Sportsmen Head Toward Winter Transition

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

Another winter is on the horizon. If the chillier weather hasn’t been a big enough hint, just check out the holiday blitz we’re experiencing. We ended November with Black Friday and started December with Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday is the new kid on the block stoking generosity around the globe. Christmas music is everywhere, trees are decorated, and houses are starting to get lit up. People will do that later. Christmas is just around the corner and so is the official start of winter, which arrives on Saturday, December 21, at 11:19 p.m. EST. Meanwhile, sportsmen are focusing on current outdoor activities in spite of any projected seasonal changes. Gun hunters are chasing deer through December 8 not including a two-day bonus weekend. Waterfowl hunters who spend their time on the lakes are enjoying their season until predicted cold temperatures ices them out. Open-water fishermen are taking advantage of the excellent fishing at the canal lakes before they break out their ice gear. It’s a busy time of the year for everyone.

Although the deer season will continue for the archery hunters along with a few days for the muzzleloader crowd, once the gun season is over, winter can’t be far behind. Gun hunters took over 15,000 deer on opening day, and over 11,000 on day two. As of December 3, 2019, the total deer harvest is almost 110,000. I’m assuming the 6000 plus deer bagged during the youth season are included in that number. Approximately 77,000 of the total were taken by bow hunters. When the dust settles, all the deer seasons are history for another year, and winter is well entrenched, another 65,000 to 70,000 deer should be added to the current total and summer sausage should be in good supply.

Waterfowl hunters at Lake St. Marys will probably have one more weekend to hunt before the ice sets in. According to the weather prognosticators, subfreezing temperatures should hit the area mid-week and the long-term forecast doesn’t show any warm spells in the near future. Although the lake season will probably get cut short, waterfowl hunters might consider spending time in their blinds the next few days. First, along with the resident and migrant geese, there were 1500 mallards and black ducks counted at the Mercer/Grand Lake area according to Wildlife’s bi-weekly aerial report. From hunters on the ground, these numbers may be even larger. The November 29 report also includes 150,000 scaup located in Western Lake Erie. These birds could decide to move at any time, especially with weather changes being predicted. If and when that migration happens, lake hunters could have a few days of decent diver hunting, but that’s a big if. As always, getting the hunters and the birds in the same area at the same time is a gamble. Most of the time, the hunter loses, but sometimes he doesn’t. That’s why they call it hunting.

There are still decent numbers of fishermen taking advantage of open water conditions. All of the canal lakes are producing fish, and as usual, a minority of fishermen are catching the majority of fish. Some fishermen think this might be unfair, but the guys who put in the time reap the benefits. In reality, becoming an adequate angler isn’t as difficult as it sounds. For example, I’m not an Indian Lake saugeye fisherman, but I’ve watched enough bank fishermen at different times of the year and learned from what I’ve seen. I know how to rig a tight line for saugeye and have watched what swim baits are popular, what colors produce, and what various retrieves to try. Locating the fish might be an issue, but when in doubt, follow the crowd. I’m more relaxed as a crappie and bluegill fisherman, and if I wanted to spend the time, I could probably catch enough fish for dinner. I know the popular spots at St. Marys, have a good idea where to go at Lake Loramie, and would be a windshield fisherman at Indian. I know that boat fishermen have an advantage, that I don’t boat in cold weather, and I that I don’t fish when you can walk on the water. My fishing season is about to end until spring.

December is the favorite month of many people, but not mine. For the outdoorsmen, the transition into winter is about to start but there are still some exciting moments to be had outdoors. I don’t think I’ll put on my hunter orange this year. I’m not going to bother the ducks or geese either. The next time I touch a fishing rod and reel is when I change line and get ready for spring. For me, winter is here…in more ways than one. For a change, I’m kind of looking forward to it.