The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 9, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Feelin’ a bit froggy? Here’s the tonic

By DALE SUNDERLIN
For the Star Beacon

— What’s hopping at the Ohio Division of Wildlife District Three Headquarters in Akron? A frog-gigging workshop, that’s what’s hopping!

Join Division of Wildlife staff on Wednesday, June 19 to learn the ins and outs of gigging frogs.

The workshop will cover basic gear, seasons and laws, and processing and cooking. After the seminar, youth ages 10-15 in attendance will be given the opportunity to gig onsite at the Youth Area wetlands.

The workshop will be from 7-9:00 p.m. at Wildlife District Three, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron. Preregistration is required as space is limited.

Call Ken Fry at (330) 245-3030.



Controlled hunts

Hunters wanting to participate in Ohio’s 2013-14 controlled deer and waterfowl hunts have until July 31 to submit permit applications for a random drawing, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). These special hunts are held on selected public areas to provide additional hunting opportunities for Ohio’s hunting enthusiasts.

All applicants, youth and adult, must possess a 2013-14 hunting license and meet the age requirements in order to apply for a controlled hunt.

Hunters can apply for the controlled hunts by completing the application process online using the Wild Ohio Customer Center at www.wildohio.com or by calling 800-945-3543 and requesting a mailin application. There is a non-refundable application fee of $3 per hunt.

Hunters will be randomly drawn from submitted applications. Successful applicants will be notified and provided additional hunt information by U.S. mail and email. Applicants are encouraged to visit the Wild Ohio Customer Center at wildohio.com to view the status of their application and, if selected, print their controlled hunt permit.

More specific information about hunt dates and locations, including opportunities dedicated to youth, women and mobility-impaired hunters, can be found at wildohio.com.

The sale of Ohio’s 2013-14 white-tailed deer and fall wild turkey hunting permits will be delayed until July 1 because the rule-making process has not finalized the proposed hunting and trapping regulations.

Any questions from the public can be directed to their nearest Wildlife District Office or 1-800-945-3543.



Bobcat sightings on rise

The number of verified bobcat sightings in Ohio in 2012 increased to 169, according to the ODNR. This marks the third consecutive year that more 100 verified bobcat sightings were recognized in the state.

ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists verified 136 and 106 sightings in 2011 and 2010, respectively. Of the 169 verified sightings in 2012, most occurred in Noble County and the counties immediately adjacent. Overall, observers in 31 counties reported a verified bobcat sighting.

To report a bobcat sighting, call 800-945-3543 or email wildInfo@dnr.state.oh.us. Sightings are verified by ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists and have increased steadily during the last decade. The bobcat is listed as a threatened species in Ohio and is protected by state law.

Bobcats once roamed across Ohio, but they were extirpated around 1850 as more people settled within the state. A handful of unverified bobcat sightings in the 1960s announced the return of the species. Bobcat sightings have been verified in 43 counties since 1970, with unverified sightings in 84 counties.

A bobcat may be verified with photographs of the animal or its tracks; road kill recovery and sightings by ODNR Division of Wildlife personnel; and encounters through incidental trappings, which are followed by the animal’s release. The number of bobcat sightings confirmed from trail cameras has increased dramatically since 2006, and most verified sightings in 2012 were documented by these cameras.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife uses technology to clarify estimated bobcat populations because it is rare to see them in the wild. To help them with their research, biologists use remote cameras and scent stations. GPS radio collars are used to track the location of bobcats after catching and releasing them.

Efforts to learn more about the locations of bobcats are supported by the Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund. Ohioans give donations to this fund through the state income tax check-off program and by purchasing cardinal license plates. People may also make donations at wildohio.com.



Becoming a deer farmer

No matter how advanced we get in any endeavor, it’s always a good idea to review the basics once in awhile. When it comes to food plots, you can assure yourself of the best possible results, and even do so in the most cost-effective manner, if you stick to the basics and go step-by-step.



Step by step

As you begin your journey from raw land to incorporating a food plot system, you should keep our ultimate destination, or goal, in mind: You want to end up with a food plot system (which can even be just one or two plots) that will make the property you hunt as attractive to deer, nutritious for deer and huntable as possible. If you want to achieve that goal, the following four steps should get you there with Mother Nature’s cooperation:

  1. Decide how many food plots you’ll plant and where you’ll put them.
  2. Decide what forage to plant in each site.
  3. Correctly prepare the sites for planting.
  4. Plant correctly.

Regardless of whether your property is large or small, the steps that will take you from no food plots to a food-plot system are pretty much the same, and you should follow them in the same specific order. One reason is that some steps depend on others having already been done. Another is that you can sometimes save money and time by performing more than one step each time you’re at the property.

Finally, as we go through the steps, keep in mind that what you’ll be creating is a starting point; most plans need a little adjustment based on how deer actually react after the plan is put in place.



