Ohio is only the 34th largest state in acreage, but it is the seventh most populous with more than 11,690,000 people calling the Buckeye State home. We have upwards of 60,000 miles of streams and Lake Erie, along with the Ohio River, form part of our state borders. Ohio is fairly centrally located and has the country’s 10th largest highway network. All of these characteristics make Ohio uniquely suited to celebrating National Hunting and Fishing Month – by Ohioans and by nonresidents drawn to all of our opportunities.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a survey that revealed that 40 percent of Americans participated in some type of hunting, fishing, or other wildlife associated recreation in 2016, devoting $156.3 billion to the economy through licenses, fees, equipment, fuel, overnight accommodations, food, etc. I read somewhere that the average hunter spends about $2,400 per year on the sport and the average angler spends about $1,200 a year. If you ask me, that sounds a bit low. We have two bird dogs, beautiful American Brittanys (I’m not biased), and I think they may set us back both of those averages put together (they aren’t spoiled), never mind the clothing, lures, binoculars, and other accoutrements necessary for a pleasurable day spent outdoors. Don’t get me started on how many pairs of boots we have in our garage, basement and closets.
Those who participate in hunting and fishing contribute to our state’s conservation efforts through their license fees. In addition, the Pittman-Robertson Act distributes monies collected through a federal excise tax on shooting, archery, and other related equipment, to the states for their respective state fish and game departments. Likewise, with the Dingell-Johnson Act, states benefit from an excise tax on sport fishing equipment which is then spent on fishing and boating related activities. For all of the details, access the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) publication Items Taxed to Support Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration in America at https://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/AboutUs/ItemsTaxedJan2018.pdf.
According to the USFWS, “more than $20 billion have been collected, distributed, and matched with funds from state agencies for fish and wildlife management, species and habitat restoration, habitat protection, land acquisition, scientific study, population monitoring, hunter and aquatic education, and access for hunting, fishing and boating.” While these systems could be called “user pays and user benefits,” in reality, all of us who enjoy any outdoor activity benefit from the education programs, acres of public land, management of these acres for multiple uses, and conservation and enhancement of our natural resources
Even with Ohio’s 11 million inhabitants, there are still plenty of places to hunt and fish. The website for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) lists public hunting areas as well as various locations for fishing Ohio’s lakes and reservoirs. Check under the Division of Wildlife as well as the Division of State Parks and Division of Watercraft for state wildlife areas, forests, and parks that offer hunting and fishing opportunities. While you are there, please click on the menu items related to education and safety, the keys to participating in the great outdoors. There are many excellent and free options for you and your family, many of which are offered close to home and some are even offered as online courses. Another recommendation is to learn about the regulations under which you will be hunting and/or fishing. These websites include a Frequently Asked Questions page and you can always type in a custom search in the top right corner.
Here are some helpful tips:
• Take a safety course!
• Buy a license and take it with you. Your license fees provide vital funding necessary to match federal funds.
• Get ready by practicing your skills before you go out.
• Dress for success. This is pertinent for whatever you do, but is critical to a hunting or fishing trip. Appropriate attire ensures your comfort as well as your safety when you are outside and subject to the vagaries of the weather.
• Learn about the species you may/wish to encounter and bring the appropriate equipment for the day’s outdoor activity.
• Be an ethical hunter and angler. Take only what you need and what is permitted under Ohio’s hunting and fishing regulations.
• Tell someone where you will be. Better yet, enhance the quality of your experience by inviting a friend or family member.
You can contribute to conservation in Ohio by joining those of us who participate in fishing and shooting sports. Remember, a bad day spent outdoors is always better than a good day at work! For more information on conservation programs, visit www.delawareswcd.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.