I’m out on another field day, this time at Black Fork Bottoms Hunting Area in Ashland County. A lot of hunters overlook county parks, but sometimes you can hunt in them; it’s just not overly publicized. For instance, right her in Lorain County you can hunt pheasants in Charlemont Reservation south of Wellington. During public release hunts it can be ridiculously crowded, but often the crowds just push the birds deeper into the woods and a couple of serious hunters with a good dog can go in hours or even days later and clean up!
But today I’m scouting an area that’s new to me, and it’s overcast so my GPS is kind of wonky with all the clouds, so I’m falling back to my good old lensatic compass that I’ve had for probably thirty years. Remembering to delineate four degrees west to compensate for our distance from magnetic north, it’s probably a moot point with the crude little tri-fold park map I have to guide myself. Still, I can’t figure how I got so lost as to be standing in a marsh this size when I was going to go down into the hardwoods in the valley and cross the creek. (Yes, getting lost still happens to even us Daniel Boone types on occasion.) So, when lost, I fall back to my tenderfoot training. Remain calm, sit down and retrace your steps. I do all that, and yes, everything behind me is just as it should be. It’s just that what’s in front of me looks like an Army Corps of Engineers project gone wrong. And then I see it; hardwood stubble, the calling card of busy beavers. They’ve dammed the creek and flooded the valley, creating the marsh I see before me.
A little over a year ago we featured beavers on the Outdoors Page, showing you how they’re moving back into the area after having been trapped out to virtual local extinction. We showed you a few photos of places where we found beaver sign in “re-wilded” spots around Lorain County. Boy, did I ever hear from the readers! Folks sent me photos of beaver dams and cuttings on the Black River from Spitzer Marina in Lorain to Washington Avenue in downtown Elyria and right out past Diagonal Road in Lagrange! I thought I was being prophetic in predicting that unpressured beavers would become a nuisance without trappers to keep their numbers in check. In retrospect it was kind of like predicting that the Browns will lose a bunch of games and get a new quarterback in any given year.
So this week we send you off with another set of great local pics from Outdoors Page Photographer Tom Mahl took at Lorain County Metroparks Sandy Ridge Reservation in North Ridgeville showing how beaver and muskrat sign is all around as you take a brisk winter walk. While the birds may be fewer at this time of year, don’t forget to look down at the ground. As we aren’t yet quite frozen over, there are a plethora of small critters running about, and it only takes a dusting of light snow to provide for fresh tracks to show you where they’ve been and where to find them.
An old friend of mine used to lament, “When the snow comes to stay it takes your breath away.” So before the weather gets really bad, get out and find some of the “little critter” signs that are so apparent this time of year in contrast against the white snow. When things green up and begin to sprout, it’s much harder to find the little animals of the ground. It’s also a great time to watch birds of prey as they hunt and coyotes who have it in high gear trying to get enough calories to keep warm. Layer up, wear comfortable shoes, and remember, in wool we trust! Thanks to all our readers for another great year! Now, Get Outdoors!