Many changes afoot for whitetail hunting?

Columbus – Some fairly significant changes – including a move
for muzzleloaders to January – could be in store for Ohio deer
hunters next season.

Several new proposals were rolled out before the Ohio Wildlife
Council on Jan. 7, that group’s first meeting of the new year.
Ohio’s deer biologists are studying harvest numbers from this
season currently and will make final recommendations to the council
in February.

Among those are a proposed move of muzzleloader season into
January from its usual spot right after Christmas. This past
season, the muzzleloader hunt was Dec. 27 through Dec. 30. If
approved, it could be Jan. 9 through Jan. 12, 2010 – the first full
weekend in January. Muzzleloader season would always include two
weekend days, an element that caused a stir just a few years ago
when no weekend days were included in the hunt.

Dave Risley, the Division of Wildlife’s management chief, said
the move would create downtime for both hunters and the deer he or
she is chasing. There was little of that this past season when the
bonus shotgun weekend ended just six days before muzzleloader
season opened.

“We’ve crunched that extra (shotgun) weekend right in there
before Christmas,” he said. “(Muzzleloader) season has flattened
out in the last couple of years so we want to see if we can
revitalize it.”

Another big change could come in the form of no bag limit for
urban zone hunters and those who participate in controlled hunts,
which are already liberalized to the point where hunters in some
areas could have taken seven deer this year. Hunters would still be
able to shoot only one antlered deer per season.

“These (urban hunters) are helping us out and we want to
encourage as much participation as we can,” Risley explained.
“Statistically, nobody kills seven deer anyway so this will have no
impact on the population but just alleviate confusion.”

The urban zones in Ohio are in areas around Cincinnati,
Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Youngstown.

By opening up the bag, wildlife managers also hope to drive more
hunters to donate their venison to food banks. A_state supported
program this year with Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry had
brought in 33,000 pounds of donated venison as of early January
(Ohio Outdoor News, Jan. 2).

Other changes being evaluated includes making antlerless bag
limits zone specific rather than a cumulative statewide limit. If
that is put in place, Risley said “if we had the same (season)
framework as we had this year, you could potentially go out and
kill 12 deer. No one will, but that will alleviate the confusion a
little bit.”

Much confusion has followed the antlerless deer permits since
they were first introduced last year. They could only be used
during the first six weeks of archery season and sales were cut off
in late November. This year, if a hunter purchased one by the
cut-off date of Nov. 30, he or she could have used an antlerless
tag during gun season in the 38-counties of Zone C in southeast and
southwest Ohio.

The proposed changes are intended to streamline the antlerless
regulations to make them easier for the hunter to understand and
put to use. Important to doing that is analyzing the tags’
effectiveness in that Zone C gun hunt. A_good sign, Risley said,
was that sales of the antlerless tags spiked noticeably on Nov. 29
and Nov. 30.

“Buying the permit is just half the issue, though,” he said. “We
have to figure out if people used them.”

Under the season proposals that will be considered in February,
archery season would open Sept. 26 and close Feb. 7, 2010, a full
week longer than it was this season.

The special area muzzleloader hunts would be held Oct. 19
through Oct. 24, and the youth gun weekend is proposed for Nov.
21-22. Traditional gun season would open Nov. 30 and close Dec. 6
with the bonus firearms weekend on Dec. 19-20.

Open houses will be held on Sunday, March 1, in each of the
state’s five wildlife districts to provide the public an
opportunity to view and discuss proposed hunting and trapping
regulations with state wildlife officials. Directions to the open
houses can be obtained by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE or visiting on the Internet.

A statewide hearing on all the proposed rules will be held at 9
a.m., Thursday, March 5, at the wildlife division’s District One
office, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus. After considering public input,
the Ohio Wildlife Council will vote on the proposed rules and
season dates on April 2.

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