peace of mind — and soul. And I’m not what most would call a spiritual person. I’m an outdoors person, and am grateful for what that brings. If you are too, all you need to experience a welcome recharge and put life in perspective, is to step outside and soak it all in. See you out there!
Boat launch ramps open
ODNR Director Mary Mertz asked to come on my radio show, Buckeye Sportsman, to answer questions about what the state plans to leave open to anglers and hunters in the face of the current health crisis. She said that all state park launch ramps and parking areas are open as of press time and that areas for shore fishing will remain accessible as well. The same is true for waters and lands in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, which offer 54,000 acres of land and water for the public, including some of the most popular fishing lakes in the state. On the same broadcast, MWCD spokesperson Adria Bergeron echoed what Director Mertz urged, that we get outside whenever we can and enjoy fishing and hunting and hiking and mushroom collecting and just being in the outdoors as a way to get through the social distancing that many are practicing primarily indoors. To find out what facilities are open on state lands and the MWCD, visit wildohio.gov or mwcd.org.
Spaces to shoot still available
For example, many shooting ranges with public access in Ohio remain open for those who want to sight-in for the spring turkey hunting season — or just to get outside and make some bang-bang. Shooters are encouraged to follow all social distancing guidelines and respect others personal space while at a shooting range. State-owned public shooting ranges are recommended to no more than 10 participants at a time.
A shooting range permit is required to shoot at Class A (supervised rifle and pistol), Class B (unsupervised rifle and pistol) and Class C target ranges (unsupervised clay target shotgun). A shooting range permit is not required at Class D (unsupervised archery) or other ranges not classified by the Division of Wildlife (other fees or purchases may apply).
You can purchase an annual or daily shooting range permit at wildohio.gov or any location where hunting and fishing licenses are sold. An annual permit costs $24 and a daily permit is $5. An annual shooting range permit and hunting license combo is available to Ohio residents for $29.12.
Three public shooting ranges currently open in Northwest Ohio are:
- Wildlife District Two office archery range (Hancock County). This range is located behind the Wildlife District Two office and is provided free of charge and open during daylight hours.
- Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area clay target shotgun range (Defiance County). The unsupervised clay target shotgun range is open during daylight hours and a shooting range permit is required.
- Resthaven Wildlife Area clay target shotgun range (Erie County). The unsupervised clay target shotgun range is open during daylight hours and a shooting range permit is required.
Shooters are reminded to follow all posted rules and regulations when visiting a shooting range. Most Division of Wildlife shooting ranges are unsupervised. State owned supervised Class A ranges (Deer Creek Wildlife Area, Grand River Wildlife Area, and Woodbury Wildlife Area) are temporarily closed. Visit wildohio.gov to learn about ranges open in your area.
Special turkey hunts held
The special mentored style turkey hunting opportunities available at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area and the recently-purchased Andreoff Wildlife Area in Hardin County are still on and registration will be taken for youth and adults who have never harvested a wild turkey. Hunts are available for the youth turkey season on April 18 and 19, as well as for one-week hunting sessions April 20-26, April 27-May 3, May 4-10, and May 11-17. Registration is taken on a first come, first serve basis and is open now. To register visit apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/educationregistration/.
Magee Marsh shuttered for now
On the down side, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area in Ottawa County is closed until further notice and includes the popular boardwalk, parking lots, roads, and walking trails, all in response to the ongoing public health situation with COVID-19. Questions regarding Magee Marsh Wildlife Area’s closure can be directed to the Wildlife District Two Office at 419-424-5000. For additional information about Ohio’s wildlife and wildlife areas, visit