Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Winterkill possible as ice retreats

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is reminding people that fish kills may be common in ponds and small lakes as the ice and snow of the past few months gives way to spring.

Winter fish dieoffs caused by long periods of heavy ice and snow cover on small waters are referred to as winterkills. Winterkill is caused when persistent ice forms a surface barrier between the water and air that prevents circulation of oxygen and blocks sunlight. If these conditions continue long enough, the oxygen fish need to survive may be depleted and result in some or all of the fish suffocating. Lacking sunlight, plants stop making oxygen and eventually start to use it as they die and decompose.

Winterkill is most common in shallow ponds and typically results in dead fish being seen along the shore. Ohio’s northern counties are usually most susceptible to winterkill because of colder temperatures and more frequent snows, but this year winterkill of ponds is possible throughout Ohio.

Some fish dieoffs are expected in Ohio’s larger lakes as well this year, but for different reasons. Fish such as gizzard shad, which are less tolerant of long, cold winters, are commonly seen along the shorelines of reservoirs and even Lake Erie during moderate winters. However, in larger waters, the species that commonly die off following winter are resilient and return in great numbers following a single spawning season.

Unusual water coloration, strong odors or other unusual conditions may be indicative of non-natural causes and can be reported to the Division of Wildlife. Call 800-WILDLIFE to report a suspicious fish winterkill. Go to www.wildohio.com to learn more about fish and preventing winterkills.

Mussels workshop

How many opportunities do you get to learn from experts about the fascinating world of freshwater mussels and then get your feet wet in one of the most mussel friendly waterways in Ohio?

Not many is the answer, so don’t miss out on a unique opportunity this summer! A workshop for anyone interested in mussels will be held on Saturday, June 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lake Metroparks’ Penitentiary Glen Reservation. Field experiences will take place at Indian Point Park and/or Hidden Valley Park in the Grand River.

For a registration fee of only $20 (including breakfast and lunch), researchers and education professionals will share freshwater mussel biology, identification, survey techniques, and threats to mussel populations through formal presentations and hands-on opportunities. Professionals from Cleveland State, Division of Wildlife, Otterbein University, and The Ohio State University will present throughout the morning. In the afternoon, participants will be transported to the Grand River where they will put their newfound knowledge to use while searching for freshwater mussels.

More information, including a flyer, can be found at www.ohioprojectwild.org or www.lakemetroparks.com. Register by May 19 to reserve your seat at this unique program by contacting Lake Metroparks at (440) 358-7275 or (800) 669-9226. For workshop-related questions, contact Andy Avram, Lake Metroparks at (440) 256-2112 or Jamey Emmert, Division of Wildlife at (330) 245-3020.

Freshwater mussels are not only amazing creatures but they are also an essential component to our environment, holding great value for humans and nature alike. They are important environmental indicators, helping us understand the true health of our planet. Despite their crucial position in the ecosystem, however, they are some of the most imperiled animals on Earth. Learn more about these creatures, their struggle for survival, and how you can help by attending this workshop.

Hope to see you there!

More means less

Two sets of data published by the FBI seven months apart show increased gun ownership coinciding with a reduction in violent crime.

Last July, the FBI completed its monthly update of an online table showing the number of firearm-related checks conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The new numbers showed that the number of checks increased from 8.9 million during the first six months of 2012, to a whopping 11.4 million during the same period in 2013, an increase of 29 percent.

Gun -ontrol supporters pretend that NICS checks that result in denials perfectly correspond with the denial of firearms to aspiring violent criminals, while denying that the numbers of approved checks indicate anything at all about trends in firearms purchases.

However, while not as reliable an indicator of firearm purchase trends as the Annual Firearms Manufacturers and Export Reports and Firearms Commerce in the United States reports complied by the BATFE, the FBI’s NICS numbers provide a fair indication of such trends. Even though not all approved checks result in the acquisition of firearms, some checks result in the acquisition of multiple firearms.

And even though some checks are conducted for carry permit purposes, some firearms are acquired through licensed dealers without a NICS check, based upon the exemption available in some states for persons licensed to possess or carry a firearm.

Last week, the FBI issued a report comparing the numbers of violent and property crimes reported by law enforcement agencies during the first half of 2012 to the numbers reported during the first half of 2013. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports Section, “Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation reported a decrease of 5.4 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention for the first 6 months of 2013 when compared with figures reported for the same time in 2012.”

Under the Uniform Crime Reporting System, violent crime consists of four categories of crime, each of which experienced decreases during the first half of 2013. Murders decreased 6.9 percent, rapes decreased 10.6 percent, robberies decreased 1.8 percent, and aggravated assaults decreased 6.6 percent. Of 30 cities of 500,000 or greater population, 20 reported decreases in murders, two reported no change in their numbers, and only eight reported increases.

