Ohio council rejects deer amendments

Columbus — Those hunters who pined for the extra shotgun weekend will not get their wish fulfilled after all.

In a move unprecedented in recent memory, the DNR Division of Wildlife reversed its course in eliminating the two-day shotgun weekend in December. In its place was a proposed two-day gun hunt on Jan. 3-4, 2014, immediately preceding the statewide muzzleloader season (Jan. 5-7, 2014).

But, possibly more surprising is the fact that the Ohio Wildlife Council on May 15 rejected the new amendments.

Moot now is that during the two-day hunt, deer were allowed to be pursued with all legal hunting equipment, including shotguns, handguns, muzzleloaders and bow from one half-hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset.

“We are proposing to add a day to the existing muzzleloader season, for a total of five days of January gun hunting,” said DNR Division of Wildlife Chief Scott Zody. “The first two days will be open to all legal firearms, while the last three days will be restricted to muzzleloaders.”

The Ohio Wildlife Council also considered a proposal to adjust the bag limits in Hocking, Perry, and Ross counties to four deer. The bag limit in these counties was initially proposed as three deer.

Why changes to the regulations now, especially since the wildlife council has already passed a package of deer hunting proposals on April 17?

“We are on a very tight timeline to get our rules finalized,” Zody said. “We had to refile the rule this week … We wanted to try to get this turned around as quickly as we could and get the word out as quickly as we could.

“Following the council vote on (April) 17, I had asked our staff … to take pause here and take one last look at these proposals,” Zody continued. “There were some concerns that had been raised throughout the process and we knew we were making a lot of change in a short period of time.”

But, why make the change for this season rather than just throw these ideas in the hopper for potential change next year?

“We knew we were covering a lot of ground with this year’s proposals and looking at the things we were proposing, these two things that we are proposing are not going to break us  one way or another,” Zody said.

“Whether we stayed with what we had or whether we changed it this year, I don’t think it was critical one way or the other.”

The Division of Wildlife, Zody said, reconsidered abandoning the two-day gun hunt after the public input process.

“The comments we received throughout the open house process and on the Internet was split almost 50-50 of those who supported (the extra gun weekend) and those who opposed it. We thought ‘maybe it’s not working in the middle of December and maybe if we try to put those dates somewhere else … that might be something that would be more acceptable,’” Zody said.

Tom Cross, the director of the Adams County Visitor’s Bureau, says that previously approved antlerless-only muzzleloader season in October will have a financial impact on his Appalachian county.

“We have a lot of businesses  that are full during bow season,” Cross said. “(Hunters) are not here to hunt does. They’re here to hunt for one of them Adams County trophies. By not allowing the tagging of a buck during that season is going to have financial repercussions for these businesses. These guys who are driving here from North Carolina aren’t coming here to shoot does.”

Zody said some thought went into the selection of Oct. 12-13 for the doe-only muzzleloader hunt.

“We specifically picked that weekend in October because it’s one of the lowest for deer harvests,” he said. “Last year, there were 2,000 deer harvested on that weekend and of that, 75 percent were antlerless deer.

I don’t think we’re going to  have a great impact on bowhunting or guys who are chasing trophy bucks on that weekend.”

Denny Malloy, a field director for Whitetails Unlimited in Ohio, said opening up a gun hunt just before muzzleloader season seems counterproductive.

“That’s five days straight of gun season and we’re to expect a wildlife officer to work,” Malloy said. “There’s definitely going to be breaks in between where nobody is on duty … I think we’re just mixing too many things together and it doesn’t seem too logical.”

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