2017 was a year for the outdoor numbers

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sunset with ducks

2018! Can’t be, just can’t be. But it is, so get over it.

The following is a package of numbers and other tiny bits of things to think about as we begin a new year of outdoor opportunity.

I wrote recently about the decline in South Dakota pheasant numbers. The drop in numbers has affected the state economy as less and less wing shooters head to the state to experience what a few short years ago was one of the most fantastic and affordable of all hunting activities.

Harvest predictions

It has been quite easy to predict each upcoming less-productive annual harvest of wild pheasants, as South Dakota wildlife officials survey the success of spring nesting by actually counting numbers of birds in visible early summer broods.

Surveys counted roosters, hens and broods, along 110 routes each year to provide the numbers that fill comparable columns. Last year’s counts told a disappointing story when just 16 of the 110 state-wide routes indicated an increase in pheasants seen and counted per mile.

All the rest recorded dropping numbers, many of which were significant. Over the last ten years, officials built an average-per-mile tally which tells an even more dismal story. Many of the most recent counts are down as much as 50-70 percent from the average counts. But to be sure, pheasant hunting is not dead.

Hard hunting and selecting the right regions where the birds are holding their own are the secrets to success. And of course, every stakeholder is hoping for more favorable “pheasant friendly” climate conditions.

Climate

Rain may be the key factor in most of South Dakota. A less severe winter will seem to be the common thread that holds Ohio duck hunters together. After all, Ohio is not even close to being a flyway state.

Sure, the western reaches of the state get a pretty good batch of northern ducks each fall as migrators, especially divers, come down the chute centered on Lake Sinclair and Lake Erie’s western basin.

But for the most part, Ohio hunters do most of their shooting on local waterfowl. Duck hunters can keep a close eye on migrating ducks and geese by logging on to Waterfowl360.com., a real-time website that allows online-able hunters to offer daily reports and opinions about waterfowl movements.

The site also features updated maps that visibly show migration movements and density. Waterfowl360.com is offered by Duck Unlimited but open to anyone, not just DU members.

2018 is predicted by this writer to be the right year for local anglers to break one or more Ohio fish records. Just a few days ago, a new state record Lake Trout was certified by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, the official keepers the Ohio record book and as such, takes an entry through a process of verification before recognizing an entry to be a new record.

Lake Trout

On Dec. 1, 2017, James Beres, of Lorain, landed a 26.63 pound Lake Trout while he trolled the Lake Erie inshore waters for walleyes. Beres’ big trout topped the previous 20.40-pound fish easily.

That Lake Trout claimed the top spot in 2000, a prize that one would have guessed to a record holder for the century but as all anglers know, there’s always that chance for a bigger one.

Resolutions for 2018?

Fish more. Hunt more. Shoot more. Read more. Call your parents more. Call your children more. Visit a friend more.

Enjoy a campfire more. Wash your wife’s car more. Wash your husband’s truck more. Contact your congressman more. Volunteer more. Pay ahead more. Pay back more.

Support a charity more. Recycle more. Pick up highway litter more. Write a letter more. Be a good person more.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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