Our Finest November Duck Hunts

Cold weather brings flocks of hungry ducks and geese down from the north into northeastern Ohio, and public marshes in District Three offer some of the best shooting in the region. Our expert explains. (Nov 2006)

The single most important factor in waterfowl hunting is the weather.

Last year, waterfowl hunting in northeast Ohio started out great, but then fell off when the weather stayed unseasonably mild and no new birds migrated into the area.

Then on Thanksgiving weekend, an abrupt change in weather conditions brought heavy snows and cold temperatures. Everything locked up in snow and ice, putting an end to duck hunting.

Goose hunting, however, was better than normal because the weather brought migrating birds with it.

Migration of waterfowl through northeastern Ohio can be likened to a funnel. Birds from the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways merge with birds coming directly out of Ontario, providing a steady and diverse flow of waterfowl.

Heather Braun, a Ducks Unlimited regional biologist, describes northeastern Ohio as having a good breeding population of wood ducks. There's also a large population of giant Canada geese as well as mallards and black ducks, along with teal and bluebills.

"There are a lot of inland marsh areas, state wildlife areas, that are managed for waterfowl, particularly in Trumbull County," said biologist Braun.

According to Mark Shieldcastle, the Ohio Department of Wildlife (ODOW) project leader for wetland wildlife research, the predominant species in District Three are mallards, wood ducks and green-winged teal.

"Blue-winged teal are usually gone by November. Green wings may linger right up to the freeze-up," said Shieldcastle. "We get some local mallards, but we generally get a big push of migrant mallards in late November or the first part of December. Again, that depends on the freeze up north of us."

MOSQUITO CREEK WA

Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area in North Bloomfield has a controlled hunt, as well as some open areas open to hunting. It's all about becoming familiar with the area rather than just showing up for a random hunt.

The area is primarily beaver swamp habitat, not big, open marshes. Hunters should just find an open hole to hunt. Small ponds and pockets may be found throughout the area, and they can provide some good hunting.

Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area provides some premier waterfowl hunting opportunity on state land for northeastern Ohio hunters. Hunters may apply for controlled hunts before the season begins. There are daily drawings for Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, as well.

"The majority of Mosquito Creek is a state refuge with very limited public hunting access," said Ron Ferenchak, Grand River State Wildlife Area supervisor. "It offers plenty of controlled hunting opportunities through annual or daily public drawings, and there are plenty of youth waterfowl hunting opportunities."

The controlled hunt application process and drawings take place in summer. There is a non-refundable $3 application fee.

GRAND RIVER WA

Ferenchak adds that if hunters miss being drawn for one of the daily hunts on Mosquito Creek, they may drive over to hunt the Grand River State Wildlife Area.

"Grand River is just a mile west of Mosquito Creek. Hunters who aren't drawn at Mosquito may drive over there and take advantage of the wetlands we offer. There are times when those hunters do just as good or better than the draw hunters.

"The area has a lot of natural beaver marshes, and we have 40 manmade wetlands on the area. Between the two, we have a stable wood duck population. We see mallards, the occasional black duck and a fair number of teal."

The quality of the waterfowl hunting varies with the weather and migration patterns. Mosquito Creek has its good days and bad days. So does the Grand River Wildlife Area. It just depends on when the ducks are coming through and how much hunting pressure they encounter.

KILLBUCK MARSH WA

"Killbuck Marsh would probably be where I would go," said biologist Shieldcastle, "but the wildlife area receives a lot of pressure. It's a nice big inland marsh."

The Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area a good place to try late in the season. It's a long, flat area in the bottom of a valley, consisting of wetlands and beaver swamps. The extreme northern end, known as Wright Marsh, is managed for only the first two weeks of the season through a draw.

Dan Kramer, the ODOW's District Three wildlife management supervisor, has hunted both Mosquito and Kill Buck.

"They are about 70 miles apart. Mosquito Creek is in Trumbull County, and Killbuck is in Wayne County. The pre-season drawing at Killbuck allows hunters to come and go at will the morning of their hunt. But in the daily drawing, hunters must be present at 5:15 a.m.

"If you aren't drawn, you have to find some other place to hunt. That rarely happens, other than on opening day. Fortunately, there are parts of the area that are public lands that you can go to as a backup.

"The area opens up later in the season to general waterfowl hunting," continued Kramer. "Hunting pressure drops off quite a bit from that point. Good numbers of birds still come through there, and hunters will have plenty of opportunities later in the season."

The marsh is divided into sections, and hunters are issued permits to hunt a specific location. Drawn hunters have sole rights to that area for the day and they may move anywhere in that area under that permit, using available natural cover or bringing in portable blinds for that day.

"There are no permanent blinds, and we don't allow any permanent blinds to be built. This policy gives hunters the flexibility to move around to go where the birds are, instead of being stuck in a blind far from the action." Kramer said.

"You don't need many decoys, just a small group of decoys," notes biologist Shieldcastle. "Find a spring hole that beavers have kept open. Sometimes it's the only open water around and it can be really good."

In the late season, many ducks become call-shy. If birds do not respond to a call, try flagging, which means using white (for divers) or black flags to get passing flocks' attention.

"I

have flagged a few times, and it does work on scaup. It looks like the flashing of a duck's underwings when they are pitching in. You just wave the flag around above your head. When the birds turn toward you, however, stop flagging. Once they get close, they realize something is wrong."

Biologist Shieldcastle added that while the better late-season waterfowl hunting is on inland marshes, good hunting may also be found in the shoreline waters along Lake Erie.

"There is some pretty good duck hunting in the waters along Lake Erie, the Cleveland Breakwall and Ashtabula Harbor. When the lake starts freezing up, hunters do fairly well on divers. But most of the action is in the inland marshes.

Good hunting may be found on some reservoirs, such as Berlin, West Branch, and Charles Mill. The Grand River and Little Pymatuning Creek offer good numbers of wood ducks.

Once the reservoirs and ponds begin freezing up, the birds naturally head to the rivers. The Tuscarawas River in Tuscarawas County can produce some very good mallard hunting in late season.

SHENANGO WA

The Shenango Wildlife Area, only eight miles away, is another option for hunters who are not drawn in the Mosquito State Wildlife area drawing.

Shenango WA in Kinsman is a huge flowage dominated by beaver swamps and open marshlands. It probably gets underhunted because access can be difficult. Hunters will need a canoe or other small craft to get back into it.

For more information, contact the Shenango Wildlife Area at (216) 685-4776, the Killbuck Wildlife Area at (330) 685-4776, the Grand River Wildlife Area at (330) 889-3280 or the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area at (330) 685-4776.

Area maps can be found at www.dnr.state.oh.us/wildlife/Hunting/wildlifeareas/wildare.htm.

For Ohio's 2006 hunting regulations, log onto the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Internet Web site at www.dnr.State.OH.us.

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