Hotspots for District Three Geese

Ohio's waterfowl biologists are expecting another great year of duck and goose hunting on public land in the northeast region of the state. Here's a look at how you can get in on the action this season.

By Greg Keefer

Northeast Ohio's early-season waterfowl hunters can expect good hunting this year if last year's harvest rates are any indication.

As always, fall hunting is dependant upon the weather. Despite last year's dry weather and low Lake Erie water levels, good numbers of geese, mallards, teal, widgeon and wood ducks are expected, with lower numbers of pintails, scaup and black ducks.

Canada geese are the number one waterfowl species harvested each year in northeast Ohio, followed by mallards and wood ducks. Mallards and other ducks usually migrate into northeastern Ohio from mid-October to mid-November. Migrating geese begin arriving in mid-September, bolstering the state's growing resident population. The harvest in 2002 was considered only fair to good in some areas because of the late arrival of Canadas, resulting from last fall and winter's unusually mild weather. If the winter hits hard in the north range, they should arrive in Ohio right on schedule.

The excellent hunting on our public lands and waters is a credit to the Ohio Division of Wildlife's waterfowl management program. Migrating ducks are drawn to the region's well-maintained wetlands and marshes, where hunters can expect to find good numbers of birds this season.

Although they are less dependent on the marshlands, geese are also drawn to the same areas. Grain crops near waterways provide plenty of food for hungry migrants, and hunters should find plenty of action by setting up near these hotspots.

Here is a look at some of the best public waterfowl hunting hotspots in the northeast region this season:

Photo by Soc Clay

KILLBUCK MARSH WILDLIFE AREA
"Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area in Holmes and Wayne counties is an excellent choice for waterfowl hunting," said Geoff Westerfield, a wildlife research technician in the ODOW's Wildlife District Three. "There are 5,492 acres on this area, a large majority of which is marsh or wetlands, and Killbuck Creek flows through the middle of the area."

Killbuck Marsh WA is Ohio's largest remaining wetland outside of the Lake Eric region. Float trips in shallow boats are a favorite tactic used by local hunters, who also use decoy spreads in open areas.

Wright's Marsh is a 350-acre diked wetland off state Route 226 that was restored in cooperation with Ducks Unlimited and is favored by many hunters. Diked wetlands and regular crop rotations are part of the Division of Wildlife's continuing waterfowl management activities at Killbuck.

The wildlife refuge near the center of the wildlife area, where no hunting is allowed, attracts large numbers of ducks and geese. Hunting is allowed on the surrounding area that is bordered by Force Road on the north and Harrison Road on the south.

Wood ducks and Canadas are the most common species on Killbuck Marsh during the fall migration, followed by the blue-winged teal and mallards. The area's wood duck nesting program produces about 4,000 woodies annually, adding to the area's potential.

Killbuck Marsh WA is 80 miles from Columbus, 55 miles from Cleveland and 35 miles from Akron. It may be accessed via state routes 83 and 226 along with several township and county roads including Paint Valley, Harrison, Valley, Force and Kimber roads. Parking lots are scattered throughout the area, and boats can be launched at bridges crossing Killbuck Creek. At last count, there were 30 parking lots scattered throughout the wildlife area.

A new Ohio Division of Wildlife property south of Killbuck is the Lower Killbuck Creek Wildlife Area. According to Westerfield, this area has great potential for ducks and geese. This 151-acre area is almost exclusively wetlands and may be less crowded because it is off the beaten path.

Special hunting regulations are in effect for these areas. Hunters should contact the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area office at (330) 567-3390, or the ODOW's Wildlife District Three office at (330) 644-2293 for additional information and a map.

MOSQUITO CREEK WILDLIFE AREA
This area is mainly a wildlife refuge and waterfowl management area, said Westerfield, nearly 1,000 of its 9,515 acres are open to public hunting. Most of the public area is off state Route 87, which includes several ponds. This popular area has over 300 acres of marshes with nearby grain crop fields that attract geese.

About 1,000 resident geese use the area each year, with peak fall populations having reached as high as 13,000 birds.

