MOUNT VERNON — In Knox County, hunting and fishing are pastimes that have been passed down through generations, but according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, the number of licensed hunters and fishermen is on the decline. When done correctly, hunting and fishing are beneficial to Ohio’s ecosystem, as well as to ODNR itself. Hunting and fishing licenses make up a large part of the department’s revenue stream, which goes toward its conservation efforts.
In order to raise awareness and cultivate interest, the Ohio Division of Wildlife hosted a hunting skills event at the Knox County Fair, which Austin Levering, State Wildlife Officer for Knox County, said is a brief event with a much bigger picture in mind. The event was targeted at youth and new hunters who wanted to learn the ins and outs of safe, regulated hunting and fishing.
Josh Elster, District 1 Wildlife Officer, brought his German shepherd Mila, who has been trained to track gunpowder, ginseng and wildlife. She is also certified in handler protection, criminal apprehension and building and area search. Mila is one of five K-9s being used by ODNR throughout its five districts. According to Elster, Ohio is one of 22 states that has brought in dogs to aid wildlife officers.
The Knox County Fish and Game Association brought the archery trailer, which is used to teach kids basic archery skills and safety. Bothers Korbin and Keith Rogers of Fredericktown practiced their archery skills in the trailer. Levering coached them through shooting, and showed them the proper way to hold the bow, and how to safely remove arrows from the target. Both the boys have been hunting for the majority of their young lives, and the same thing can be said for most of the Rogers family.
“I like how peaceful it is, getting out there and how quiet it is,” Deon Rogers, Korbin and Keith’s dad, said. Shelly, the boy’s mother, had the opposite view.
“I think it’s the excitement of actually doing it. You’re sitting there, waiting, and then it happens,” she said. Both agreed that they enjoy the family aspect of it, seeing as its a tradition that has been passed down for generations, something Levering said is becoming a rarity.
Levering said that hunting and fishing has decreased with recent generations, and its already having negative repercussions.
“It’s not being passed down from tradition. Grandma, Grandpa, Dad, you know, they don’t hunt or fish anymore,” Levering said. He noted that conservation and good wildlife management practices are all reasons why getting the younger generations involved is important.
“Left unchecked, wildlife populations can go crazy. Raccoons are a good example of that, people don’t hunt raccoons like they used to and I’m constantly getting nuisance calls on raccoons every day,” Levering said.
Korey Brown, district manager of ODNR’s Division of Wildlife in central Ohio, said that ODNR was created nearly 150 years ago because hunters and fishermen asked for a regulatory agency to avoid wildlife extinction. Woodlands and lakes were being depleted quickly, so regulations were created in order to protect the populations. The creation of these regulations also defined the difference between hunting and poaching. Poaching is illegally catching game, which is either defined as using an illegal method, hunting outside of the season, or killing game on land that is not one’s own. A tipline was created, where people can anonymously report poaching incidents at 1-800-POACHER. Levering said that this has helped tremendously on catching poachers and cutting down on violations.