The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 29, 2012

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Feelin’ in a rut? I am!

For the Star Beacon

— Well, folks, I pretty well messed up. With the weather being the way it has been, warm, cold, wet, dry, typical Northeast Ohio weather, I completely forgot about the rut. As a bow hunter I should be taken out back and given 50 lashes with a peep sight rubber.

Since I messed up so bad I’m going to cut through the chase skip the hoopla about why the rut happens, moon phases, the autumnal equinox and when it happens, how it plays a role in it, estrous, testosterone, etc., etc., etc., and get right to the dates that are important.

Here are the dates:

The Seeking phase should begin about Oct. 26-29. Without going into too much detail, this is the phase where the bucks are out looking but the doe’s are not receptive yet.

Next comes the Chasing stage. This phase should happen somewhere be Oct. 30 and last until about Nov. 7.  To many hunters this is prime time. This is the phase where bucks are running helter skelter chasing every doe they can scent or see. They have a total disregard for their own safety; they have only one thing on their mind, finding a female.   

The last major phase is the breeding phase. Breeding should take place from November 8th and run till the 16th or so. During this phase you’re no going to see a lot of movement. Basically the doe’s will be moving in their normal patterns between bedding and feeding areas. The big difference will be there may be a nice buck right behind her. During this period don’t be in a hurry to fill and early season bow tag. Take a chance, hold off and see if there’s a buck trailing her. You may get lucky and bag a trophy.


Now remember, these dates are not exact. Each phase as well as their dates can and do overlap into the next phase. Also the deer herd in your area has a lot to do with it, the buck to doe ratio, how many doe’s are there in the herd, the nominal age of the doe’s and several other aspects. Depending on the above factors seeking could run from October 26th until November 8th, chasing could run from Oct. 29-Nov. 12 and breeding from Nov. 6-19.   

Rut dynamics

Not only do all the facets listed above play a big role in the rut but lest we not forget the weather. This is probably one of the biggest contributing factors there is. If it’s too warm like it was on Thursday and Friday of last week it will shut the rut down during the daylight hours and they’ll seek, chase and breed at night when it cooler.

The cool front we have coming in is a good thing, especially with temperatures in the 40s, that’s almost prime temperature wise. Regrettably, it’s accompanied by a storm front that is going to deliver rain to us until Wednesday or possibly Thursday.

That will definitely put a damper on things.

Try again later

Don’t despair if somehow you miss the primary rut, there will be a secondary rut in November that may make up for the lack luster one we’ll more than likely have in October. Here are some dates in November you may want to save; from Nov. 20-27 seeking. November 28th to December 8th should be the chasing and finally Dec. 9-15 will encompass the breeding stage. Now that you have the dates according to the moon phase theory it’s up to you. My advice, get out there and make it happen!

’Tis the season

Ohio hunters should begin preparing for the hunting seasons of some of the state’s most popular game species with ring-necked pheasant, cottontail rabbit and bobwhite quail. The hunting seasons for upland game begin Friday,according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

The state’s cottontail rabbit population has been very good recently. However, Nathan Stricker, project leader with ODNR’s Olentangy Wildlife Research Station, said rabbit populations tend to go through an up-and-down cycle every seven to 10 years.

“Rabbit numbers are lower this year, but this type of decline is expected with this cycle,” Stricker said. “Regardless of these cyclical changes, cottontail rabbit populations are excellent throughout Ohio and provide plenty of opportunities for a family hunting outing.”

Quail and pheasant populations may be lower than previous years, and Stricker said quail and pheasant are heavily dependent upon quality habitats on private lands provided by the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Williams and Defiance counties in northwest Ohio have strong pheasant populations because of the habitat contributions by local landowners. Upland game populations are responding positively to habitat programs in other areas around the state, especially in counties with significant enrollment in the Scioto Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and Quail Buffer practices in CRP known as CP33.

Cottontail rabbit hunting continues through Feb. 28, 2013. Ring-necked pheasant hunting is open through Jan. 6, 2013. Both seasons are closed during the statewide 2012 deer-gun hunting season, Nov. 26-Dec. 2, and the extra weekend of deer-gun hunting Dec. 15-16.

