Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
By Nancy Allen
Waterfowl hunting season up in the air
  GRAND LAKE - The annual drawing for a chance to use 71 waterfowl blind sites for hunting on Grand Lake will occur next week. But it remains unknown whether hunters will actually be able to hunt this fall due to the lake's water condition.
Sean Finke, coordinator at the Mercer Wildlife Area, said he has received numerous calls in recent weeks from hunters asking if the traditional drawing for blinds would go forward. Around 600 people show up for the event each year.      The division of wildlife decided to proceed with the drawing set for Aug. 21, anticipating that by October the water quality advisory would be lifted, said Brett Beatty, an assistant wildlife management supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife in Xenia.
"Chances are that by duck season, typically as the temperature cools and we get fall rains, the algae would be cleared up and the lake would be usable again," Beatty said.
But if the advisory has not been lifted by then, hunters will not be issued their permits, said Mike Shelton, a spokeperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The state began issuing advisories about the lake water and its toxic blue-green algae last summer. This summer the state issued its strongest advisory yet by telling people to not have any contact with the water - no boating, no swimming and do not eat fish from the water.
Shelton said hunters attending the drawing will be informed of potential algae toxin hazards that could affect them and their retriever dogs.
"That's generally the case with waterfowl hunting that a dog usually goes and retrieves the bird from the open water," he said. "The dog would be in the water and potentially swallowing and ingesting the water and that's the concern."
Algae toxins can sicken humans and can be fatal to small animals like dogs. State health officials currently are looking into a dozen human illnesses, three dog deaths and one dog sickness associated with algae toxins in Grand Lake.
Drawing winners will not be given permits on Aug. 21. They will be contacted later and given instructions on where to pick up their permits only if all water advisories for the lake have been lifted.
"It (the issuance of permits) will be solely based on when or if the advisory is lifted," Shelton said this morning. "It may be before the season starts, mid-season or the season may be lost."
Dates of the fall waterfowl hunting season for ducks and geese have not been set by the Ohio Wildlife Council yet, but it usually falls late October through January.
As for eating waterfowl, Shelton said there is no conclusive evidence that shows eating waterfowl that has come into contact with algae toxins is harmful to humans. In addition, it would be difficult to know if waterfowl taken over Grand Lake during the season had contact with the water.
"The important thing to note is birds are migratory and just because they are taken at a particular location doesn't mean they lived their lives at that location," he said.
For information about hunting seasons, call 1-800-WILDLIFE or go online to www.wildohio.com.

Hunting info:
What: Annual waterfowl blind drawing for sites on Grand Lake
Where: Mercer Wildlife Area, state Route 703 east of U.S. 127
When: Aug. 21, hunters arrive at 7:30 a.m., drawing starts at 8 a.m.
What to bring: Applicants must appear in person with a 2010 Ohio hunting license and 2010 state wetlands stamp endorsement in the applicant's name and a signed 2009 or 2010 federal duck stamp.
Special notes: Applicants younger than 18 must have a parent or legal guardian present to sign the permit contract. Each hunter can apply for only one blind permit and no one can apply or draw for another person. Permits will not be issued to winners the day of the drawing. If the water quality advisory is lifted, blind winners will be contacted and can come to the Grand Lake St. Marys State Park office to obtain permits.
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Weather forecast
for Thursday:

Partly cloudy