MOUNT VERNON — Three of Ohio’s most popular species begin to be hunted today. Hunters can legally hunt rabbits, ring-neck pheasants and bobwhite quail opens across the state, including Knox County.
“Small game season starts today and rabbit season runs through Feb. 28, pheasant season goes through Jan. 10, and bobwhite quail, which are not available in this county, runs through Nov. 29,” said Knox County Wildlife Officer Mike Miller. “We’ll get a lot of hunters, particularly rabbit hunters, out today and Saturday. It will be interesting to see how they do because there is a lot of standing corn still. A lot of crops are out because of the weather, and most of the landowners I’ve talked to said they are two weeks to a month behind where they normally are this time of year as far as crop harvest. That will make a lot of game species less available to people that are pursuing them. It is very hard to hunt rabbits in a standing corn field.”
Despite the conditions being tougher, the populations are very good, resulting in the bag limits staying the same.
“The bag limit for rabbits is four, for ring-neck pheasants it is two and if you go bobwhite quail hunting, it is four,” said Miller. “You have to go down to southern Ohio to find bobwhite quail, but there is some pretty decent hunting down there. The closest county that would be decent for that is probably Ross, but if you really, really want to hunt bobwhite quail, you would go down to Clermont, Brown, Highland or Butler counties. The hunting guide shows what counties you can hunt in.”
“If you wanted to hunt ring-neck pheasant, they are here in the county,” Miller added. “Typically, I see the majority from Lock to Utica and up to Sycamore Road, the south central part of the county for the most part. I’ve also seen them up in the Fredericktown area, and there are a couple of pockets around Bladensburg. Good habitat, grass, is important. Grassy fence rows are the best place to look.”
The same habitats are also good places to find cottontail rabbits. Rabbits, however, can often be in other places as well.
“Rabbits are pretty much everywhere,” Miller said. “Quite a few people hunt those in the county. If you are looking for public areas to hunt in the county, the Kokosing Wildlife Area is the No. 1 place to hunt. It gets quite a bit of hunting pressure the first couple of days, but it is still a good place to hunt. Another place is Woodbury Wildlife Area in Coshocton County. There is a tremendous number of rabbits over there. It is a little more difficult over there because there is a lot of brush and bramble, so a dog is very beneficial.”
With the start of the upland season and continuation of the squirrel, turkey and deer seasons, Miller expects the woods and fields around the county to be filled with hunters, which is a good thing.
“November is the hunting month because you can hunt a lot of things at once,” said Miller. “You can hunt deer archery. You can go out with a shotgun and hunt squirrels, rough grouse, rabbits and pheasants all at the same time, which is nice. It is a good time of year to be out hunting.
“Then of course, furbearer season opens on Nov. 10 at 12 a.m. Raccoon hunters will start at 12:01 a.m. Trappers usually already have their traps out and will be making their runs that night to actually set them.”
Raccoon hunting is the most popular in Knox County, but hunters also take part in other furbearer seasons as well.
“Knox County has quite a few coon hunters,” Miller said. “There are two coon-hunting clubs in the county — the Kokosing and Knox County Coon Hunters. They have hunts throughout the year, but as far as raccoon go, they will start hunting those next week.
“There is also fox hunting and coyote hunting. Fox hunting begins next week, and coyote hunting is year-round. Fox hunting is usually done with a predator caller, and a good way to get involved is through the Johnstown Sportsman’s Club and one of their fox and coyote drives, which they have throughout the winter months.”
“The raccoon population is the county is the most plentiful,” said Miller. “For furbearers, they are going to be most successful hunting raccoon and muskrats. Fox is the third best thing.”
As far as trapping goes, muskrats top the list, but beavers do the most damage. This year, however, has been a little quieter, though the season for trapping both beaver and river otters is well off.
“I’ve only had two beaver complaints this year in the county,” Miller said. “Beaver trapping doesn’t start until after Christmas, Dec. 26, and river otter starts Dec. 26. Both season go through Feb. 28, and both should be good seasons.”
There are no daily bag limits or restrictions on hours when furbearers may be hunted or trapped, with the exception of river otters where bag limits are dependent on the county where the trapping occurs. Special hunting regulations for coyotes apply during the one-week statewide deer-gun season Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, and the deer-gun weekend of Dec. 19 and 20.
Miller wants the public to be aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious activities.
“This is the time of year that a lot of violations occur,” said Miller. “The rut is starting and will be kicking into high gear here soon, and a lot of people are out bow hunting. Wildlife violations should be reported to our 1-800-POACHER line. Most of our bigger cases come from our tip line, which is 100 percent anonymous. Everything is kept confidential.”