Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Ranks of out-of-state hunters up in Ohio

Columbus – It’s no secret that more nonresidents are coming to
Ohio each year to hunt, but what may be a surprise is how those
numbers are rising.

The top states bringing nonresidents to Ohio to hunt has
increased every year for the past decade, according to Mike
Tonkovich, a deer biologist for the DNR Division of Wildlife.

What may be more enlightening, though, is where they are coming
from. According to 2007-2008 sales statistics, more nonresidents
are coming in from Pennsylvania (6,951 licenses sold) than any
other state, and the also-contiguous states of West Virginia
(4,641) and Michigan (3,516) round out the top three. But, four of
the top 10 are southern states (Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee
and Georgia).

“It wasn’t long ago when Ohio had just 10,000 nonresident
hunters coming in,” said Tonkovich. “It has increased 4 to 5
percent over the past 10 years. It has really grown here.”

In 2007-2008, it only took two neighboring states – Pennsylvania
and West Virginia – to bring in more than 10,000 hunters. The total
number was more than 32,000. A new record for nonresident license
sales has been set in each consecutive year since 1999, Tonkovich
said.

“I guess (Mike) Beatty’s buck in 2001, then the (Brad) Jerman
buck right after that and then more recently the (Jonathan)
Schmucker buck really put us on the big buck map,” the biologist
said. “Then, throw into the mix the incredible license fees (in
other Midwest) states and that got folks looking at Ohio. I_think
it has just kind of snowballed.”

Ohio has since become a destination for nonresident hunters. The
top 11 states on the 2007-2008 chart each brought more than 1,000
hunters to Ohio.

“It wasn’t that long ago when people were driving through Ohio
to get to Kansas to hunt,” Tonkovich said.

All 50 states brought at least four hunters to Ohio last year,
and three came from Puerto Rico. Eleven people from Hawaii came
here to hunt in 2007-2008.

Last year, nonresidents accounted for 7 percent (approximately
32,000) of hunting license sales and 40 percent of hunting license
revenue, which amounted to nearly $4 million. That number doesn’t
include deer or turkey permits, which obviously push it higher. It
costs a nonresident $149 for a hunting license and a deer tag in
Ohio.

Ohio obviously doesn’t want to lose its nonresident revenue, but
there may be a larger reason to be nonresident friendly, Tonkovich
said.

“The big question is: Can we afford to lose even a small portion
of the (hunting) population that continues to shrink every year?”
he said. “I don’t think we can do that.”

Here are some more statistics to consider.

Last year, nonresidents accounted for approximately 6 percent of
the harvest. And, 54 percent of the 2008-2009 nonresident harvest
was in the form of antlerless deer. Hunters from Maine, New
Hampshire and California took a larger proportion of antlerless
deer (66 percent) than Ohio residents did.

It is for this reason, Tonkovich said, that Ohio doesn’t want to
chase its nonresidents away.

“They’re not coming up here, gobbling up our bucks,” he said.
“But, it’s easy to attack nonresidents when you see license plates
from other states on your favorite public hunting area.”

The Division of Wildlife, though, is committed to giving serious
consideration to its pricing structure, Tonkovich said. That seems
to be the beef with the majority of resident hunters, he said.

“But, we’re not going to raise the rates just because we can and
everybody else is doing it,” Tonkovich said. “There has to be a
better reason.”

In addition to those who are hunting on public property, even
more hunters are leasing or buying land in Ohio. Like it or not,
that economic reality isn’t likely to change in the near future so
we should expect even more nonresidents to hunt within our
borders.

Those nonresidents who are only hunting for antlers aren’t
necessarily the best deer managers. But, as the statistics show,
many more nonresidents are shooting antlerless deer, providing a
valuable resource for Ohio deer authorities.

“In many of these states, they don’t have the deer densities
like we do,” Tonkovich said. “So, coming over here and shooting a
big doe is a big deal to them. For those from the southern states,
they’ve never seen does the size of which we have. They’re just
drooling over these big deer.”

Nonresidents by and large also don’t want to go home empty
handed.

“They have to haul their trailers, ATVs, and whatnot back anyway
so (hauling) 40 pounds of venison isn’t a big deal,” he said. “It’s
a matter of economics. If you’re spending money to come to Ohio,
you’re going to take something back with you.”

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