Rabbits, pheasants and quail may be hunted from sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit for all three species remains unchanged from last year at four rabbits, two pheasants (roosters/males only) and four quail.

Hunters are reminded that snowshoe hares are not legal game in Ohio and should not be hunted. Snowshoe hares were recently reintroduced to northeastern Ohio after nearly a century of absence. They are brown early in the season, which makes them resemble cottontail rabbits. To avoid confusion between cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares, portions of Geauga and Ashtabula counties will be closed to all rabbit hunting from Nov. 2-Dec. 2. At that time, hunters will be able to distinguish between the two rabbits since most snowshoe hares will have turned white by early December.

Two restricted hunting zones cover portions of Geauga and Ashtabula counties. The first restricted area encompasses parts of Geauga and Ashtabula counties and is bordered by U.S. Route 6 to the north, U.S. Route 322 to the south, Kile Road to the west and State Route 534 to the east. The second restricted area is in Ashtabula County bounded on the north by Cork-Cold Springs Road, on the west by Windsor-Mechanicsville Road, on the south by New Hudson Road and on the east by U.S. Route 45. A map of these two areas can be viewed in the 2012-2013 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations and at

Pheasants are released on selecting hunting areas throughout the state by the ODNR Division of Wildlife prior to opening day of the pheasant season, the second Saturday of the season, Nov. 10 and Thanksgiving Day.

Bobwhite quail hunting is open in 16 counties in southern Ohio: Adams, Athens, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Highland, Jackson, Meigs, Montgomery, Pike, Preble, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Warren. The season continues through Nov. 25.

Additional hunting information is contained in the 2012-2013 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations, which are available where hunting licenses are sold, online at or by calling 800-WILDLIFE.


Muzzleloader hunters killed 314 white-tailed deer during last week’s early muzzleloader season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

Total deer kills from the season include 130 at Salt Fork Wildlife Area, 121 at Wildcat Hollow and 63 at Shawnee State Forest. That total is down slightly from 357 deer killed during the 2011 early muzzleloader season (161 at Salt Fork Wildlife Area, 154 at Wildcat Hollow and 42 at Shawnee State Forest). Early muzzleloader hunters killed 516 deer in 2010 (254 at Salt Fork Wildlife Area, 176 at Wildcat Hollow and 86 at Shawnee State Forest).

The early muzzleloader season started on Monday, Oct. 15 and closed Saturday, Oct. 20. The season was only open at Salt Fork Wildlife Area, Wildcat Hollow and Shawnee State Forest.

Ohio’s various deer hunting seasons, coupled with a healthy population, gives hunters a good opportunity for success. Archery season opened Sept. 29 and runs through Feb. 3, 2013. Youth deer gun season is Nov. 17-18. Deer gun season is Nov. 26-Dec. 2 and Dec. 15-16. The statewide muzzleloader season is Jan. 5-8, 2013.

To learn more about all of Ohio’s deer hunting seasons and requirements, hunters are advised to review the 2012-13 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations or visit

Nature conservancy

The Nature Conservancy has been awarded a new grant of about $350,000 to launch an invasive species restoration program in the Ashtabula River watershed, it was announced today by the U.S. EPA. The grant money comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and will be used for mapping and eradicating invasive plant species throughout the watershed.

The Nature Conservancy is the lead on the project, which also involves the Ashtabula Soil and Water Conservation District and ODNR’s Scenic Rivers program.

The money will be used to control non-native invasive plants in the Ashtabula River watershed to protect wildlife habitat, riparian areas and source waters. Control strategies will allow early detection and rapid response, target threats at their source, and ensure the short and long-term ecological benefits to priority areas and restoration projects already under way.

This effort in the Ashtabula River watershed is patterned on a similar project that has been going on for the past two years in the Grand River, where the Conservancy has led a team of county and state agencies and non-profits in an extensive effort to control phragmites, reed canary grass, Japanese knotweed and other non-native invasive plants that degrade habitats and waterways.

In the Grand River, the effort has led to treatment of more than 650 acres in two years.