Step 1

Deciding how many food plots to plant and where to put them. Whether your property is large or small, your best-case scenario is to have enough acreage in plots to maximize attraction and nutrition, but without planting so much of the property that deer have no reason to move. With that in mind, here’s a formula that seems to be a good general rule of thumb.



First, the formula

Most deer farmers put about two to five percent of the total property into food plots if only “hunting plots” are being used. Managers who use both hunting plots and feeding plots may plant as much as 10 percent or more.

Most folks who plant food plots for deer, plant hunting plots. These can be anywhere from 1/10th of an acre up to two to three acres. Their main functions are to draw deer for harvest and provide nutrition.

Feeding plots, when used, are usually larger than hunting plots, and their main function is to serve as places where deer feel safe. When feeding plots are used, they should be hunted sparingly, maybe just during the rut, so that deer have a feeling of safety using them.

Again, this is a general rule of thumb, and it won’t be exact for all situations. Lots of factors will determine how much of your property you’ll ultimately decide to plant, such as landowner permission, equipment accessibility, time, money and lots of other factors. And if your property is small, don’t forget to consider what’s beyond your property line, because that may be a major source from which you’ll draw deer to your land.

For example, say you own or lease a long, narrow tract that borders with a vast wildlife area that’s not hunted much. In such a situation, you might not want to stick with the formula. Instead, you might want to plant as much of your property as possible to maximize its attraction and available nutrition because you will be feeding so many deer.



Location

It always pays to put some thought into where you put your plots. Before we get into that, though, consider that it can be equally critical to think about where not to put them. One place you don’t want to put them if at all possible, whether your property is large or small, is where they’ll be visible from a public road.

When making that determination, be sure to consider that screening vegetation, which may be there when you check in the spring and summer, may be gone in the fall and winter. Also consider planting evergreens or other natural screening plants to help shield the plot from public view. Generally speaking, feeding plots (when used) should be centrally located on the property.

You want your deer to consider your feeding plots as safe zones so that they’ll purposefully head for them when they leave their bedding areas in the afternoon. That means that you shouldn’t hunt directly on feeding plots at all, or at least do so very rarely, for instance during the rut.

This can help establish a more predictable travel pattern for your deer that you can use to your advantage as you hunt between the feeding plots and bedding areas.

When feeding plots are used, hunting plots should be located between feeding plots and bedding areas. Structured this way, the plot system can help you use the natural tendency of deer to feed as they travel and utilize undercover corridors around plot edges to your advantage during hunting season.



Design

How you design your hunting plots can also be very important. When designing your hunting plots, keep one critical thing in mind: the safer deer feel using it, the better chance they’ll do so during legal hunting hours.

To help deer feel safe, a long, narrow plot is usually better than one that is wide and square. Also, try to place your plots where their edges border cover such as a thicket, standing rows of corn, or anything else deer interpret as something they could quickly jump into if threatened. A corner of an overgrown field that meets thick woods on two sides is an excellent example.

Try to structure things so that deer feel that they’re only a few hops away from cover while they feed. Proven design shapes are the “V” or “L” and the “hourglass.” These designs are often useful in deep cover and with the stand site located at the junction of the “V” or “L,” or at the neck between the two lobes of the hourglass.

Again, these are just ideas that work in many cases. In the end, each situation is different, so when you’re deciding how many plots to plant and where to put them, be sure to take into account any factors that will make your property as attractive to deer, nutritious for deer and as huntable as possible.



Check the wind

Also, take wind into account. No matter where you hunt, chances are that the wind comes from one direction more than any other during hunting season in your area. Try to structure your plots so your main stand sites can be placed downwind from the most common wind direction. If possible, structure each plot so that it can also be fully covered by a secondary stand when the wind is coming from a different direction.



Step 2

Which forage to plant at each site? Once you decide where your plots will be, it will be time to decide what forage you’re going to plant in each one. I’ll cover more about forage selection in Part 2 of this article, which will appear next week. Until then, keep a few things in mind. The fact that selecting a forage is your next step is an example of why it’s important to do things in a specific order.



Part II, preview

In the next part of this column, I’ll discuss one of the most important steps in ensuring a successful planting: performing a soil test. Also we’ll discuss, when you prepare your soil sample to send to the lab, if at all possible, you should make sure you let the lab know what you’ll be planting in the site.

That’s because different forages have different fertilizer requirements. If you don’t let the lab know what you’ll be planting in the site, most soil-testing labs will give you general recommendations for grains.

Also remember this: You should choose a forage product that is specifically designed for that specific plot. To make sure you choose the correct forage for each site, you have to take into account physical characteristics of the site such as soil type, slope and equipment accessibility.

You’ll also need to take into account whether you want the forage in that site to be a year-round forage, or something that will provide maximum production for only part of the year, such as spring and summer for antler growth, or fall and winter for attraction and energy.

Until next week, remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at djss@roadrunner.com.