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

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Deer harvest could be smaller

Starting herd will be smaller; Deer kill topped a quarter
million last year

Athens, Ohio – Coming off a year where a record 252,017 deer
were killed, there’s no place to go but up for Ohio deer hunters,
right?

Not necessarily.

The good news, according to the DNR Division of Wildlife, is
that it appears that more antlerless opportunities and greater
hunter awareness of regulatory changes, not more deer, were
responsible for the increase last year. Deer population indices all
suggest that Ohio’s herd was slightly smaller last fall.

That again is expected to be the case this fall with a beginning
herd of around 650,000 deer.

That doesn’t, however, mean that this year is not going to be
another record-breaker.

“You can still see a higher harvest from a smaller population,”
said Mike Tonkovich, wildlife research biologist and deer project
leader for the Division of Wildlife.

That’s exactly what happened last year, a year in which the
Division of Wildlife was honored with the Quality Deer Management
Association’s Agency of the Year Award.

“The ODNR Division of Wildlife has realized extraordinary
results from new programs it has established, as well as through
continued efforts to maintain excellence in seasoned programs,” the
QDMA said in announcing the award.

Some examples of deer management improvements enacted last fall
by the Division of Wildlife include making a reduced-cost permit
available during archery season that resulted in the harvest of
more antlerless deer earlier in the season, as well as the harvest
of fewer bucks than in previous years.

_”For nonresidents, (the award) might make the difference
between (hunting) in Kansas or Ohio,” Tonkovich said. “It’s going
to bring some attention to us, certainly.”

The big news is that Ohio hunters are thinning out the deer
herd. This year’s starting number of 650,000 is about 50,000-75,000
less than last year’s starting number.

As a result, hunters should be aware that they probably will see
fewer deer this year. That was the case last year when bowhunters
reported seeing 11 percent fewer deer from their stands than in the
previous year. Also, the number of deer carcasses removed from
state highways last year was down 7 percent from 2007.

“I asked a colleague to look over our data and he said ‘I hope
you intended to get into the herd because you certainly have,'”
said Tonkovich.

Although the fall 2008 herd was smaller than the previous year,
hunters harvested nearly 15 percent more does but the buck harvest
did not increase. It signals a shift in hunter priority – they’re
just settling for does more often.

“If you are shooting a doe, dragging a doe, and processing a
doe, you’re not killing a buck,” Tonkovich said. “Those things all
take time in the field.”

The reduced cost antlerless permits are the biggest factor in
the 15 percent increase in doe harvest last year, Tonkovich said.
It was the third year in the program.

“It just takes time for hunters to recognize and take part in
these programs, knowing when they can use these permits and when
they cannot,” he said. “I think they finally caught up to it in
2008.”

If he had to make a prediction, Tonkovich said this year’s
overall harvest will be equal or slightly less than it was last
year. Those figures work out just fine for the Division of Wildlife
and it should provide for a satisfactory deer hunt for Ohio
hunters.

“The goal is not to kill a quarter million deer every year,”
Tonkovich said. “We’re well above goal in every county… But, I
think we’re finally making progress.”

In other words, Tonkovich said, the herd is becoming more
balanced and healthy, which is obviously the overriding goal of
deer managers.

“We are reducing the size of the antlerless herd but at the same
time increasing the productivity of the remaining does,” he said.
“I think we’re on the right track.”

The one big change in regulations this year is that zone bag
limits are additive, meaning for example if you shoot two deer in
Zone A you can still go to Zone B and hunt for another four deer.
As in all previous years, only one of those deer may be a buck,
regardless of zone.

Deer managers don’t think this change will make much of a
difference in the overall harvest but it just simplifies
regulations.

“It’s not as if people are going to be stepping up to the plate
and harvesting 18 deer,” Tonkovich said. “We know that’s not going
to happen.”

So, what’s in store for 2010?

One possibility is the elimination of the requirement for a
temporary tag. This would ostensibly allow hunters to shoot a doe
and then continue hunting without getting out of his or her stand
to tag that deer. That predictably would allow for more
harvest.

“I’m hearing that from some of the officers in the field so
we’ll see where that goes,” Tonkovich said. “There is a few small
changes we can continue to make.

“Its not as if we’re going to wake up one day and see no more
deer,” he said. “But, I think what were going to find is that if we
continue to make changes folks are going to see a difference. The
goal is still to keep those deer populations at target.”

€ This year’s bow season opens Sept. 26 and runs through Feb. 7,
2010.

€ Youth gun season is Nov. 21-22.

€ The traditional gun week is open Nov. 30 to Dec. 6

€ The bonus gun weekend is Dec. 19-20.

€ Muzzleloader season is open statewide Jan. 9 to Jan. 12.

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