Christmas break is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only do I enjoy the holidays and the break from my students, it also offers me an opportunity to pursue my waterfowl hunting passion with some serious effort. There isn’t a better way to the end the year than to spend as much time possible hunting ducks, as time and my wife will allow.
Duck and goose hunting in this part of the state in late December can be very challenging and require a lot of work. It can also be quite cold as well. Although the waterfowl numbers can be quite high this time of the year, Mother Nature’s winter temperatures can make finding huntable waters a difficult task. Unfortunately, most of the lakes and ponds froze up last week during the really cold stretch. However, this week has some stretches of warm weather coming. If we can get some rain and some wind, it might just be enough to open up some areas of water.
Most of the area lakes are frozen over but the ice is thin enough in many spots that a diehard waterfowler can break open a spot big enough to attract ducks and geese. You have to be a fanatic duck hunter and maybe a tad crazy to drive a boat through ice just to pursue ducks, but your efforts are usually rewarded as any open water this time of the year is sure to attract ducks. Of course, safety needs to be a priority when venturing out on frozen water. Make sure you wear your life jacket, attached your kill switch, and use your head, and you will be fine.
I also always carry my cell phone in case of emergencies as well. Commercially, there are even several products available that are designed to keep the water moving in the hole you create so that it doesn’t refreeze. Those products are not cheap but can be worth the investment and last a long time if taken care of.
Rivers and creeks can be another great place to find ducks this late in the season. The moving flow of water takes more frigid temperatures to freeze up and the ducks learn that once the lakes and ponds are frozen solid, it is time to head to the streams. We have plenty of streams and rivers around here that attract ducks and with a little scouting; you can find a nice concentration of birds. Stream hunting requires very few decoys and little calling. If you are set up where the ducks want to be, fooling them into your spread can be quite easy.
Cornfields are another great place to harvest mallards, blacks, and geese this time of the year, as they need that high-energy food to keep them warm. Finding the fields the birds are using requires a lot of scouting but if you do find them, odds are you will see hundreds of birds in the same field, as they are very concentrated right now. Field hunting does require a lot of decoys, good camouflage and can be a lot of work, but many easy limits are filled this late in the season in the fields.
• Ohio’s hunters checked 14,115 white-tailed deer during Ohio’s 2017 two-day deer-gun hunting season, Dec. 16-17, according to the ODNR. During last year’s two-day December deer-gun season, hunters faced less than ideal conditions and harvested 9,228 deer.
Hunters still have opportunities to pursue deer this winter. Muzzleloader season is Jan. 6-9, 2018, and archery season remains open through Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018.
• Sportsmen and women interested in pursuing coyotes are encouraged to attend a free, informational workshop on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 in Akron according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists will cover very basic topics such as life history, calling techniques (call types and setups), appropriate firearms and ammunition, field sets, and scouting.
The workshop will be from 6-9 p.m. at the Wildlife District Three Headquarters, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron. This office serves 19 northeast Ohio counties. Pre-registration is required as seating is limited. Please call Wildlife District Three at (330) 644-2293.
• If you have been tardy on your Christmas shopping, there is nothing wrong with giving a gift card at your favorite sporting goods store. They are quick and easy to purchase and are sure to put a smile on your recipient’s face. A Cabelas gift card is always one of my favorite gifts to receive.
Until next time, Merry Christmas and Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.