The wildlife area borders the northern section of 7,850-acre Mosquito Lake, which is part of the sprawling Mosquito Lake State Park. Walk-in goose hunting opportunities are available along the shoreline between the buoy line on the lake and the town of Cortland.

Small boats can be launched at the developed ramp on township Road 240.

The refuge area, in which no hunting is allowed, was initially set aside to create a regional nesting area for Canada geese, and soon a resident goose population was established. Wood duck nest boxes have also been established and have contributed to an increased local population.

Wood ducks are the most common ducks at the refuge, followed by teal, scaup and black ducks.

State routes 46 and 87 intersect at the wildlife area five miles south of Colebrook.

Mosquito Creek WA is 45 miles from Cleveland, 70 miles from Akron and 15 miles from Warren and Youngstown. Several parking lots are scattered through the area.

A lesser-known section of the wildlife area is the new property west of the Penn Central Railroad tracks. According to Westerfield, the wetlands in this area are worth scouting.

For more information and a map contact the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area office at (440) 685-4776, or the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2283.

SHENANGO WILDLIFE AREA
Hunters sometimes overlook this 4,845-acre wildlife area in Trumbull County, Westerfield noted.

Extensive wetlands are found throughout the area. Pymatuning Creek flows through the center of the area. An exceptionally productive marsh is north of state Route 87 along the creek.

Hunters typically score well on mallards and geese, and take some wood ducks as well. Shenango is another wildlife area where wood duck nesting boxes have succeeded

Blinds can be productive when set up near grain fields for incoming geese, and float hunting works well on the creek.

Hunters may launch small watercraft where township roads 87, 88 and 252 cross the creek.

A successful waterfowl management practice has been to let the area's beavers do what beavers do best, creating additional acres of marshland and backwater cover.

For current information on waterfowl hunting at Shenango Wildlife Area, call the area office at (330) 644-2293.

HIGHLANDTOWN WILDLIFE AREA
This scenic wildlife area is eight miles south of Lisbon and three miles northeast of Salineville via state routes 39 and 164 in Columbiana County. It encompasses 170-acre Highlandtown Lake within its 2,265 acres.

This hotspot is a good jump-shooting area. Several manmade and beaver-made ponds are easy to get to on township and county roads. There are 18 parking lots provided on the area.

Highlandtown Wildlife Area is 93 miles from Cleveland, 37 miles from Canton and 30 miles from Steubenville.

Additional information and a map can be obtained from the Highlandtown Wildlife Area office at (216) 685-4776.

GRAND RIVER WILDLIFE AREA
Wood ducks, mallards and geese attracted to this area's bogs and marshlands are harvested in large numbers. Hunters also take black ducks and teal on occasion.

Another of Trumbull County's outstanding wetlands areas, the Grand River Wildlife Area covers 6,993 acres with over 600 acres of wetlands. The area is accessible from state routes 88 and 534 via several county and township roads. The wildlife area is one mile north of the junction of state routes 88 and 534.

The Grand River wanders through the area and provides opportunities for a pleasant fall float trip. The area's wetlands are interspersed with creeks and are ideal waterfowl habitat for the thousands of ducks and geese that migrate through the region in fall.

Greentree Marsh, north of state Route 88 on the wildlife area's east side, is a popular stopover for geese and ducks. The marsh is accessible by township Road 236. Migrating birds also land on Dillon Pond, creating some productive jump-shooting opportunities. The area's ponds and wetland areas in the northeastern section are accessible from township Road 304.

The busiest part of the Grand River Wildlife Area is the northern section above state Route 88, so it may be worth investigating a quieter spot in other sections if you prefer more solitude.

Several parking lots are provided.

Additional information and a map are available from the Grand River Wildlife Area office at (330) 889-3280.

AUBURN MARSH WILDLIFE AREA
Auburn Marsh is another October hotspot recommended by Westerfield.

This wildlife area covers 462 acres on the east side of Auburn Road one-half mile north of Auburn Corners on Washington Road. The wildlife area can be reached via state Route 44 in Geauga County.