Given these figures, we shouldn’t be surprised that a prominent gun-control messaging guide counsels its readers to “always focus on emotional and value-driven arguments about gun violence, not the political food fight in Washington or wonky statistics.”

This is sound advice from their perspective, as the facts sure don’t support what they are trying to do.


Yep that’s a new word I invented. It means the economics and ergonomics and shootonomics (that’s another new one too) of shot gunning. OK, enough nonsense and on to the subject at hand patterning your shotgun.

From the past

As the first signs of spring emerge, the distant echoes of last year’s gobbling start to reverberate in the very souls of turkey hunters. Dreams of past turkey hunts become more frequent and the ones that went bad begin to haunt us. Awakening from a convulsive sleep, our thoughts go to one place: “What happened?!”

Though there’s nothing we can do about the past, we can do something about future events. Being prepared, knowing our quarry and our shotguns and a little range time can, and will, prevent the nightmares that haunt us now.

Is bigger better?

This is the mindset of hunters across the spectrum when choosing a truck, an ATV and a gun. There’s something about big things that draws out the machismo in us. Some will tell you if you’re not shooting the latest and greatest 3 1/2 -inch turkey slayer, then you’ll never kill a bird. Well, I can tell you from experience, that a 20 gauge will do just as well and is much more enjoyable to shoot and carry. Just ask Janie and she’ll not only tell you but she’ll show you the beards and fantails to prove it. So, when choosing a shotgun for turkey hunting, choose a gun that you are confident and comfortable shooting.

Tighter the better?

A key element to a good turkey gun is a good turkey choke. A turkey choke has more constriction than a Full choke, and they are often labeled Extra Full or XX Full. The dimensions for a 12-gauge turkey choke may range from .670 inches down to .640 inches. The tighter chokes in the .640- to .655-inch range are designed for smaller No. 6 or No. 5 shot. The more open constrictions are better suited for larger pellets such as No. 4s.

Can you have too much constriction? Yes, you can. Depending on your gun and the ammunition you’ve selected, you can over constrict the shot to the point where the pattern falls apart.

In this case, it is possible for the pellets to bounce off of each other or become deformed, leaving large holes in your pattern. The solution for this is to go to a more open constriction or smaller shot size.


The ammunition you choose can drastically affect your pattern. Each gun-choke combination will shoot a specific round better than the others. The only way to determine which is to shoot a variety. Vary your shot sizes and brands from several distances and stick with the one that gives you the most consistent pattern.

You might want to do this with a friend who’s in the same predicament. Nowadays buying several boxes of turkey loads can get expensive. Whereas if you partner up with someone, you can cut your costs a little.


What is the difference between a bad pattern and a good pattern, and what can you do to improve the pattern of your shotgun?

The ideal pattern for turkey hunting is 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards. At least that’s what they test them at from the factories. This density means that there should be plenty of pellets in the small vital area of the turkey’s head and neck to kill it ethically.

If you prefer No. 6 turkey loads (approx. 222 pellets/oz.), then a two-ounce load of No. 6s should pattern about 25 percent of its shot in the 10-inch circle. Two ounces of No. 5s (approx. 171 pellets/oz.) should give you a pattern of about 30 percent. Two ounces of No. 4s (approx. 135 pellets/oz.) should result in a 37-percent pattern. These numbers are based on lead pellets, so heavier- than-lead alloy pellets will have fewer pellets per ounce and the percentage will differ slightly.

Why 40 yards?

We pattern our turkey guns out to 40 yards because that is the maximum distance promoted by the Turkey Hunting Safety Task Force as the proper range to ethically and cleanly kill a turkey with a shotgun. I, myself, would rather have them, and do try to get them, in closer. Not only for the ethical harvest scenario but also because it awesome to have them 30 yards or closer gobbling the fool heads off.

Fine tuning

Initial pattern tests should be on a 30-inch target. Sheets of butcher paper or craft paper are great for targets. Draw a small two-inch circle in the middle and color it in with a marker, then draw a 10-inch circle centered on that. Measure off 40 yards or use a laser range finder to mark your distance.

Use a shooting brace/bench to reduce human error and shoot a single round at each target.

Write the results on each target and note the choke constriction, brand, etc... as well as the ammunition you used. Shoot a few different types of ammo and then compare the results. Pick the round that gives you the densest pattern.

If one combination gives you a great pattern, but just isn’t centered in the 10-inch circle, adding rifle sights, a scope or red-dot-type sight allows you to truly tune your shot pattern. You can move the gun’s point of impact so the densest part of the pattern is at the point of aim.

All done

After a few trips to the range, you’ll sleep peacefully once again. You will have the confidence that your gun can produce the needed results when a gobbler struts to within 40 yards.

Remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..