MOUNT VERNON — As winter firms up its grip on Central Ohio, hunters are finding themselves indoors more and more. There is still time, however, to get out and enjoy the 2008-09 hunting season.
For deer hunters, archery season is still going strong. The season, which began on Sept. 27, has been a strong one.
“This year has been a good year. We’ve had good weather for hunting,” Knox County Wildlife Officer Mike Miller said. “This type of a snow and the cold weather we’ve had make for good deer hunting. They are very easy to figure out where they’re going to be; they’ll be at a food source. If you’ve got access to that, you should have a pretty successful time. The weather for the weekend also looks like it is shaping up to be pretty good. We’re not looking at any major storms, so it should be a good final weekend.
“Archery season is going to finish up on (Sunday). Deer are required to be checked in by 8 p.m. that night, so make sure if you do get one, you get it checked in. I’ll be collecting all of the info the following day and taking it down to Columbus. We should have a pretty decent kill. We’ll just have to wait and see when the final numbers come in.”
Miller expects a lot of hunters to give one last go this weekend, which means hunters should exercise safety and use caution.
“There are a lot of people that procrastinate and wait,” Miller said. “All of the sudden they wake up and say, ‘Hey, it’s the last day of hunting season.’ If the weather is halfway decent, they will have an opportunity to get out if they still have a tag available. A lot of people will make a point to get out this weekend. I know I’ve had people in our district office asking me about places to hunt in the county just for that reason. I definitely expect a push.”
Deer season isn’t the only thing wrapping up soon, however. Squirrel, which began Sept. 1, fox, raccoon, skunk, opossum and weasel seasons all wrap up this weekend as well.
“Other things that are going to be finishing up include squirrel season, which ends (Saturday),” said Miller. “There is a daily bag limit of six. A lot of people hunt squirrel early, but squirrel hunting throughout the winter months is pretty good. You can see them a lot better; squirrels are more active because of the cold weather. If you are looking at hunting other things, you can hunt ruffed grouse and rabbit until Feb. 28.”
Rabbit hunting, particularly popular this time of year, is about the only small game drawing hunters out into the woods.
“There have been fewer people hunting small game than in past years,” said Miller. “Most people take up rabbit hunting after they are done hunting deer, so most of the activity is after the deer-gun seasons. January and February is a busier time. With all of the snow cover, it makes it easier if you are looking for rabbits because they are easier to find. Generally, they are in the heaviest covering they can find.
“The populations have been pretty stable the last couple of years. There haven’t been any dramatic changes as the surveys have shown.”
Trapping is another option for those wanting to enjoy outdoors. Trapping seasons for fox, raccoon, opossum, skunk and weasel end Saturday. The seasons for mink, muskrat and beaver run through Feb. 28, however.
“There are not a lot of guys that trap in the county,” said Miller. “It has been going pretty well. I’ve had some complaints of people trespassing; most of that has been with the road trapping. You are required to have written permission from the land owner, even at bridge crossings and things like that. Overall, most trappers have complained about the weather. We’ve had a lot of ice this year, and that makes it a lot harder to catch things. Guys that have been using snares this year seem to be a little more successful. The fur take will probably be down this year. ... For the fur market, that will be a good thing. If we have a down number as far as animals caught, that will help the auctions this spring.”
Beaver seem to have reaped the biggest rewards, according to Miller.
“I talked to a guy I know that got into the drawing at Woodbury Wildlife Area, and he told be they’ve trapped 48 beaver in the first couple of weeks they were trapping. They had several beaver that weighed over 60 pounds, so they are pretty happy.”
Hunters also wrapped up the waterfowl season recently, and by all accounts, had a successful season.
“(Waterfowl season) finished strong because the weather was conducive to field hunting. Goose hunters did better than duck hunters this year,” Miller said. “You could hunt Canada geese a little more successfully than you could ducks. ... I was out checking goose hunters last Saturday at Alum Creek (State Park). It was a pretty good thing this year.”