Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Hunting Ground - A Scouting Report from Shawnee State Forest

Things have finally started to turn a bit here at the homestead and the wife's knees are almost functional again. Given that, I decided it was time to take up one of my goals for 2008 and do some preliminary scouting in Shawnee Forest in the southern part of the Great State of Ohio. An added perk is that my in-laws live close and Mrs Hunter is always glad to go visit. So, about 9:30 on Saturday we piled into the car and off we went. After a quick dropoff of the wife and kiddo it was off to run the forest roads and look for viable hunting grounds. Who says off seasons can't be fun? Oh wait, that was me. Anyhow, it was a good trip and a real eye-opener.

The Ohio River from the Kentucky Side on 23

Shawnee is Ohio's largest forest coming in at 60000 acres and change. The abrieviated history is avalable on ODNR's website and details of the layout are available
here. (Also on their site) It's tough to conceptualize the size of the place having hunted only a few other public lots and all of them under 5000 acres. This place is big (BIG). And describing it as rugged doesn't seem to do it justice in some places along the roads I was on. It raised a few questions in my mind and few more ideas about hunting practices and what it would take to slap my chest and pronounce 'Integritas!' if called on to do so in a less than ideal circumstance.

One of the seemingly endless number of rolling vallies access able via the forest roadways

On the map of the forest, the place appears to be litterally festooned with roads. Actually being there lends a different truth to the picture. The roads themselves are only positioned in one of three places; they are either on top of the ridges, at the bottom of vallies or traversing the sides of the less steep hills. Roads do not extend around hills, midridge to allow for acces up and down. If you're going to hunt here it seems to be a good idea to be ready to climb. This is exciting to me in that I can drop into a valley and go for hours without seeing road or soul if I choose the correct course. This is also, in the whole getting older and knowing things can go wrong sense, the part that scares me a bit. I would hate to get lost.

Yet another scenic view... ;-)

It's not that I intend to be so foolish as to be unprepared. It really is just that big of a place. For instance... In another life (like 15 years ago) I frequently drove through the forest on SR125 en route to see Mrs Hunter in school in Portsmouth. (SSU, good school. Check it out here...) Two times I have been stopped along the highway, well after dark, to aid a hikers who got turned around and could not find their way back to their cars. In one case it was clear they were experinced hikers (well equiped, very comfortable about not knowing their whereabouts, just asking for a hand) and still things twisted them up. I think it will pay to be well prepared when I got in search of the heinous tree rats in the fall. It'll mean abother, larger pack than my Elkhorn. I suppose we I should just sneak that one off of eBay.

A view to the bottom. (hard to tell but it's a long way down and steap!)

It's not that it frightens me in a way that makes me want to hide. I see it more as a challenge that I need to test myself against. Can I be ready? Can I hike the hills? Is the running I am doing in the evenings going to make a difference? Am I good enough at land-nav not to get lost? These are all questions now begging to be answered. I have to know. Not to worry, I'll still visit that happy hunting grounds next season. I just need to expand a bit. This is one of the great things done with natural resources in Ohio and I should use it. Lots of options....

I can't wait. I will probably go hiking in the spring just to do some more 'upclose' scouting and to see how my conditioning is working out. Mrs. Hunter is excited because for the first time ever I am talking about hunting in a place that also has a lodge with a pool and place to eat which means she and the kiddo can come along. Now that will be fun. Maybe the Monkey will come look for rocks with me again...

Follow a stream here are you will always wind up at the Ohio River. (Never very lost I guess...)

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