Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Gun harvest rebounds from marginal opener

DNR, Staff Reports

Columbus – Two days of rainy weather and strong winds bookended
the traditional deer gun season, driving down harvest figures by
nearly 8,500 from a year ago.

Ohio hunters took 103,195 deer during the state’s popular,
weeklong deer gun season, which ran Nov. 26 to Dec. 2, according to
the DNR Division of Wildlife. In 2006, hunters killed a total of
111,672 deer during the same time period.

Counties reporting the highest numbers of deer brought to Ohio
check stations included Tuscarawas (4,266), Guernsey (3,765),
Harrison (3,389), Athens (3,268), Licking (3,265), Coshocton
(3,227), Washington (3,067), Holmes (3,026), Noble (2,498),
Jefferson (2,493).

A total of 167,965 deer have been harvested so far this season
when combining the adult and youth gun seasons, early muzzleloader
season, and the first six weeks of the archery season. That
compares to a total of 166,534 killed last year during the same
time period. Hunters took a total of 237,316deer during all of last
year’s hunting seasons.

The Nov. 26 opener took a substantial blow from steady rains
that soaked most of the state. The first day total harvest of 19,
391 was more than 20,000 less than last year’s opener (39,629),
according to Division of Wildlife figures. Given the opening day
results, it is a wonder that the overall harvest was just 71/2
percent lower than last year, said Mike Tonkovich, a Division of
Wildlife deer biologist. 

“Hunters must have taken advantage of the middle part of the
week,” said Tonkovich. “That’s the only thing I can figure.”

Tonkovich was aging deer at a check station in Washington County
on opening day and the following day. In typical years, biologists
will see anywhere from 300 to 400 deer at that check station on
opening day, Tonkovich said. This year, 84 were brought in on the
opener and 112 on Tuesday, which would typically see twice that
number, Tonkovich said.

“So, obviously Tuesday wasn’t even a big day and some of those
deer we were checking on Tuesday could have come from Monday’s
harvest,” he said.

Tonkovich said he expected a gun season harvest between 115,000
and 120,000. But, both the early archery and youth gun season saw
increases in harvest this year, so the gun season drop isn’t all
that troubling, given that there is still plenty of opportunity for
bowhunters and a muzzleloader season ahead.

The statewide deer population was estimated to be 675,000 in
late September, prior to the start of the hunting season. Archery
season remains open until Feb. 3. The statewide muzzleloader season
will be held December 27-30. 

In accordance with the lower harvest numbers, hunters in 56 of
Ohio’s 88 counties shot fewer deer than last year’s gun season,
Division of Wildlife records show. Significant drop offs were seen
in Ross County (from 2,425 in 2006 to 1,858 this year), Perry
County (from 2,232 in 2006 to 1,874 this year), and Columbiana
County (2,275 in 2006 and 1,887 this year). A handful of counties
were just a few deer off of last year’s pace.

Of the 32 counties that actually saw larger harvest numbers this
year, Defiance and Gallia were the biggest movers in terms of sheer
numbers. Hunters shot nearly 100 more deer in Defiance County this
season (834) as compared to last (735). In Gallia County, harvest
numbers jumped from 1,609 a year ago to 2,006 this year. Several
largely metropolitan counties also saw harvest increases, including
Summit (from 241 in 2006 to 399 this year), Hamilton (from 316 to
330), and Cuyahoga (from 43 in 2006 to 107 this year).

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