Ohio's District Three Waterfowl Hunts

It's November, and duck and goose hunting in northeastern Ohio is definitely on a roll. Come along to find out where to go.

Photo by Ken Archer

The first waves of southbound waterfowl have already begun moving through northeastern Ohio on their annual trek south, and for a few weeks they'll just keep on coming. The region's extensive marshes, open water and nearby croplands will hold these birds until bitter winter winds and snow push them farther south.

Year after year, early-season hunters do well concentrating their efforts along Lake Erie's marshes and coastal waters. The hotspots for Ohio's November waterfowl season are primarily Sandusky Bay and the Lake Erie marsh areas. Thousands of acres of prime waterfowl habitat are available on state-owned lands where hunters can set up and enjoy excellent shooting this month.

Biologists report that migrating mallards, black ducks, pintails, teal, wood ducks, canvasbacks, scaup, ringnecks, giant Canadas and southern St. James Canada geese stop over on the marshes and area lakes. Dabblers, divers and honkers are all at the top of the list.

"The best of the best is Magee Marsh, which is a controlled hunt," said Dave Sherman, an Ohio Division of Wildlife waterfowl biologist at the Crane Creek Research Station.

"The Mallard Club and Metzger Marsh are usually pretty good, as are Killbuck and Funk Bottoms in northeastern Ohio."

According to Sherman, there aren't many new developments or recent acquisitions to public hunting areas in the region and hunters should expect good results in the traditional spots. The Ohio Division of Wildlife is renovating an existing wetland unit at Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, which might be open in time for this year's daily draw hunt. A grant from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased 280 acres that should be a top destination for next year.

Statewide, the duck population has been holding its own.

"Duck production peaked in 1999 and for the last three years has been fairly steady," said Sherman. "The population dropped steadily from 1999 to 2002, then went up in 2003 a bit, then back down again in 2004."

According to Sherman, the pothole surveys and other population estimates don't always correspond to the number of ducks that are showing up in front of the gun, and no one knows why. Duck production has been low and most of the Mississippi Flyway states didn't have a good year last year.

"But all it takes is a good spring and summer for the duck population to bounce back up again," said the biologist.

Though many hunters went home disappointed last year, Sherman is hopeful that this year's duck hunt will be a good one.

Tim Plageman, a District Two waterfowl biologist, has high hopes for the numbers of geese that hunters will be seeing.

"Goose numbers are high in Ohio if the nuisance complaints are any indication," said Plageman.

During last year's spring count, an estimated 84,000 geese were in the Buckeye State, which is nearly a 45- percent increase over 1993. This fall well over 100,000 geese are expected to be in Ohio at one time.

Here's a look at our best October waterfowl hunts in the northeastern part of the state for 2005.

MAGEE MARSH WA

Magee Marsh is the heart of the ODOW's waterfowl management program. The area's 2,000 acres of Lake Erie coastal marshland see a wide variety of waterfowl migrating through every year. Hunters take Canadas, mallards, widgeon, green- and blue-winged teal, blacks, scaup, woodies and canvasbacks.

The ODOW has managed the area intensively and uses special permit drawings to maintain the excellent waterfowl hunting opportunities. Hunters can apply online at the ODOW's Website.

As if the thousands of migrating waterfowl weren't enough, the ODOW continues the traditions of the duck-hunting clubs of years gone by.

"We take hunters out to their blinds, let them hunt and then pick them up again at the end of the day," said Plageman.

Success is, of course, the luck of the draw for gunners applying for the controlled hunts, but the experience is worthwhile. Another attraction for waterfowlers is the area's excellent reputation for producing birds.

The Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is west of Port Clinton on state Route 2 and is 95 miles west of Cleveland.

For more information, call the area office at (419) 898-0960 or the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000.

MALLARD CLUB WA

Mallard Club is another excellent destination for waterfowlers, Plageman said. The area is named for the once-famous club where President Dwight Eisenhower once hunted.

The 402-acre area consists of marshes and open water, so a boat is required. The area is bordered on the north and east by the Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge, on the west by Maumee Bay State Park and by Maumee Bay on the north. Dikes mark the boundary of the Cedar Point refuge where no trespassing is allowed.

Mallards, geese and teal are commonly harvested here along with black ducks and woodies.

Setting up with decoys is the most productive approach to ducks and geese utilizing the area. Access is gained from the three parking lots on the south edge of the property.

