This month, try these proven waterfowling hotspots in northeast Ohio for exciting shotgunning action on land or water. (November 2008).
photo by Dan Small
Goose season is in full swing, and the opportunities for good shooting are better than ever. And northeastern Ohio boasts some of the Midwest's best Canada goose hunting. Prior to 1950, Canada geese were a passing oddity in the Buckeye State. But the Ohio Division of Wildlife's program to establish a resident population has been a big success. Canada geese are now the state's most sought-after migrant game birds.
Here are several spots in Wildlife District Three that biologists say will be productive this month:
MOSQUITO LAKE WILDLIFE AREA
This honker hotspot in northeastern Ohio has become a household word with the region's goose hunters.
Its wide expanse of open water and nearby fields attract migrant and resident birds by the thousands. Limit hunts aren't unusual.
Several hundred acres have been planted to row crops, with blinds set up in the corn. The blinds are permit-controlled, but ones that don't get drawn for a particular day are put into a daily draw. Occasionally, a blind or two is kept in reserve for hunters who aren't on time, and latecomers will often get one.
The Mosquito Creek WA borders 8,648-acre Mosquito Lake State Park. The lake itself lies within the park boundaries and is managed for dual purposes: for providing a waterfowl refuge and as a public hunting area.
The lake covers 3,156 acres, and geese are eager to use it.
The resident population of Canada geese provides good shooting, especially later in the year when severe weather drives migrant birds out of the Lake Erie marshes. When that happens, Mosquito Lake is their next stop south.
The wildlife area offers about 1,000 acres of field-hunting opportunities and 300 acres of marsh. The marshy section west of the Penn Central Railroad tracks is usually a good spot to check and at times holds good numbers of geese.
Access is from state routes 46 and 87, which intersect five miles south of Colebrook.
You may launch small boats from the ramp on township Road 240. Hunters looking for walk-in opportunities will find them along the shoreline between the town of Cortland and the buoy line on the lake.
For more information, contact the Mosquito Lake Wildlife Area office at (440) 685-4776, or the Mosquito Lake State Park office at (330) 637-2856.
AUBURN MARSH WILDLIFE AREA
Public areas near urban centers are often heavily hunted from opening day on. The sight of so many hunters in the field can be discouraging.
Sleeper spots are where you find them, and even on the busiest areas, there are opportunities that are all too easy to miss. Auburn Marsh Wildlife Area is one of these.
This area is managed for waterfowl by Ohio Division of Wildlife staff and when the conditions are right, it can attract plenty of geese. When the hunting pressure takes off, however, so do the geese. The key to bagging a bird here is picking the right day.
Beavers have cooperated with biologists to create wetlands over poorly drained soil that stays wet for long periods of time. Geese enjoy picking through the flooded vegetation and marshy cover and will sometimes come in for a rest. The area's grassy fields hold feeding geese whenever the mood strikes them.
Auburn Marsh WA covers 462 acres on the east side of Auburn Road, north of the town of Auburn Corners. It's on Washington Road off state Route 44 in Geauga County.
Rough parking is available. Hunters may park on Stafford Road to the north, Auburn Road on the west and on Messenger Road to the east.
The area is only 25 miles from Cleveland, so it can get a lot of hunting pressure. You can obtain more information on hunting Auburn Marsh by calling the District Three office at (330) 644-2293.
DORSET WILDLIFE AREA
As far as ODOW public lands go, the Dorset Wildlife Area is a relative newcomer. The area covers 1,080 acres. A recent project has been completed, establishing a permanent wetland covering 41 acres, and should be a magnet for geese.
The area is surrounded by 270 acres of sharecropped farmland. Some corn has been left standing for hunter concealment. When conditions are right, both migrant and resident birds provide excellent shooting opportunities.
The birds will spend a lot of time in the surrounding crop fields, so traditional early-morning and late-evening hunts are going to be your best bets.
Field-shooting opportunities are good, but the hunting pressure can be heavy on weekends.
Hunting on the marsh can also be productive. In most sections of the marsh, the water is only six inches deep, and most of it can be easily waded.
Nearby private croplands are also appealing to Canadas, which will fly out of the area to utilize farm fields. To find productive places to set up, watch traveling flocks to time their flights and see which direction they're headed for.
Getting permission to hunt privately owned farms shouldn't be difficult. Grain farmers will often encourage hunters when a flock of geese is damaging their crops.
Don't forget to get a written, signed consent form that allows you to hunt on private property.
Canadas usually choose fields of corn, wheat or rye--dry or flooded--where they have a clear view of what's going on around them. Hunters willing to use camouflaged temporary blinds should find some outstanding field-hunting opportunities.
Canadas on their annual journey south will find plenty of food and loafing room on Dorset. ODOW wildlife managers have worked to establish Dorset WA as a first-class waterfowl destination by manipulating water levels and establishing marsh vegetation.
Access lies one mile east of state Route 193 on Tower Road in Ashtabula County. For information on hunting the Dorset WA, contact the Mosquito Wildlife Area office at (440) 685-4776.
GRAND RIVER WILDLIFE AREA
The Grand River Wildlife Area is an ideal stopover for migrating
honkers. The area covers 7,231 acres with a dozen ponds, 15 manmade marshes and several wetlands created by beavers.
About 5 percent of Grand River is covered with water. The Grand River and five tributary streams meet in the wildlife area and provide good float-hunting opportunities.
Floating through the area can be a highly productive way to surprise feeding geese. When the river is high, look for flooded bottomland and fields. Canadas are attracted to flooded grass and other vegetation where they can feed safely during daylight hours. You can never predict where migrants will be, so it pays to look around on the area.
Jump-shooting opportunities are abundant along the waterways and wetlands. Here, retrieving dogs come in handy when geese fall short of where hunters can reach them. Some areas may be waded, but use caution: The main river can be deep in spots.
