Gilliom-Cherp Nature Park

A map of one of Ashland County Park District's designated hunting parks, Gilliom-Cherp Nature Park, as seen on the park grounds. 

Editor's Note: This story was written in response to a reader question submitted through our Open Source forum, a platform where readers can submit questions to the staff.

ASHLAND -- Hunting in Ashland County is seasonal and regulated to protect the state’s wildlife population.

A hunting license is required to hunt in any of Ashland’s parks, as the parks are public land, said Stephanie Featheringill, director of the Ashland County Park District.

In addition to seasonal hunting regulations, hunters can only hunt in certain parks, and hunters can only shoot certain species in particular quantities, using certain methods.

Land 

There are three main types of land to consider when hunting in Ashland County: hunting parks, multi-purpose parks and non-hunting parks.

Ashland County Park District parks in which hunting is permitted include Black Fork Bottoms Hunting Area, Cooke Family Wildlife Conservation Park, Cool Springs Wildlife Conservation Park, Esbenshade Wetlands and Gilliom-Cherp Nature Park.

Concealed carry is permitted in the parks, but parks have firearms regulations.

Shooting is restricted to legitimate hunting and dog training only, and only legal hunting weapons may be used, including shotguns, bows and crossbows, except rifles and handguns. Target shooting and random or reckless discharge of firearms is not permitted.

Multipurpose parks allow hunting and non-hunting activities during the same time, however with certain time and game limitations per park.

For instance, the Audubon Wetlands Preserve allows deer gun and limited bow hunting only and prohibits hunting on Sundays. Another multipurpose park, Sauers Farm, also allows deer bow and gun hunting as well as small game hunting. However, hunting is prohibited at Sauers Farm on Saturdays in September and October because of wedding ceremonies.

A full list of multipurpose parks and their respective rules can be found on the Ashland County Park District’s hunting regulations.

“There are parks that do allow bow hunting activities and hiking at the same time because the park is so large,” Featheringill said, advising people to be aware of the rules of the parks they enter.

Featheringill suggests hikers wear orange in parks that allow both hiking and hunting.

“If someone doesn’t feel safe or is not interested in not being around those types of activities, they can go to parks that do not allow hunting,” Featheringill said.

There are several parks where hunting is prohibited in the county, including Fire Company Nature Cabin, Byers Woods, Freer Field, Hopkins Landing and Crall Woods.

Fishing in all parks is catch and release only. While a fishing license is not required to fish in park ponds, an Ohio fishing license is required when fishing on a river within any park.

Regardless of the type of park, all parks are closed daily from one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise.

Certain hunting equipment and techniques are prohibited in all parks, including building permanent tree stands, digging goose pits, using climbing spikes or any activity that is damaging to trees.

In Ohio, the only area hunters do not need a hunting license to hunt is on their own private land. Ohio law requires a person to obtain written permission from a landowner or the landowner’s agent before hunting on private lands, and to carry that written permission with them while hunting.

Species

It is common to spot white-tailed deer, various birds, rabbits, squirrels, foxes and coyotes in Ashland, and Ohio at large. But, there are regulations as to what species can be hunted when.

Ohio, and specifically Ashland, conducts controlled hunting access lotteries.

“The main reason for the lottery is safety hazards,” Featheringill said. “We want to make sure we know who is there and when and where.”

Gun hunting and hiking, for example, are not allowed in one park at the same time.

Hunters must participate in lotteries in order to hunt certain species by gun in Ashland, including turkey, deer and waterfowl.

A lottery to secure a date and park location for turkey hunting occurs in the spring. If hunters do not participate in the spring lottery, they will not be permitted to hunt turkey.

Controlled hunts also limit the number of hunters allowed to hunt a specific species as well as the amount of game those hunters can kill, serving as a regulated means of population control.

On Aug. 4, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife proposed reducing the 2022 spring wild turkey season limit from two to one bearded turkey in response to declining wild turkey populations during the past few years. The decision is awaiting approval by the Ohio Wildlife Council.

The deer and waterfowl hunting lottery occurs in the fall.

If hunters do not participate in the fall lottery, they will not be permitted to hunt deer by gun but can hunt deer by bow during the season. Those who do not attend the fall lottery will not be permitted to hunt waterfowl during the selected dates in the First Season.

After the lottery dates, waterfowl hunting is allowed the remainder of Early Season and First Season. There is no lottery for the second season, during which waterfowl hunting is permitted.

The number of animals hunters are able to bag varies by county. For deer in Ashland, “a hunter may harvest no more than three deer in a three-deer county during the 2021-2022 season. A hunter may use three either-sex permits, three deer management permits, or any combination.”

Regarding waterfowl, the daily bag limit has been increased from three to five across all waterfowl hunting zones for the 2021-2022 seasons.

Violations

The ODNR Division of Wildlife has legal authority over Ohio's wildlife, and state law allows the division to adopt rules restricting the taking/hunting of threatened native wildlife. Various species are considered endangered, threatened, species of concern, special interest, extirpated, and extinct.

All hunters must follow Ashland County Park Department regulations as well as all regulations and seasons as designated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and/or state and federal statutes.

Violators will be subject to criminal and civil prosecution. Violations can be reported to the Ashland County Sheriff’s office at 419-289-0911 or to the county park district at 419-289-3524.

ODNR’s “Turn in a Poacher” program allows the public to report wildlife violations such as hunting out of season or without a license or permission. All reports are confidential.

For more comprehensive hunting and trapping regulation in the state, visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife (2021-22 regulations).

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Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.

Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.