Ohio hunters should begin preparing for the hunting seasons of some of the state’s most popular game species with ring-necked pheasant, cottontail rabbit and bobwhite quail. The hunting seasons for upland game begin on Friday, Nov. 2, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

The state’s cottontail rabbit population has been very good recently. However, Nathan Stricker, project leader with ODNR’s Olentangy Wildlife Research Station, said rabbit populations tend to go through an up-and-down cycle every seven to 10 years.

“Rabbit numbers are lower this year, but this type of decline is expected with this cycle,” said Stricker. “Regardless of these cyclical changes, cottontail rabbit populations are excellent throughout Ohio and provide plenty of opportunities for a family hunting outing.”

Quail and pheasant populations may be lower than previous years, and Stricker said quail and pheasant are heavily dependent upon quality habitats on private lands provided by the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Williams and Defiance counties in northwest Ohio have strong pheasant populations because of the habitat contributions by local landowners. Upland game populations are responding positively to habitat programs in other areas around the state, especially in counties with significant enrollment in the Scioto Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and Quail Buffer practices in CRP known as CP33.

Cottontail rabbit hunting continues through Feb. 28, 2013. Ring-necked pheasant hunting is open through Jan. 6, 2013. Both seasons are closed during the statewide 2012 deer-gun hunting season, Nov. 26-Dec. 2.

Rabbits, pheasants and quail may be hunted from sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit for all three species remains unchanged from last year at four rabbits, two pheasants (roosters/males only) and four quail.

Hunters are reminded that snowshoe hares are not legal game in Ohio and should not be hunted. Snowshoe hares were recently reintroduced to northeastern Ohio after nearly a century of absence. They are brown early in the season, which makes them resemble cottontail rabbits. To avoid confusion between cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares, portions of Geauga and Ashtabula counties will be closed to all rabbit hunting from Nov. 2-Dec. 2. At that time, hunters will be able to distinguish between the two rabbits since most snowshoe hares will have turned white by early December.

Two restricted hunting zones cover portions of Geauga and Ashtabula counties. The first restricted area encompasses parts of Geauga and Ashtabula counties and is bordered by U.S. Route 6 to the north, U.S. Route 322 to the south, Kile Road to the west and State Route 534 to the east. The second restricted area is in Ashtabula County bounded on the north by Cork-Cold Springs Road, on the west by Windsor-Mechanicsville Road, on the south by New Hudson Road and on the east by U.S. Route 45. A map of these two areas can be viewed in the 2012-2013 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations and at wildohio.com.

Pheasants are released on selecting hunting areas throughout the state by the ODNR Division of Wildlife prior to opening day of the pheasant season, the second Saturday of the season, Nov. 10 and Thanksgiving Day.

Bobwhite quail hunting is open in 16 counties in southern Ohio: Adams, Athens, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Highland, Jackson, Meigs, Montgomery, Pike, Preble, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Warren. The season continues through Nov. 25.

Additional hunting information is contained in the 2012-2013 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations, which are available where hunting licenses are sold, online at wildohio.com or by calling 800-WILDLIFE.

Logo courtesy Ohio Department of Natural Resources

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