OH: Online hunting match program possibly on way out

Huntohiofarms.com has been less than successful,
Division of Wildlife indicates

Athens, Ohio – A pilot project begun by the DNR Division of
Wildlife several years ago to match farmers and hunters could be on
its last legs.

The project, huntohiofarms.com, was started at the urging of the
Ohio Farm Bureau to match farmers suffering crop damage with
willing hunters.

The Division of Wildlife recently drafted a letter to the Ohio Farm
Bureau, telling it that huntohiofarms.com will likely go away if
better results aren’t achieved.

The Division of Wildlife has invested $10,000 in getting the
website up, running, and maintaining over the past couple of years,
said Mike Tonkovich, deer project leader for the Division of
Wildlife.

“It certainly isn’t a lot of money, but every little bit these days
is important,” Tonkovich said.

Starting in the summer of 2009, huntohiofarms.com first signed up
83 farmers across the four-county area of Tuscarawas, Jefferson,
Harrison, and Carroll. In all 9,000 hunters signed up to be part of
the program.

“The Ohio Farm Bureau at that time was pushing hard for expansion
of the program in 2010,” Tonkovich said. “The Farm Bureau said it
had farmers and landowners across the southeast requesting that
they be allowed to enroll in this program.”

At the end of the first year, the Division of Wildlife sent a
survey to all 83 landowners enrolled in the program to gauge actual
participation. Only 21 of them responded, according to Tonkovich’s
figures.

“We had no way of knowing whether (landowners) were actually
allowing people to hunt until we did the survey,” the biologist
said.

Fifty-five percent of the 21 landowners who responded indicated
that they had contacted a hunter for help with their crop
damage.

“Now, that doesn’t mean that a hunter actually hunted or if he
killed a deer on that property,” Tonkovich said. “It just told us
that 55 percent said they actually contacted a hunter.”

In 2010, huntohiofarms.com was expanded to include properties in
the 38 counties of deer Zone C, which comprises the densest portion
of the deer population in Ohio.

In 2010, another 5,000 hunters were added to the list of available
help and 26 more landowners signed up.

Also in the fall of 2010, the Division of Wildlife sent letters to
all property owners in deer Zone C who had applied for crop damage
permits, telling them about the online program.

The Division of Wildlife, Tonkovich said, figured it would add many
more landowners to the mix through the survey, but that didn’t
happen.

“So, we were obviously very disappointed with the
results,” Tonkovich said.

At the end of 2010, the Division of Wildlife surveyed the new
landowners enrolled in the program with only six responses,
Tonkovich said.

“The long and short of it is that there was a genuine lack of
interest from the farming community,” he said.

The Division of Wildlife, Tonkovich said, expected a return letter
from the Farm Bureau by Oct. 21 for advice on what to do with the
program.

“We’ve never really identified where the squeaky wheel is at,”
Tonkovich said. “We thought it was the farmers who were
experiencing crop damage. Apparently, they have found a tool that
is working sufficiently well for them on crop damage permits.
Perhaps we missed the mark in identifying who this program is
actually for.

“There’s a program out there that farmers are already using,”
Tonkovich said, referring to crop damage permits. “We need to
figure out a way to wean them off of it.”

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