Upland Game Season Opens

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

The 2019 Ohio upland game season opened Friday, and I doubt if more than one or two rabbit hunters could be found busting cover in Auglaize County. To be quite honest, this part of the state was never a prime rabbit or pheasant area, but back in the day, mediocre was still pretty darn good. One thing is for sure, the excitement that came with the rabbit and pheasant opener was a greater than it is now. A lot changes over time.

In 1969, I started writing this column and my attitude and approach were a bit different. First, I was green and trying to justify the $2.00 I was being paid per column. I wrote about what I knew and enjoyed. Consequently, any opening day of hunting was a good day. The rabbit and pheasant season came in on November 14, 1969. I think my 50 year-old lead paragraph expressed how many living in a rural community felt about hunting at that time. Today, not so much. You be the judge: “This Friday, Nov. 14, ½ million hunters across the state will take to the fields as the 1969 upland game season opens. It’s a day when fathers take off from work and sons take off from school to join them creating for at least a day, a bridge between the generation gap. Opening day is an event that more and more members of the fairer sex are taking part in. It’s a day enjoyed and anticipated by every hunter, young and old, and all have the same thoughts in mind of bagging a limit of scurrying cottontails and a brace of cunning ring-necked pheasants.”

Those times were exciting and that opening paragraph tried to reflect that. The glory years of upland game hunting had everyone keyed into the sport. In 1946, soldiers came back from the war looking for work, starting families, and enjoying the outdoor sports—like hunting. Of course, there were some who came back vowing never to pick up another gun the rest of their lives. Regardless, over 700,000 Ohio resident hunting licenses were purchased across the state and these hunters bagged well over a million rabbits with pheasants not being far behind. Our county license sales reflected upland game hunting’s popularity. In 1946, 5600 resident hunting licenses were purchased. 1955 records reflect resident license sales still over 5,000. By 1965, that number had dropped to under 4,000. Because of weather and other natural and man-made causes, 1995 resident license sales in Auglaize had dropped to less than 1600. 2014 resident license sales for Auglaize were 1940. Most of those sales were by deer and turkey hunters.

I grew up hunting rabbits and pheasants and like many of our area hunters was never considered a Daniel Boone. Most of us hunted for recreation, and if we were lucky enough to bag a couple of rabbits or a stray rooster pheasant, times were good. For many kids, rabbit hunting was an after-school activity, although some of my friends may have skipped an entire school day from time to time. Today, even considering taking a day off to hunt would create major issues, and the internet would go viral. More than one shotgun was kept in a school locker in the 1950s. Walking down Spring Street carrying a long-gun over your shoulder was a rite of passage. The police only stopped you if you were acting stupid. A single-barrel shotgun that wasn’t open would get you grounded. Generally, one headed north along the canal to hunt or went the other three directions hitting the tracks.

There are a lot of memories stored by area hunters who grew up when upland game hunting was a big deal. That’s not the case today, and it probably won’t improve for tomorrow. So, in the grand scheme of things, the rabbit season is officially in, it lasts until the last day of February, and there are probably a few bunnies available for the skillet. One thing for sure, I don’t think the hunting pressure will be too great. As far as pheasants, shooting preserves are your best bet in this part of the state.