Location & Description
The 4,220-acre wildlife area is in central Ohio, four miles south of Mount Sterling on State Route 207 and adjacent to the 1,277-acre Deer Creek Lake. It can be reached from the east and west by U.S. Route 22 and State Route 56, and from the north and south by U.S. Route 62 and State Routes 3, 104, and 207. The topography is flat to slightly rolling. The soils are mostly well drained and of medium to high productivity. Approximately 1,000 acres of row crops and small grains are under cultivation annually. Controlled burning and native warm season grass plantings have also been introduced as part of the wildlife management program. About 25 percent of the wildlife area consists of second growth hardwoods and brush in advanced stages of succession. The timber stand is mainly on the east side of Deer Creek. It includes oak, hickory, elm, black walnut, ash, maple, locust, sycamore, and cottonwood. The uncropped remainder of the area is in permanent meadow, reverting fields, wildlife food plots, and prairie grasses.
History & Purpose
Deer Creek Lake construction began in 1965 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and was completed in 1968. Of the 7,575 acres, 6,875 are leased to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for fish, wildlife, and general recreation purposes. Deer Creek State Park lies to the south and east of the lake and provides camping, picnicking, and boat launching facilities for the hunter and angler. Public hunting is permitted on some of the undeveloped 3,165 acres controlled by the Division of Parks and Recreation, and on all property controlled by the Division of Wildlife. Wildlife management plans provide for the maintenance and protection of existing woodlands, establishment of field sizes and crop rotations beneficial to wildlife, improvement of open fields for wildlife nesting, and establishment of annual food patches for general wildlife use. Permanent wildlife cover has been provided through the planting of native prairie grasses such as switchgrass, big blue stem, and Indiangrass.
Major sport fishes in Deer Creek Lake include bluegill, white crappie, channel catfish, saugeye, white bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, rock bass, carp, bullhead, and flathead catfish. The tailwaters support a seasonal fishery for saugeye, crappies, white bass, and an occasional American eel. Upland game species are ring-necked pheasant, mourning doves, cottontail rabbit, and woodchuck. Forest game species are fox squirrel, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey. Furbearers include raccoon, opossum, muskrat, mink, red fox, skunk, coyote, and beaver. Many species of waterfowl and songbirds frequent the area, some of which are migratory and can be seen during the spring migration. Red-tailed hawks, Northern harriers, and American kestrels are common sights. Large numbers of turkey vultures also congregate to roost on the area. Some rare and unusual birds which have been seen include the bald eagle, osprey, and sandhill crane.
Deer Creek Wildlife Area is popular for ring-necked pheasant hunting because of its growing population of wild pheasants. Rabbit hunting is excellent especially during the late season. The lake provides waterfowl hunting, and the stream offers jump shooting for ducks. A series of wetlands found at the extreme south end of the wildlife area provides additional waterfowl hunting opportunity. Restrictions on hunting hours and construction of duck blinds are in effect (information may be obtained at the wildlife area headquarters). Squirrel, turkey, and deer hunters do well in the forested and brushland areas. Trapping along the stream and various drainage ditches on the area is often productive, and night hunting for raccoon and fox is popular. Crappies, bluegills, channel catfish, and saugeyes make up the bulk of the fishery. Crappie fishing is productive along brushy shorelines in the stream channel above the lake, mainly in April and May. Channel catfish are caught mostly in the upper lake, especially in June and July. The best saugeye areas are the tailwater pool below the dam and the stream above the lake. Smallmouth and rock bass fishing is most productive in Deer Creek upstream from Yankeetown Road. The tailwater pond below the dam is always attractive to anglers, as large numbers of fishes congregate there year-round. Unlimited horsepower boating is permitted on the lake. Two launch ramps provide access to the lake. A fully equipped marina offers fuel, boat rental and seasonal dock rentals. For information, call (740) 869-4543. Boaters may take advantage of a boat-swim area. An accessible waterfowl hunting blind is located on the north side of the wetland on Twp. Rd. 124 (Dick Road). Permission to erect duck blinds on Deer Creek Lake during the waterfowl hunting season must be obtained from the state park manager through a special drawing held at the Deer Creek State Park headquarters during the month of August of each year. Contact the Division of Parks and Recreation for more information.
Deer Creek Wildlife Area also features designated access roads for Electric Powered All Purpose Vehicle (EPAPV)/Motor Vehicle Use Permit holders. The permit allows use of an EPAPV with a 30 horsepower and/or use of a motor vehicle on designated access roads on specific state wildlife areas for mobility impaired persons.