We’re on the downhill slope to March.
That means we can anticipate two wonderful events: Big bass will be moving out of their winter doldrums with growing hunger pains and ready to strike any number of lures presented in a tempting manner; and the Kentucky Wildcats and the Ohio State Buckeyes will soon be on their way to see how far they can advance in the NCAA Tournament.
It takes six straight wins to claim a National Championship.
To be frank, this is a season filled with more talented college teams than has been seen on the scene in years.
Kentucky dominated Kansas, winning by 18 points before a hostile sellout crowd on Kansas’s home arena.
Ohio State knocked off Duke when Duke was ranked as the best team in the nation.
But we were talking here about pre-spring bass fishing.
Some of the best lures for late February are plastic worms, lizards, and frogs—cast in among the underwater branches of a tree that has fallen into the lake.
This despite the fact that it was early August when Delbert Grizzle tossed a plastic worm into some overhanging bushes along the shoreline on Greenbo Lake.
His reward was a 13-pound, 8-ounce largemouth that stood as the state record for 18 years.
OHIO GREAT DEER STATE
Ohio’s wildlife officials must be doing something right.
The state’s deer population is one of the strongest in in the nation.
That can be confirmed by the harvest totals turned in by hunters for the 2021-22 seasons, which began back in September and ended with the last of the bow season on Feb. 6.
The total harvest was 196,988, of which 85,580 were bucks, 89,838 does, 18,167 button bucks and 3,389 with shed antlers and antlers less than three inches long.
Kendra Wecker, chief of the department, thanked hunters who took part in keeping the numbers down to a manageable population.
Wecker said one reason Ohio is a national leader in deer population is thanks to “tremendous cooperation” between hunters and landowners.
Deer hunting is allowed in all of Ohio’s 88 counties.
The biggest harvest comes from an eight-county block in east central and two in the northeast corner.
Along the Ohio River, kill totals for the 2021-22 seasons, with the average total kill for the three earlier seasons shown in parenthesis: Adams 3,138 (2,875), Scioto 2,121 (2,098), Lawrence 1,613 (2,895) and Athens 3,540 (3,329).
Pike County had a harvest of 1,862 this season, compared to the three-year average before that of 1,845.
And in Jackson County, the figures were 2,764 (2,751).
The statewide harvest in 2020-21 was 197,721.
Ohio hunters bought 396,370 permits across all hunting seasons.
Hotspots for deer hunting are found mostly in Ashtabula, Coshocton, Tuscarawas, Muskingum, Guernsey and Knox counties.
Coshocton County checked 6,791 deer, the most of any county in Ohio.
The popularity of hunting with archery equipment continues to grow, with 49-percent of deer taken during the 2021-22 archery season, including 35-percent using a crossbow and 14-percent using a vertical bow.
Gun harvest contributed 51-percent of the final tally.
This includes 19-percent with shotguns, 23-percent with straight-walled cartridge rifles, 9-percent with muzzleloaders, and less than one-percent with handguns.
Ohio ranks fifth nationally in resident hunters and 11th in the number of jobs associated with hunting-related industries.
Hunting generates more than $853 million in Ohio through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging and more, according to the National Shooting Sports.
GREAT STATE, PERIOD
By comparison, Kentucky’s deer harvest for the seasons just past was about 132,000.
That’s surprising when you consider that Kentucky is more rural than Ohio, and that the people population of Ohio is more than three times that of Kentucky.
Much of Kentucky is hills covered by forests.
In Ohio, once you get north of Chillicothe, the land is flat farmland, with rows of corn and soybeans stretching as far as the eye can see.
Many farmers go along with fish and wildlife’s request in leaving several rows of crops to go unharvested and left for wildlife to feed on.
MAJOR LEAGUE STUFF
Ohio has two major league baseball teams and two national pro football teams.
Ah yes, and the Cincinnati Bengals – an Ohio River town like us — getting ready to knock the snot out of the smug hometown Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
If you go on the Internet and call up a list of cities and towns in Ohio, you’ll find a seemingly endless list.
A lot of those old towns you pass through seem to just pop up out of the crop fields suddenly, and then just as quickly, you’re back in farmland again.
An example is Bucyrus, a town I pass through on the way to a fishing trip on Lake Erie.
I ask myself, am I ever going to get to Bucyrus?
Then comes a row of well-kept older homes on a tree-lined street, then – boom! – I’m in downtown, and just as suddenly I’m back into those crop fields.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619