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15
Young pheasant hunters to get taste of the good ol' days

Thursday, October 14, 2004
As colorful as the autumn leaves, flocks of gaudy feathered ring-necked pheasants will soon be high-stepping through the fields of local wildlife areas and young hunters have the first chance to bag a brace of the popular game birds during the Youth Hunters' Upland Season.

Sportsmen 17 and younger get a start on the small game season Oct. 23-24 and Oct. 30-31. Pheasants will be waiting for them. Wildlife areas in Northeast Ohio to be stocked with pheasants for the youth hunt weekends include Camp Belden, Spencer, Wellington, Lorain Metroparks, Berlin and Grand River.


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To give Ohio hunters a taste of the good old days of the 1950s, when pheasant populations were five times greater than today, the Ohio Division of Wildlife raises about 15,000 male pheasants each year at its Urbana Wildlife Propagation Unit to release on public wildlife areas. Sportsmen's clubs around the Ohio also raise and release pheasants for club members.

Besides the wildlife areas stocked for the youth hunts, regular season releases by the ODOW will be made at the Shreve, Beach City, West Branch, Highlandtown and Zepernick wildlife areas. Regular season pheasant releases are scheduled for Nov. 5, Nov. 12 and Nov. 25, the latter for a traditional Thanksgiving Day family hunt.

Pheasants became scarce around Ohio over the last generation because of changes in farming practices. To maximize production, farmers eliminated fence rows that provided habitat for pheasants, bobwhite quail and rabbits. Corn and soybeans, the primary crops planted in Ohio, provide little habitat and only a seasonal food supply for wildlife. Farmers also plant hay that can be cut early in the season, which is detrimental to field-nesting pheasants.

To benefit wildlife in general and pheasants in particular, farmers have enrolled marginal fields in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which provides funding for farmers who do not plant some of their acreage. Open enrollment in Ohio has recently added about 30,000 acres to the 200,000 acres signed up for the CRP program.

"The CRP program has helped to increase the pheasant population in some areas of Ohio," said Chief Steve Gray of the ODOW. "The largest flocks of pheasants are mostly found in the farm country of central and northwest Ohio, with some pockets of wild birds in the northeast corner of the state."

It's not too late to take a youngster fishing before the small game season arrives. The ODOW is stocking foot-long rainbow trout in area lakes on Friday and Saturday the Cleveland Metroparks presents its Youth Odyssey at the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation between Grant Avenue and Canal Road in Cuyahoga Heights.

Rainbow trout will be poured into the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation; Granger Pond in Mentor; Painesville Recreational Park in Painesville; and Petros Lake in Stark County. The ODOW does not announce how many trout will be released or what time the trout truck will make an appearance.

The Youth Odyssey is from noon-4 p.m., and stocked trout will be featured at the free event. Youth activities also include outdoor adventure, interactive games, plant and animal discovery, nature crafts and bicycle repair. Children filling out Odyssey Passports are eligible for prizes.

Youth Odyssey is a partnership between the Cleveland Metroparks, 4-H, city of Cleveland and the Ohio State University Extension Service. It was developed to promote outdoor recreation and environmental education programs.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

degan@plaind.com, 216-999-6136


© 2004 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.

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