Monthly Archives: April 2014

U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Annual Legislative Reception

Tuesday March 25th, 2014

Columbus, Ohio: Riffe Center Theatre Lobby

Sportsmen and Women From Across Ohio Connect With Their State Senators and Representatives at USSA Reception.

Vice President Matt Misicka and Policy Director Steve Gray made the most of the casual atmosphere, fine food, and tasty beverages to mix and mingle with friends old and new.

Before the meeting got underway, it was good to catch up with USSA’s Evan Heusinkveld.  At our first annual meeting this past February, OCF presented Evan with a check for membership in the USSA. Evan (VP of Government Affairs) and I talked a little shop, but mostly spoke of family, hunting and dogs. A great way to start the evening.

Early on, Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club past president Scott Popplewell and I got to bend the ears of ODNR Director Jim Zehringer and Deputy Director Karl Gebhardt.  With the pending addition of PCR (Pistol Cartridge Rifles), there is a lot of excitement in the air regarding the 2014 deer season.  Scott, born and raised in New Jersey, assured the Director that even with the proposed increase to non-resident licenses and permit fees that Ohio would still remain a top draw for out of state hunters seeking trophy deer.  Together we praised the division’s plans for developing new deer management units.

When State Senator Chris Widener (R – Dist 10) stopped by to pick up OCF’s membership list and 2014 Initiatives from our table, I took a few minutes to chat with him.  An avid deer hunter, Senator Widener’s views of DOW’s management of the deer herd and wildlife rule-making process differ from many of us.  I don’t believe that our conversation changed any opinions, but keeping an open mind and maintaining avenues for future dialogues is always important.  I’m pretty sure the word of OCF’s name and agenda is getting out there…

I was delighted to be introduced by Larry Moore of Buckeye Firearms Association, who joined OCF in February, to a long-standing member of the BFA leadership team and NRA Board Member, Linda Walker.  Linda has been a tireless advocate for the rights of gun-owners for more than a decade.  I must admit my first question to her was about how cool it was to work with Tom Selleck (also an NRA board member and Ferrari-driving, private-eye, TV star that every young man in the 80’s idolized).  As you might imagine he’s very popular at the NRA’s women’s events and successful at raising money from those same ladies!  Linda encourages everyone to make sure to attend an NRA convention.  Where better to see the biggest hunting and firearms show on Earth!

OCF sponsors and owners of Elkhorn Lake Hunt Club, Sam & Peg Ballou and family (of Bucyrus) made the rounds and chatted with Governor Kasich.  Sam & Peg report a 10% increase in business and a lot of “First Pheasant” pins handed out this past season.  I know my dog and I had plenty of fun chasing birds at their place in Bucyrus, and a couple boys that hunted with us bagged their first birds too.

The evening’s brief program began with the Pledge of Allegiance.  Nick Pinizzotti, President and CEO of USSA, welcomed the gathering of sportsmen, public officials, and legislators before turning the microphone over to DOW Chief Scott Zody.  Chief Zody recognized the many DNR brass in attendance and thanked the sportsmen for the strong turn-out.  Lt. Governor Mary Taylor delivered a brief keynote praising the combined efforts of the USSA and sportsmen community for the hard work. Before heading off to the appetizers, the formal portion of the evening was concluded with a prayer of thanks, safe travels, and grace by past-Chief DOW Mike Budzik.

OCF Policy Director Steve Gray made the rounds, including among many a good chat with Karen Stewart-Linkhart, member of the Ohio State Trappers Association and Chairwoman of the Ohio Wildlife Council.  Steve summarized the evening this way:

“Coming to the annual USSA’s Legislative reception is a great way to connect with sportsmen and stay current with issues and topics important to conservation.  It was great to see that most of our member organizations had representatives at this meeting.”

With turkey season almost upon us, it was good to finally meet Ohio NWTF’s president Matt McDermott.  We chatted about the prospects of NWTF joining OCF. I look forward to Ohio’s NWTF having a seat at the OCF table soon.

As the evening wound down, I got the chance to get re-acquainted with Tom Butch. Tom is an officer of the Columbiana County Federation of Conservation Clubs.  As the name implies, this federation of sportsmen’s clubs provides outreach and advocacy on issues related to hunting, fishing, and trapping at a countywide level.  Tom, a retired ODNR employee, is now on contract with the National Wildlife Federation working on issues related to Lake Erie algal blooms.  As one of OCF’s 2014 Initiatives, Protecting the Quality of Ohio’s Waters pays far-reaching dividends; from wildlife and fishing to clean drinking water and improved public health. Wouldn’t it be nice to make Ohio’s nutrient run-off algal blooms a thing of the past and let Tom retire for good one of these days!

Steve and I ended the evening sharing stories over dinner with Ducks Unlimited’s Doug Gorby.  Although Doug works out of the Ann Arbor, M!ch!gan office, his degree from Ohio State shows how smart he really his!  He and I over-lapped in our time at OSU, but it took a lot of years and a whole lot of miles to finally connect.  It was nice meeting you Doug!  Now, about that duck hunt up on Lake Erie next fall….

The reception was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Buckeye Firearms Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, Pheasants Forever, Safari Club International, and the Ohio Conservation Federation.

