Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni
November is just a couple of days away, and many hunters and fishermen are waiting to take advantage of the opportunities the month brings. As far as hunting, although most hunters are focusing on the deer gun season later in the month, there are thousands waiting for the upland game season opener. The first day of the 2017 rabbit and pheasant season is November 3, and I’m sure there will be good numbers of hunters in the field trying to bag some of the 1.5 million rabbits taken every year. The same applies to pheasant hunters expected to bag 100,000 or so wild birds throughout that season. Unfortunately, not many of them will be from this immediate area since Auglaize and Mercer Counties aren’t listed as prime upland hunting sites.
Of course, the great thing about small game hunting, at least when I was growing up, was the availability of some game and easy access of places to hunt. I learned to enjoy the freedom and ease small game hunting provided me. Today, finding a place to hunt around here holding any small game at all isn’t easy. Farming practices have eliminated the cover needed to give rabbits an even chance to survive a year, and where there might be a few spots where rabbits and other small critters congregate, so do the predators. I guess a safe assumption might be that with all of the factors that make this area a no-bunny zone, the next generation of rabbit hunters won’t come from this neck of the woods.
Assuming you still might like to bust some brush or let your dog do the work for you, there is still good upland game hunting in Ohio. All you have to do is find it and spend some time on the road getting there. Consider it an example of the cost/benefit theory. If it’s worth your time and effort, you’ll pay the price. Is it worth your effort to travel half way across the state hoping to jump a rabbit or two during a full day of hunting? I doubt it. On the other hand, would you think differently if filling a limit with the same effort was a distinct possibility? That’s more likely. Although bagging a limit isn’t what hunting is all about, seeing game is.
Where are good places to hunt Ohio rabbits other than in my back yard? Back in my day, I would have no way to answer that question and would need a personal contact to hunt in other parts of the state. Today, however, with a little computer research, a hunter can find out exactly what parts of the state provide good hunting and locate corresponding public land where hunting is available. It also doesn’t take long to find chat rooms filled with people willing to share information. Some of these people have become friends and even shared hunting experiences as these friendships developed. For example, this area will have more waterfowl than most areas that provide good upland game hunting. So, swap a hunt.
What parts of the state provide better upland game hunting? Close to home, Shelby and Logan counties offer decent upland game hunting possibilities. Unfortunately, public hunting areas aren’t readily available which means scouting and trying to get hunting access on private lands is the challenge. Again, is the benefit worth the cost? Not as far as I’m concerned. The good news is that the prime rabbit hunting areas in the state do provide excellent public hunting. Unfortunately, there is some serious driving involved. Also, if your hunting time is limited to weekends, expect more hunters to be looking for the same things you are. The ideal way to check a public hunting area is to go on site during the off-season to get the lay of the land. If that isn’t possible, topographic maps are readily available. Applications like Google Earth are also worth their weight.
What are the best Ohio counties for rabbit hunting? Hamilton, Clermont, and Brown provide excellent habitat. Connect the dots between Lawrence, Ross, Coshocton, Harrison, Noble, and Meigs, and you are in the best rabbit hunting area in the state. Up north, Lucas and Ottawa counties offer good rabbit hunting, and Woods shouldn’t be ignored. Woods used to be a great pheasant county eons ago. I remember hearing about a church that pooled farmlands owned by the congregation and selling hunting permits as a fund raiser. All the permit did was tell you the farmers who allowed hunting depending on the hunting pressure. Regardless, it was always easy to find a place to chase birds.
There is no doubt that rabbit and pheasant hunting aren’t very popular in our neighborhood anymore. That’s supported by the number of hunters who show up in the field on opening day or opening weekend. The old-timers around here who are still hunting won’t be replaced. That’s too bad, but that’s progress. Meanwhile, I might slap on my hunter orange and take a hike behind my house for a bit. I know I could find a stray bunny or two, and if the mood strikes me, I’ll turn them into skillet meat before some coyote or hawk takes the honor