In reviewing all 52 outdoor stories I wrote for 2021, I definitely saw a trend, and I’m actually quite proud of the message they delivered when viewed as a complete package.
The picture painted was one of the beauty of our outdoors, along with the people who protect it, to those who excel in it and to those who make sure we don’t forget it.
Sprinkled in are many of my outdoor excursions, offering the reader new places to visit, new ways to enjoy the outdoors and new adventures to take on. The following is a review of 2021, in no particular order, through my outdoor stories.
It all starts out with a big name in birding
It started with one of my best-read stories of the year as I chronicled the 66-year-history of Roger Troutman participating in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.
His roles in the largest data collection process of any animal on the planet has changed, but his belief in the value of the event is as strong as ever.
“It’s important animal-wise, because you can see what birds are going up and down in population,” said Troutman.
Birds were a common theme in 2021, including a story in February about the thousands of waterfowl finally taking advantage of the “Big Spring” project at the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area. Several years in the making, the Big Spring is a safe haven for ducks, geese, Tundra and Trumpeter swans and Sandhill cranes as it provides open water when other lakes, ponds and rivers are frozen up in the winter.
Along with the food plots at the KMWA, it’s a “birdfeeder on a big scale,” as KMWA manager Dennis Solon explained.
Swans, beavers and youth, handicap hunts
In the spring, I also did a feel-good story on the rehab and release of an injured Trumpeter swan. The Medina Raptor Center nursed the big bird back to health and it was successfully introduced back into the wild at the KMWA.
Two months later, I was back at the wildlife area, this time to release a rehabbed beaver. Fran Kitchen, with Operation Orphan Wildlife Rehabilitation, raised the beaver from a tiny fur ball that could fit in the palm of her hand, to full-grown beaver, an 11-month process.
And speaking of feel-good stories, it doesn’t get any bigger than the work that Whitetail Heritage of Ohio does each fall with its youth and handicap hunt. That was in early October, and is something that will bring a tear to anyone’s eyes if they get the chance to attend.
This year I got to speak at two events, talking on topics near and dear to me – fishing and monarch butterflies. I helped at the Ashland Soil & Water Conservation District Family Fishing Day and made some new friends and memories in May, and then in early July, along with my wife, Jean, we gave a talk on monarch butterflies at Horse Progress Days in Mount Hope. We talked about our trip to Mexico to see the over-wintering butterflies, gave out milkweed plants and talked about the monarch’s plight.
Monarchs also showed up in the paper in September, as I wrote about how the migration was starting and the insects were flocking by the thousands to a Sterling-area farm to rest and build up strength on the nectar of a flowering clover field. Just sitting in the clover and experiencing the butterflies was truly one of my best outdoor experiences of the year.
The making of outdoor memories
Outdoor success was another big theme this year, with memories made every bit as important as the meat in the freezer. It started in April with a youth turkey hunting story about Jarod Hawkins and his son, Grady. When Grady bagged his big bird, dad Jarod realized it was in the exact same spot that his dad first took him turkey hunting 30 years earlier.
Archery season for whitetails is always big news in Wayne and Holmes counties, and this year was no different. I chronicled female archer Steph Genet’s pursuit of a monster buck with a compound bow, but the biggest story with readers this year was far and away the bow-hunting trip by Ellie and Kevin Miller, the story of Captain Hook. The deer was No. 1 on dad’s hit list, but it was Ellie who dropped it with a bolt from her crossbow.
“It was special to me that I could give Ellie the best I had to share. And she’ll realize that in the future,” said Kevin Miller.
Another feel-good story was the deer-gun season opener success of Duane and Kendall Hochstetler, as they both tagged tape-measure bucks.
In the shooting sports world, it was another successful season for area youth squads at the Scholastic Clay Target Program Nationals in Marengo. The Ohio Claybusters had a two-time national champion in Lane Adkins, and the Buckeye-Chippewa Youth Shooting Sports team won three national team titles and two individual titles (Cully Emerson, Bryce Posten).
A mission to rehabilitate Shreve Lake
Of course, 2021 wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, as friends of Shreve Lake had had enough of the Division of Wildlife dragging its feet on fixing the 55-acre Wayne County lake. It started in July when Jeff Norris, Melissa Spencer and Joseph Slabaugh started the Shreve Lake Restoration Group in order to put heat on the DOW to finally fix the dam at Shreve Lake, which was drained back in 2014.
The group quickly gained momentum, and after another story in October about getting nowhere with the state, officials started making plans to start the process, although filling the lake is still years away.
“The Shreve group holding our feet to the fire is a good thing,” said the Division of Wildlife’s District Three manager, Scott Angelo. “It keeps us accountable to the sportsmen.”
Fishing stories near and dear to his heart
And, of course, there were plenty of my fishing stories along the way, some successful, some not so. I did write about one of my best fishing days ever when I landed four steelhead while fishing the bay at Fairport Harbor in early November.
I also enjoyed the July walleye bite on Lake Erie, fished the March walleye run on the Maumee River, caught smallmouth bass at Presque Isle, Pa., in April, and on the Mohican River in June, ice fished 23 times in January and February, and went to Michigan twice and New York once for fishing trips.
There were many other in-state trips, including fishing the Ohio River, Lake Milton and Portage Lakes multiple times, and also camping and fishing at Piedmont and Pymatuning, just to name a few.
I also wrote about the decline of the Lake Erie Central Basin perch population, opening day of the dove season, Dylan Breitenbucher’s Eagle Scout project at the KMWA, the reduction in the spring turkey hunting limit, the opening of the William J. Robertson Nature Preserve in Rittman, Worldwide Earth Day, a new business called “Fish My Spot,” and just recently, my trip to Colorado and a chance meeting with a fellow Wayne Countian.
Here’s hoping 2022 is another eye-opening year in the outdoor world, and that your weekly dose of outdoor stories encourages you to get out there and explore what Mother Nature has to offer.
Outdoor correspondent Art Holden can be reached at [email protected]