Check Dillon Marsh off Norton Lane, on the northeastern end of the wildlife area, as a possible roosting spot. This is part of Mosquito Lake's controlled hunt.
Drawings for Dillon Marsh are held at the Mosquito Lake office on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in the morning and afternoon.
Another spot to keep an eye on is the Greentree Marsh north of state Route 88 off township Road 236.
There are also several secluded marshes and wetlands where hunters can hike back into to get away from the crowd. Hunting off the beaten path isn't only a possibility here, it's recommended.
Scouting is important, since the geese can change their preferences on a whim. The area is better known for its duck hunting, but many flocks of Canadas will stop over as well.
Access is from state Route 88, two miles west of state Route 45.
For additional information, contact the area manager at (330) 889-3280.
SHENANGO WILDLIFE AREA
This is another spot where duck hunting takes the forefront. Goose hunters can do well here, but the area doesn't get a lot of press.
Though Shenango may not harbor as many resident honkers as other areas, it can hold its own when fall migrants move in to share the bounty with the resident birds. `Hunting success in this area depends highly on favorable weather--particularly fall rains, which create flooded areas that attract birds.
Canadas look for quiet water when Pymatuning Creek overflows its banks and spreads across open fields and associated wetlands.
Shenango WA is long and narrow, following Pymatuning Creek as it meanders through the region. Several hundred acres of grain crops are maintained to attract geese. Jump-shooting is popular here along the river and on the crop fields. If water in the creek doesn't get too high, a float trip in a small hunting boat can be an enjoyable experience.
A marshy area north of state route 87 along Pymatuning Creek often holds geese, too.
For Shenango WA, special restrictions apply. For last-minute changes and updates, interested hunters are encouraged to call the ODOW.
Shenango Wildlife Area is divided into two units, with different opening dates. Unit 1 includes the section northwest of state Route 7 and is open until noon on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays during the first two weeks of the season, and then every day for the rest of the waterfowl season.
Unit 2, southeast of state Route 7, is open to public hunting throughout the season. For more information, contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 889-3280.
METZGER MARSH WILDLIFE AREA
The Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area is a solid producer of Canadas, especially when weather is unseasonably cold and just prior to freeze-up.
Shotgunners can limit out when they can catch this small window of opportunity just right.
Waterfowl management is the goal at Metzger Marsh. Open water averages from one to four feet over most of the area, thanks to a dike constructed in recent years. For setting decoys and still-hunting, a shallow hunting boat is ideal.
The marsh provides a combination of feeding and roosting sites in one package. Flocks of geese will take off in the morning to take advantage of nearby crop fields. If you know when and where to set up, you can enjoy some good wingshooting.
Metzger Marsh covers 558 acres and lies 13 miles east of Toledo. This is one of those Lake Erie marshes that attract good numbers of geese and ducks. It also draws good numbers of hunters, and the pressure can be high at times.
Metzger Marsh may be reached off state Route 2 by following Bone Road. For details, call the Mosquito Lake Wildlife Area office at (440) 685-4776, or call the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000.
ZEPERNICK LAKE WILDLIFE AREA
Zepernick Lake Wildlife Area is a hotspot for geese until heavy hunting pressure forces the birds to move elsewhere. The area covers only 518 acres, but contains a good mixture of habitat. The 39-acre lake, a five-acre marsh and two ponds totaling eight acres provide roosting opportunities for visiting birds. During daylight hours, the Canadas will feed in neighboring grain fields and usually return to the water in the evening. Geese will also spend time in the marshy areas off state Route 172.
The beauty of Zepernick is that many shooters bypass the area, looking for more consistent opportunities.
Because there's not a lot of room on this WA, hunters sometimes concentrate near the best spots, and it doesn't take the geese long to start giving Zepernick a wide berth.
Get in there on weekdays and you should have a good share of the place to yourself.
Jump-shooting is a popular way to take geese on the ponds and small lake. A set of decoys on the open water or alongside one of the ponds may convince overhead geese that the area is safe.
By November, many Canadas have been shot at, and it's going to take some convincing to make your set look believable. On at least one of your decoys, use a cord to create movement and ripples in the water.
Field-hunting on the cultivated fields can also be productive. Good camouflage and a large decoy spread are a good start.
Distant honkers can sometimes be fooled with a good combination of flagging and calling. This is a good place to hone these skills.
Access is good from state Route 172 where there are several parking lots. For more information, contact the Zepernick Lake Wildlife Area at (330) 644-2293.
BEACH CITY WILDLIFE AREA
Beach City is another potential hotspot depending on hunting pressure and the right weather conditions.
Waterfowl of all sorts will utilize the 1,912-acre area throughout the season, and Canada geese will feed alongside mallards and wood ducks here.
Over 400 acres of open marshland make boating the most viable way to hunt Beach City WA. Large numbers of honkers may not always be present, but the local birds seem to attract passing migrants on a regular basis. However, when the marsh starts freezing over, the Canadas will be on their way.
To avoid hunting pressure, smart hunters will move back into sections of Beach City that are more difficult to access. When the shooting starts, there are always a few birds that won't fly. If you're positioned right, they'll drop right into the middle of your decoy layout.
Beach City lies on state Route 93 about a mile south of Beach City in Tuscarawas County. Access is from U.S. Route 250 and secondary roads.
Additional parking areas are on county Road 96 and on the access road off county Road 96 north of county Road 94.
Contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293 for a map of the area.
For more information on northeast Ohio's goose-hunting opportunities, contact the ODOW at the number just given, or visit the agency's Web site, located at www.dnr.state.oh.us.
For travel information, call the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism at 1-800-BUCKEYE, or go online to www.discoverohio.com.€‚€‚€‚