More does target of new tag proposal

Special doe tags would allow harvest of up to
three more deer in some places

Staff, Wire Reports

Columbus – Even with Ohio hunters nearly assured to break a
harvest record this year, state wildlife officials say hunters
could kill additional does to thin the white-tailed-deer
population.

The DNR Division of Wildlife proposed Feb. 20 to issue a permit
that would allow bowhunters to kill as many as three additional
does during the early part of the 2007-2008 archery season.

The Ohio Wildlife Council, an eight-member panel that decides
fish and game laws, will vote on the proposed regulations in
April.

Harvesting does is crucial to controlling deer populations, said
Dave Risley, executive administrator of wildlife management for the
Division of Wildlife.

‘Right now, about 98 percent of our does are pregnant,’ he said.
‘That’s an indication that we have enough bucks to take care of the
does.’

Ohio began the 2006-07 deer season with a population of about
600,000. A record 235,000 were killed during the hunt that ended
Feb. 4 with about 475,000 hunters taking to the field, according to
the Division of Wildlife.

‘Despite killing 235,000 deer, we didn’t put a whole lot more
pressure on our doe population,’ Risley said.

To reduce crop destruction and roadway accidents caused by deer,
the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation proposed in December that the
state’s deer population be reduced to 250,000.

Archery hunters would be required to purchase a regular deer
permit before purchasing the antlerless deer permits. Using the
proposed permit system, hunters could take up to one additional
antlerless deer in Zone A, up to two additional antlerless deer in
Zone B and up to three additional antlerless deer in Zone C. Use of
the antlerless deer permit during the first part of the archery
season would not count against the hunter’s zone bag limit.

Under the proposal, hunters could buy additional antlerless deer
permits, currently known as urban deer permits, at reduced prices
for hunting in an urban zone, participating in a controlled hunt,
or hunting during the Sept. 29 to Nov. 25 portion of the archery
season. The antlerless deer permit would cost $15 and be good for
does only.

The harvest ratio from this past season, according to Risley,
was 40 percent antlered deer, 47 percent does, and 13 percent
button bucks. Still, the population projections for next season
indicate more deer in southeastern and southern Ohio and about the
same number in northeast Ohio.

‘We feel we need to look at ways to put more pressure on the doe
segment of the population rather than bucks,’ Risley said.

One option, albeit likely unpopular among hunters, would be to
institute an ‘earn a buck’ system that would require deer hunters
to first harvest a doe before he or she could shoot a buck. It’s
unlikely that scenario will play out anytime soon in Ohio, Risley
said.

‘I think our position with ‘earn a buck’ is that hunters hate it
and I’m never going to recommend it,’ he said. ‘It’s just really
unpopular and we need hunters out there to control the deer
population.’

Another option would be to open an antlerless only season where
bucks would be off limits. That, too, has its drawbacks, Risley
said.

‘The temptation you create with that is just a bit too great,’
he said. ‘I don’t want to put our young hunters, especially, in a
position to shoot the deer of a lifetime possibly in the early
season and they’re not able to do it.’

Risley said the doe permit system is being proposed for the
early season because studies have shown that early season
bowhunters are the most selective about the type of deer they
harvest. In other words, they’ll often pass up smaller bucks but
they do shoot their share of does with permits that are available.
The extra doe tags are being proposed for the early season, Risley
said, as a trial balloon to see how the system goes over with the
deer hunting public at large.

‘I think in a year or two you’ll see more and more acceptance,’
he said. ‘I don’t think this antlerless system is going to result
in a lot more deer being killed. But, it is a pretty good way of
seeing if it’s acceptable to the public and what kind of
(management) tool this is so we don’t have to come back with some
radical change in regulations down the road.’

Ralph Witte, a deer hunter from Lancaster in Fairfield County,
said he sees the need for more harvest opportunities for does in
some parts of the state, particularly in the southeast.

‘On some of the properties I hunt, I see overbrowsing and things
of that nature,’ he said. ‘So, I think taking additional does is
justified in cases such as that.’

Witte said he would likely take advantage of more opportunity to
shoot deer, but he’s not sure if the proposal will have the outcome
that’s intended by the Division of Wildlife – fewer does in the
population.

‘Again it’s one of those things where you don’t really know how
much of an impact it would make because there probably aren’t a lot
of people who would have the time to hunt that much more,’ Witte
said.

Witte said the larger issue is the amount of land Ohio hunters
have available to them. According to Risley, about 95 percent of
land in the state is held in private ownership.

‘I do know in some places there are too many deer,’ Witte said.
‘Unfortunately, in many of those places hunting access is also
restricted. I live in a residential area (in Lancaster) and there
are deer everywhere, but, there’s no hunting allowed. So, no matter
what you do allowing additional does (to be harvested) that’s not
really going to impact the (urban) problem.’

Chuck Gaietto, a deer hunter from Seneca County in northwest
Ohio, said the doe tag proposal gives him pause given the
successful deer hunting seasons Ohioans have experienced in recent
years particularly.

‘If it’s not broke, why try to fix it?’ said Gaietto, who
disagrees with the proposal. ‘As great as deer hunting is, I’m
afraid we’ll never know it like we do today. I think it’s going to
go in the wrong direction.’

Gaietto and a few other Ohio deer hunters whom Ohio Outdoor News
interviewed questioned the financial motive for the doe tag
proposal.

‘If the (DNR) needs more money, we’ll pay a little more for a
license,’ Gaietto said. ‘You can’t reduce the deer herd like
they’re proposing to do and still enjoy it like we have been.’

Asked for a response, Risley said money didn’t factor into the
management decision.

‘Revenue was immaterial in this decision,’ he said. ‘Our
hunters’ behavior is to buy one tag at a time. So, just because we
have these new tags available, I don’t think you’re going to see
anybody jumping out of a tree stand to go buy another tag. It is
not intended to bring in more revenue.’

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