Final Ohio deer kill down 8 percent
Columbus — A final total of 219,698 deer were taken during Ohio’s 2011-12 hunting season, compared to 239,379 in the 2010-11 season, according to the DNR Division of Wildlife.
The kill was down about eight percent in 2011-2012 compared to 2010-2011.
“One of the things that I looked at immediately after the season was over was the composition of the harvest in terms of its proportion that were antlered versus antlerless,” said Mike Tonkovich, the DNR’s deer project leader. “There’s were a lot of naysayers before the season who were fully convinced that we were going to see a bunch of people checking bucks as does. That didn’t pan out.”
The top three counties with the highest number of deer taken this season were: Coshocton, Licking and Tuscarawas.
“I have some guarded optimism that we may be making progress in some parts of the state,” Tonkovich said. “Most of our counties are still above goal, so to me that’s a positive sign. What concerns me is that this is the second year in a row where we’ve seen a decline in license sales.”
Hunting license sales last year where down 4 percent and this year they were down over 5 percent.
“It’s the chicken and the egg dichotomy: Are people dropping out of hunting because the deer population’s down or simply dropping out of hunting and the deer harvest is going down?” Tonkovich said. “I’m not sure what’s going on there.”
Tonkovich said he’s received feedback from hunter surveys indicating that the deer population is down.
“So, that is reinforcing the harvest figures,” he said. “There’s no absolute measure out there that’s telling me we’re making progress. But, there’s also no index saying we’re not making any progress at all. We’re still in that zone where we’re waiting and seeing.”
Hunters showed support for the two new methods of game-reporting that were made available this year. Since deer season began on Sept. 24, 2011, 44 percent of hunters called in their kill, 36 percent reported his or her kill online and 20 percent traveled to a license agent’s location to report their game.
Despite the fear that some hunters would attempt to cheat the system, Tonkovich said he’s fairly confident that didn’t happen in large proportions.
“When we looked at things on an individual county level, I don’t think there was a single county that varied by more than 6 percent (from last year),” he said. “Most of them were within 2 percent. What that tells me is that folks who were checking their deer were checking them as they should have.”
Ohio’s first modern day deer-gun season opened in 1943 in three counties, and hunters reported 168 deer. In 1956, deer hunting was allowed in all 88 counties, and hunters killed 3,911 deer during a one-week season.
The white-tailed deer is the most popular game animal in Ohio and is frequently pursued by generations of hunters. Ohio ranks eighth nationally in annual hunting-related sales and 10th in the number of jobs associated with the hunting-related industry. Each year, hunting has an $859 million economic impact in Ohio through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging and more.
Tonkovich either mailed or e-mailed 40,000 surveys before the season, asking hunters for his or her observations and trying to gauge hunter effort. To date, he said he’s received about a 10 percent return.
“If folks want to have a voice in deer management, take the five minutes that it takes to return the survey,” he said. “That is so vitally important to our program.”