Submitted by Vice President Matt Misicka

OCF Attends DOW Deer Hunter Summit

OCF Attends First DOW Deer Hunter Summit

Alongside 25 prominent sportsmen & women, including Gary Oates (Board member, USSA), Cheryl Leffman (President, Ohio Bowhunters Assoc.), John Hobbs (VP, League of Ohio Sportsmen), Larry Moore (Buckeye Firearms Assoc.), Scott Popplewell (Past President, Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters), Lonnie Sparkman (Lake County Rod and Gun Club), Tom Young (Whitetails Unlimited), and Mike Betts (Betts Archery, Arcadia Ohio) amongst others, OCF’s Vice President Matt Misicka attended the first DOW Deer Hunter Summit:

Deer Hunter Summit

17 March 2014

Columbus, Ohio: DOW District One Headquarters

The meeting, facilitated by Susie Vance (Executive Administrator for Information and Education), began with the participants introducing themselves, who they represented, and what issues were key to them.  Given the opportunity, I echoed the sentiments of Gary Oates and John Hobbs regarding the importance of protecting the process of DOW rule-making; from informed, science-based proposals through unfettered approval by the Wildlife Council and JCARR (Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review).

Leading off the event was Ken Fitz (Executive Administrator of Law Enforcement) reporting on the past history, hard work, and recent developments that lead to the creation of a Pistol-Cartridge-Rifle proposal for the 2014 deer season.  If approved by the Wildlife Council and JCARR, Ohio hunters will be allowed to use rifles chambered for straight-walled pistol cartridges for the first time ever this season.  The Buckeye Firearms Association was a driving force behind this process and their due diligence in getting the Ohio Farm Bureau on board was instrumental.

Next up was DOW Deer Biologist Mike Tonkovich.  Mike talked about the ”most successful, least understood deer management tool”; the $15 antlerless deer permit.  Proposed changes are in the works for this coming season that will result in fewer doe tags being available in some areas.  Approaching the deer density goals set many years ago is like landing an airplane on a windy day; as you get closer to the end of the runway, it means adjusting a little up, a little down, a little left, a little right.  DOW’s team of experts are piloting the state’s deer herd in for as smooth a landing as possible in an effort to keep all their passengers as happy as possible. Mike concluded by introducing the newest addition to DOW’s deer management team, Deer Biologist Clint McCoy.

Clint laid out for the audience perhaps the most exciting news of the evening; new Deer Management Units are under development.  Working with an OSU post-doc to gather and analyze the best data available, DOW will gather detailed information from hunters regarding harvest rates and use landscape features rather than county lines to establish up to six regional units.  Over the next two years, those units will be further divided and refined using major roads and rivers as boundaries.

Lastly, DOW Chief Scott Zody addressed the requested increase to non-resident hunting licenses and deer permits.  With the additional money raised, DOW will better able to leverage the influx of Pittman Robertson funds for projects including long-term shooting range projects, expanding archery ranges in Metro parks and State parks, and strategic land purchases that don’t add significantly to maintenance and management costs.  Even with the increase, the health and quality of Ohio’s deer herd is expected to keep out-of-state hunters booking hotel rooms, buying groceries and spending money in communities around the state from October through January.

The evening wrapped up with an open period of questions & answers.  Overall the participants were happy with the meeting. The published summary included numerous comments supportive of the division’s direction, wished it could have lasted longer, and hoped that meetings would occur in all the districts in the future.  Participants reported that hunter access, nuisance permits, herd health & size, non-resident fees, and keeping politics out of the rule-making process remain high on the list of future concerns.

Thanks to the Division for putting on this event!

Submitted by Matt Misicka

Sportsmen’s Caucus Meeting (Feb 19)


Sportsmen’s Caucus Meeting

Wednesday February 19th, 2014

Senate Finance Room, Ohio Statehouse

Unprecedented Meeting: Ohio Division of Wildlife Meets With Members of the Legislature to Explain Proposed Deer Hunting Regulations.

Included amongst the nine Initiatives adopted by the membership of the Ohio Conservation Federation at its inaugural meeting on February 15th, was one directing the OCF to work to support the time tested, successful Wildlife Council system in Ohio and protect the Council from undue political influence.   Work on this Initiative began right away.

OCF’s Vice President Matt Misicka and Policy Director Steve Gray participated in a meeting at the Statehouse facilitated by Senator Joe Uecker (R – Dist 14), chair of the Ohio Legislature’s Sportsmen’s Caucus. The topic of the hour-long meeting focused on the 2014-2015 hunting season’s deer regulations.  Division of Wildlife’s Chief Scott Zody, Assistant Chief Tom Rowan, and Wildlife Management & Research Administrator Dave Kohler gave presentations that included (1) a report on the history and current status of the deer herd in Ohio, (2) the proposed 2014-2015 changes to the county deer bag limits, and (3) the background on the proposed inclusion of rifles chambered for straight-walled pistol cartridges.

State Senator Chris Widener (R – Dist 10) and Allen Armstrong a South Charleston, Ohio farmer and board member of the Ohio Soybean Association engaged the DOW’s representatives with several questions concerning the accuracy of DOW’s assessment of the size of the deer herd and suggested both a return to more liberal bag limits and reinstating the Bonus Weekend.  As has often been the case, where farmers see too many deer and want seasons opened, hunters see too few and want the herd size increased.  Based upon the data presented, collected from 2013 harvest statistics and the number of ODOT reported deer/auto collisions, the deer population appears to being steadily decreasing as planned towards the targeted levels established many years back.  Subsequently, like landing an airplane on a fast approaching runway, the biologists at DOW are trying to make small adjustments to the bag limits to bring the herd and the public’s expectations into a sustainable balance while at the same time generating continued interest by giving deer hunters the opportunity to use rifles chambered for a select set of pistol cartridges for the very first time.

Alongside the OCF, five other groups were represented: Larry Moore (Buckeye Firearms Assoc), John Hobbs (Ohio Bowhunters Assoc), Larry Mitchell (League of Ohio Sportsmen), Evan Heusinkveld and Adam Wright  (US Sportsmen’s’ Alliance), and Mike Rex (Buckeye Big Buck Club).

Submitted by Matt Misicka