There are two significant differences to note as the Conservancy replicates this project in the Ashtabula:

1. Not as much is known about the types, abundance and distribution of invasive plants in the Ashtabula River watershed, so the grant includes money for some sophisticated analysis and mapping using remote-sensing technology as well as ground-truthing in the field by staff.

2. Much of the work will be done on private, unprotected lands, because there is not as much protected land in the Ashtabula River watershed.

Alex(is) the great

Back in September of this year, 2012, Alexis Meaney and her father, Brad, headed out for Maine to bear hunt and what a hunt it would be!

The waiting game

At 1 p.m., they headed out of camp towards their hunting site, arriving at approximately 1:30. They got situated and the wait began. Alexis decided to take a nap (they call that her good luck siesta) and Brad was on bear watch (which according to him would have been impossible without a thermacell). As the time rolled, on Alexis woke up about 3:00 pm and the father daughter team decided to have a snack. More time goes by and still nothing.  

Try, bear fever

Brad gave Alexis his iPhone to play a game and pass the time while he diligently scoured the area for any sign of a bear. It was now 6 p.m. and still zip when suddenly out of nowhere a huge black bear looked over the bait drum directly at them, game on and they were ready. Brad made the comment, “If you have ever had buck fever, just think about this, try, bear fever with a 350-plus-pound bear looking at you, on ground level.

Let’s strategize

Unfortunately, it never presented a shot for her. Brad had a tag and gun but wasn’t willing to shoot until after she did, I mean that’s the way the game is played when you are father and a child team so inevitably the bear walked off.  Alexis and Brad spent the next several minutes gong over strategy and talked about taking the first shot that presents itself.

Another chance

About 15 minutes later while they were not yet quite gathered from the first bear encounter, Alexis whispered, “Dad, bear.” Brad caught a glimpse of a bear off in the brush and it was moving their way. Once it got close enough, Alexis steadied herself and waited. The bear stepped into the shooting lane, hesitated for a second and Alexis took the shot... and a great shot, at that!

The grand finale

The duo waited about 1 minute then got up and went to the spot where she had shot it and found blood. That was a good sign. After a couple of fist pumps and a hug (they were trying their best not to yell or make too much noise), Brad decided to track the bear (which the guides don’t really want anyone to do without them but they were so excited they couldn’t help it). They didn’t have to go far, there it was, a beautiful Maine black bear. Alexis and Brad sent a message to the guide and began dragging the bear out of the woods.

What an awesome day in the woods and it’s always better when it shared with you daughter, way to go Alexis and Brad, memories that will last a lifetime.

Remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.

Alexis’ stats

Alexis harvested her 180-pound black bear on Sept.r 9, 2012 in Topsfield, Maine approximately 10 miles from Canada, down old logging road while hunting with Tomah Mountain Outfitters, using a Mossberg 500 20 gauge pump action shotgun powered by Breneke 2 3/4 in slug. Her bruin was at 45 yards when she shot it and went another 50 before expiring. She was wearing a WFS Element Rain Suit / Burly Camo sitting in a homemade brushed in ground blind out of vegetation and trees. Alexis is 13 years old and attends Jefferson Junior High School, where she is in the eighth grade.


The Lyme Disease Support Group, Lyme Bites, is hosting a lecture on Dec. 8 at 11 a.m. by Dr. J. Joseph, a Lyme disease specialty physician who will be speaking on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease followed by a question and answer session. Medical personnel and support givers are encouraged to attend.

The lecture will be held at the Jefferson Health Care’s (Jefferson Geriatric) conference room located at 222 East Beech St, Jefferson. Park in the back and enter through the dialysis doors.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Reservations are not required, but appreciated. For more information, contact Janine Kirby at 858-2614.

Oh, deer!

As of Oct. 16, the deer-harvest stats for Ashtabula County and some surrounding counties are as follows:

Ashtabula — Bucks taken 177, Doe’s taken 478, Button Bucks 93, 2012, Total 748.

Lake — Bucks taken 57, Doe’s taken 146, Button Bucks taken 25, Total 228.

Geauga — Bucks taken 83, Doe’s taken 282, Button Bucks taken 51, Total, 416.

Trumbull —  Bucks taken 175, Doe’s taken 368, Button Bucks taken 108, Total 651.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at

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