The Mallard Club Wildlife Area may be reached off state Route 2 by traveling two miles north on either Cousino Road or Decant Road. The area is nine miles from Toledo, 24 miles from Port Clinton and 38 miles from Sandusky.

Additional information and a map are available from the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000.

FUNK BOTTOMS WA

Dan Kramer, an ODOW waterfowl biologist, recommends Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area as an excellent pick for fall shooting. Though small, this area can provide as good if not better hunting than some of its larger counterparts.

Funk Bottoms covers 1,422 acres in Wayne and Ashland counties. It is comprised mainly of marshy, moist soil with permanent creeks that wander through the area. The adjacent grasslands and large wetlands attract Canadas, mallards, blue-winged teal and mallards.

State ownership i

s interspersed with private landholdings. Access is from state Route 95 as well as county and local roads. Where no road access exists, permission must be gained from the surrounding private landholders.

The area is eight miles from Wooster, 60 miles from Cleveland and 60 miles outside of Columbus.

For more information, contact the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area at (330) 567-3390 or the ODOW's Distinct Three office at (330) 644-2293 for more information.

METZGER WA

The Metzger Wildlife Area is another of Plageman's top picks.

The most common waterfowl on this mostly open-water wildlife area are black ducks, mallards and widgeon. Blue- and green-winged teal, gadwalls, pintails, wood ducks, canvasbacks and redheads also show up on occasion.

According to the ODOW, duck populations peak in December but birds will remain in the area throughout the season if there is open water and waste grain in the crop fields nearby.

A boat ramp connected by a slip to Wards Canal provides access to the bay. The wildlife area is a big, protected bay with some islands separating it from open water.

Ward's Canal borders the area on the north and to the south lies the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.

The area encompasses 558 acres. Access is gained from state Route 2 on Bono Road about one-half mile east of Bono.

Metzger Wildlife Area is 13 miles east of Toledo, 20 miles from Port Clinton and 22 miles from Fremont.

For more information, contact the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000 for additional information.

SHENANGO WA

"Shenango can be a great place to find ducks, especially if it's rained a lot and the creek is overflowing its banks," said Geoff Westerfield, a District Three wildlife research technician in Akron. "It's a good place to go for resident mallards and wood ducks early on, and then migrating waterfowl throughout the season."

The marshy areas and abundant food sources draw ducks on a regular basis, and they'll often stay until the weather gets nasty.

The Shenango Wildlife Area covers 4,845 acres and does get some hunting pressure. Pymatuning Creek flows supplies water for several marshy areas area where hunters may set up with decoys or float through.

Hunters positioning themselves between crop fields and the water can have some good shooting in the early morning or late evening hours. Float trippers can launch in Pymatuning Creek from the bridges over the water. One of the area's most productive marshes is along the creek north of state Route 87.

Shenango WA is in Trumbull County 22 miles north of Youngstown. The area may be accessed from state routes 7 and 88.

For more information, call the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-229.

BEACH CITY WA

"This is another small wildlife area that is often overlooked by hunters," said Westerfield. "The Beach City Wildlife Area is a particularly great place for wood ducks, but hunters will need a dog or a boat."


Thousands of acres of prime waterfowl habitat are available on state-owned lands where hunters can set up and enjoy excellent shooting this month.
 

Over 400 of the 1,912 acres in the wildlife are marsh. Sugar Creek runs through the area, where hunters may set decoys or enjoy a float trip.

According to Westerfield, hunters who bypass this area usually head for the larger marshes and miss some great opportunities for mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese.

Hunters should set up for wood ducks in the marsh off township Road 447 where it enters the wildlife area. Another hotspot for woodies is near the parking lot on township Road 62 if there's flooding. There are several good backwaters that are idea for decoying ducks.

Small parking areas are scattered throughout the area and a boat ramp is on state Route 93 south of U. S. 250.

The Beach City Wildlife Area is on state Route 93 about a mile south of Beach City on U. S. Route 250 in Tuscarawas County. The area is 16 miles from Canton and 55 miles from Cleveland.

For more information, contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293.

KILLBUCK MARSH WA

The hunting pressure can be heavy at times on this 5,492-acre marsh, but Killbuck Wildlife Area is highly recommended by biologist Westerfield. Killbuck has standing water year-round and is the largest wetland in Ohio outside of the Lake Erie marshes.

