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Felines afield

I hunted with a cat the other evening. I was after deer while the feline was stalking smaller mammals as I watched it undetected from my treestand above its perch. We shared a small swamp flanked by harvested bean and corn fields and accessed by narrow, overgrown fencerows connecting to wood lots. The farmer had left some standing corn and beans in the corners and around a wind-fallen ash tree, and the bonus grain and cover was a magnet to the local game, both feathered and furred.

I know fellows who say they shoot feral cats when they see them in the field, taking care to target felines that are far from any farmhouse where they might double as pets. The argument is that the cats have gone native and, with no natural predators, ravage local game- and song-bird populations. You may have read about some recent studies done on the subject. I did, and have invited one feral cat expert on to my show next month to learn more about the issue. I’ll welcome Matt Clayton to Buckeye Sportsman on the Dec. 9 broadcast.

I watched that cat as it crept up to the end of a branch off a fallen tree, settling in from that higher vantage point much the way I had in my stand 17 feet above. While I had the benefit of head to toe woodland camouflage to blend in with our shared surroundings, the feline had an unfortunate coloration: pure white but for a tail ringed like a raccoon and a pair of grown eye patches. You could see the stark-white predator working its way through the brush and stalks from clear across the field. The poor cat’s unnatural camo couldn’t be worse, I thought, then shuddered with a blast of the north wind that found its way down the back of my neck. That’s when it occurred to me that when the snow flies and living off the land is at its leanest, that cat’s coat will fit right in when it needs it the most. I wished the feline luck as it eventually padded off into a thick clump of timothy, and I sat shivering ‘til dark waiting for game that never showed.

 

Waterfowl ID

Speaking of hunting, with waterfowl seasons in full swing across the state as Ohio’s duck and goose seasons begin, hunters are encouraged to familiarize themselves with waterfowl identification before heading out. Ohio waterfowl hunters frequently encounter a variety of species of birds when in the field and marsh, and some species of ducks, geese and swans may look similar.

Some species, like the state-threatened trumpeter swans and occasionally migrating tundra swans, are protected and may be encountered. Although waterfowl hunters in Ohio rarely encounter snow geese, hunters should still be able to distinguish between swans and snow geese. With proper species identification and attention, there should be little confusion between the species.

 

Trumpeter swan (threatened and protected species)

• Mature birds have pure-white plumage (sometime stained heads) and young birds are more gray

• Long necks relative to the body size

• Length of 4 to 5 feet with a wingspan of 7 feet and weight of 17 to 28 pounds.

 

Tundra swan (protected species)

• Mature birds have pure- white plumage and young birds are more gray

• Long necks relative to the body size

• Length of 4.5 feet with a wingspan of 5.5 feet and weight of 8 to 23 pounds.

 

Canada goose (legal game species)

• Black-necked plumage with chin strap, black head, tan breast, brown back, long necks

• Length of 2.5 to 3.5 feet with a wingspan of 4 to 5.5 feet, and weight of 6.5 to 20 pounds.

 

Snow goose (legal game species)

• White with black wing tips, short necks relative to the body size

• Length of 2.5 feet with a wingspan of 4.5 feet and weight 3.5 to 7 pounds.

For more information about waterfowl hunting in Ohio visit wildohio.gov.

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