The soil in this region has traditionally had poor drainage, which has encouraged the development of large, permanent wetlands. Much of the marsh is seasonally flooded to benefit waterfowl. Wildlife managers have been assisted in their habitat development program by beavers that dam waterways to create additional marshy areas.

Geese and ducks have responded to these improvements as they stop to rest, feed and loaf on their seasonal migration. As might be expected, hunting success has also improved in recent years.

Parking lots can be found around the perimeter of the wildlife area on Auburn, Stafford and Messenger roads.

Auburn Marsh Wildlife Area is 25 miles from Cleveland, Kent and Painesville, and it is an excellent October waterfowling hotspot when the weather cooperates.

A map and current hunting information can be obtained by calling the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293.

BERLIN LAKE WILDLIFE AREA
"Early season waterfowl hunting can be productive in many of the small coves of the Berlin Lake Wildlife Area," Westerfield said. "The lake is drawn down for the winter so mid- and late-season hunting is not as productive as the early season."

Sprawling Berlin Lake Wildlife Area in Stark, Mahoning and Portage counties covers 8,518 acres. There are nearly 5,000 acres of public hunting ground. The remainder consists of Berlin Lake and Deer Creek Reservoir.

The area is north and south of U. S. Route 224. The western part can be reached from state Route 225, the central section from state Route 14 and the eastern portion from U. S. Route 224 and Bedell Road. Access is available on other county and township roads.

Berlin Lake Wildlife Area is 30 miles from Akron, 15 miles from Alliance and 25 miles from Kent.

The area's lake, ponds and beaver marshes attract plenty of waterfowl during the fall migration. Ohio Division of Wildlife biologists consider much of the habitat to be excellent for waterfowl.

The wildlife management program for this area centers on protecting woodlands, establishing crop rotations, improving open fields for nesting and growing food plots, all of which benefit migrating ducks and geese.

Hunters may take to the water from public boat launches at the following: on the Deer Creek Reservoir section off township Road 3; on township Road 57, along Berlin Lake's south shore off West Reserve Road; on alternate route township Road 14; off township Road 58 north of alternate route township road 14, and at the Ohio Division of Wildlife Area headquarters off county Road 75.

Several parking lots serve hunters throughout the area.

Contact the Berlin Lake Wildlife Area office at (330) 654-2392 for a map of the area and more information.

BEACH CITY WILDLIFE AREA
Beach City Wildlife Area in Tuscarawas County rates a mention as a potential October hotspot. The 1,912-acre wildlife area has over 400 acres of prime marshland-waterfowl habitat that draws migrating geese and ducks. Sugar Creek runs the length of the wildlife area and provides additional areas to hunt. The entire wildlife area is open to waterfowl hunting every day of the waterfowl season.

The Beach City Wildlife Area is on state Route 93 about one mile south of Beach City. U.S. Route 250 intersects the area. County and township roads provide other access.

Parking areas are available on county Road 96 and on the access road off county Road 96 north of county Road 94.

Hunters should contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293 for a map and more information.

Ohio's waterfowl hunters should contact the wildlife area they intend to hunt for an update on current regulations and bag limits. Remember that to hunt migratory waterfowl in the Buckeye State, you will need an adult resident hunting license, a resident youth hunting license, a non-resident season license or a three-day tourist license. In addition, hunters between 16 and 65 years of age are required to possess an Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp and a signed federal migratory bird-hunting stamp.

For more information on waterfowl hunting in District Three call (800) WILDLIFE or log on to the Division of Wildlife's Web site at www.dnr.state.oh.us/wildlife. This year's season dates are listed in the waterfowl-hunting booklet available wherever hunting licenses are sold.

For help in identifying ducks in flight, go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Web site at www.npwrc.usgs.gov. Click on "biological" and then on "waterfowl" to find Ducks at a Distance - A Waterfowl Identification Guide. This site also offers a helpful primer on duck identification.

Ohio's Wildlife District Three offers some exciting October waterfowl hunting. Thousands of birds descend on public lands where excellent goose and duck habitat promise plenty of hot action.

For information on lodging in the region, contact the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism at (800) 818-6446.



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