Shooters will most often see wood ducks and Canadas. Blue-winged teal, mallards and other species are less common.

Float trips may be launched from the bridges where roadways cross over the water. Locals score well on Wright's Marsh when the area has plenty of water.

The Lower Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area in Holmes County is a recent ODOW purchase. Ducks Unlimited cooperated with the ODOW to build a 151-acre diked wetland that draws migrating birds.

For the most part, the Lower Killbuck Wildlife Area is mucky but plenty of waterfowl fly in when it rains.

Access to the area is from state routes 83 and 226.

Force Road borders a no-hunting refuge in Killbuck on the north and Harrison Road on the south.

The Killbuck wildlife areas are about 60 miles from Cleveland, 60 miles from Columbus and 40 miles outside of Akron.

For more information, contact the office for special regulations at (330) 567-3390 or the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293.

HIGHLANDTOWN WA

"Highlandtown Wildlife Area early on can be good for mallards and wood ducks," explained Westerfield.

The ducks are drawn to the beaver ponds and low-lying areas on Highlandtown's 2,265 acres. Highlandtown Lake covers 170 acres and offers good open-water hunting.

The area doesn't have a lot of marsh but birds utilize the lake and extensive grasslands. The beavers are always at work and have created pockets of ideal waterfowl habitat. Hunters shouldn't overlook this area though the type of hunting will be a bit different than marsh hunters are used to. Walking in or launching a boat onto Highlandtown Lake can produce some good shooting opportunities.

The area is 8 miles south of Lisbon, 30 miles from Steubenville, 37 miles from Canton and 93 miles from Cleveland.

Acc

ess is from state routes 39 and 164 in Columbiana County.

Contact the area manager for locations of wildlife food plots at (330) 679-2201, or try the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293 for a map and information.

MOSQUITO LAKE WA

"At the top of my list is the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area and lake," said Jeremy Byers, an ODOW research technician.

Not a part of the Lake Erie marshes, the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area is known as an excellent waterfowl destination.

The 8,525-acre waterfowl management area has an interesting history. Six pairs of nesting geese were established to reintroduce the birds to the area in 1956 after giant Canadas had nearly become extinct. The rest is history.

A resident flock of about a thousand Canadas presently uses the area. During the fall migration over 13,000 birds utilize the area.

In addition to good Canada goose hunting, migrant snow and blue geese frequent the area. Mallards and woodies are the most commonly harvested ducks, followed by scaup, teal and black ducks. According to the ODOW, as many as 10,000 ducks have been estimated to be wintering on the area.

Hunting in the area is by permit only and blinds are provided. A permit is also required to hunt surrounding private lands.

Waterfowl management efforts have been directed at controlling the number of hunters using the area, providing nesting structures and the establishment of food plots.

The area can be accessed from state Route 87 on the north, state Route 88 on the south, state Route 45 on the west and state Route 46 on the east.

The Mosquito Creek WA is 15 miles from Warren and Youngstown, 45 miles from Cleveland and 70 miles from Akron in Trumbull County.

Contact the wildlife area office at (440) 685-4776 or the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 889-3280 for a map and more information.

GRAND RIVER WA

The Grand River Wildlife Area in Trumbull County consists of wetlands and upland grasses habitat that is ideal for the geese, teal, mallards, wood and black ducks that make a stopover.

Waterfowlers have plenty of room to stretch out on the Grand River Wildlife Area's 6,820 acres. The area covers surrounding lowlands that are part of the Grand River system and are an excellent place to target the abundant ducks and geese that winter there.

Hunters may walk in to remote marshy areas, floating down the river and smaller creeks or jump-shoot birds in the fields.

Dillon Pond off township Road 304 and the Greentree Marsh north of state Route 88 off township Road 236 are among the most productive hotspots.

Access isn't a problem from state Route 88 two miles west of state Route 45. Several parking areas are available.

For a map and more information, contact the area office at (330) 889-3280 or the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293.

Ohio waterfowlers will need a hunting license, an Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp and a federal migratory bird-hunting stamp.

Contact the Crane Creek Research Station at (419) 898-0960 for more information on northeastern Ohio's waterfowling opportunities.

Wildlife area maps are available online at the ODOW's Web site at

www.dnr.state.oh.us/wildlife.

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