Another record deer kill in 2005?

By Robert Loewendick Contributing Writer

Columbus — The 2005 deer-gun season, which runs Nov. 28-Dec. 4,
is expected to produce 130,000 to 140,000 harvested deer, according
to the latest estimates from the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

That’s a remarkable climb from Ohio’s kill from as recently as
50 years ago. Since Ohio’s first modern day deer-gun season opened
in 1943, the Buckeye State has become one of the top white-tailed
deer producing states in the country. The 1943 deer-gun season saw
168 deer taken in the counties open for hunting. In 1956, all 88
counties were open for deer hunting for one week and 3,911 deer
were harvested that season.

The state’s ability to provide prime habitat and continuing
successful deer management programs are the primary reasons the
state maintains its spot on the great-state-to-hunt list. The DOW
expects 400,000 hunters, including both residents and nonresidents,
to pursue this year’s whitetails, which number about 700,000,
according to the most recent DOW statistics.

A quality deer herd

The Ohio deer herd is as healthy and populated as ever, which
seems to be a recurring theme in a state where a record 217,301
deer were taken in 2004.

Division of Wildlife Biologist Dave Swanson said he expects a
total harvest of between 204,000 to 214,000 this year.

The weather has been kind to Ohio’s whitetails from late winter
to early fall. Spring provided good growing conditions for
agriculture and natural forage, which gave fawns and does a healthy
growing season.

These healthy deer are apparent statewide, according to hunters
doing early season scouting. Reports of large groups of active and
full-bodied deer and the presence of heavy antlered bucks are
additional proof of the healthy deer herd awaiting hunters this gun
season.

Ohio maintains hundreds of public hunting acres that hold
quality deer. Many of the public access hunting lands are adjacent
to private properties, many of them agriculture acres, providing
deer with a preferred and quality food source. These elements
provide deer hunters with quality hunting on public lands. Studying
aerial photographs and topographical maps of public hunting areas
can reveal productive stand locations that intersect feeding and
bedding areas.

New for 2005

This year, a three-deer limit returns to Zone C, which covers 38
southeast and south-central counties (see accompanying chart). The
30 counties of Zone B will have a two-deer limit. A one-deer limit
is imposed on Zone A, which consists of 20 northwestern and a few
northeastern counties.

“Ohio will likely have a record deer season due to the youth
season and the number of three-deer counties,” said DOW Chief
Steven A. Gray. “Also, we expect a number of trophy whitetails to
be taken around the state.”

Youth deer gun season will be Saturday, Nov. 20 and Sunday, Nov.
21. Young hunters will be permitted to bag one deer of either sex
in any Ohio county.

Any deer taken will be part of the young hunter’s total season
limit. Each youth hunter must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult
while in the field.

The statewide muzzleloader season will open Monday, Dec. 27 and
run through Thursday, Dec. 30. Special permit muzzleloader hunts
for antlered deer only will be open Oct. 25-Oct. 30 at Salt Fork,
Shawnee, and Wildcat Hollow.

Hunters may take only one antlered deer per license year,
regardless of zone, hunting method, or season.

Legal hunting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset
daily.

Where to go

Last season’s top five counties – Coshocton, Guernsey,
Muskingum, Tuscarawas, and Jefferson – are projected to again be at
the top of the list this season. The counties surrounding these
also produce high quantities and quality deer.

These counties have plenty of public hunting lands, mostly
reclaimed coal mining acres. The reclamation, conducted decades
ago, has produced prime habitat for deer in quantity and quality.
The top counties in producing total harvest numbers are also at the
top of the trophy-class deer list.

Tools of the trade

The shotgun has come a long way for modern-day deer hunters. But
this season doesn’t bring any major changes or additions to firearm
selection, according to Larry Waldren of Waldren’s Hunting Supplies
in Newark.

“The firearm manufacturers have refined some models, but nothing
major,” Waldren said.

One popular option for shotgun buyers is the thumbhole stock.
The thumbhole stock gives the shooter more control, or steadiness,
for more accurate shooting. The movement by the outdoor community
to get more youth involved in hunting is being aided by firearm
manufacturers with the improved youth model shotguns.

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