Columbus — A computer glitch and a nearly forgotten federal holiday tripped up releasing the harvest figures for Ohio’s first-ever antlerless-only/muzzleloading deer-hunting season.
This season ran Oct. 12-13, and was implemented amongst much pro and con fanfare.
When the oily white plume of blackpowder (or its substitute) smoke cleared, the two-day season’s hunters killed 5,608 antlerless deer; button bucks plus adult does and fawn does.
On top of the heap with a reported harvest of 200 deer was Ashtabula County, followed by Licking County with 163 harvested deer, then Guernsey County with a reported kill of 144 antlerless animals, and just ahead of Muskingum County with 143 reported harvested deer.
Every one of Ohio’s 88 counties saw a recording of deer killed during the two-day season, too.
Among the counties with the fewest number of deer reported harvested were Cuyahoga County (five), Fayette County (seven), and Franklin and Summit counties (nine each).
Also, in all, 16 counties saw harvest figures in triple digits.
In the end, the actual total harvest fell within the crystal ball prognostications of the state’s leading deer-management supervisor.
“I anticipated we’d see a harvest of between 5,000 and 8,000 deer,” said Mike Tonkovich, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s deer management administrator.
Even so, Tonkovich admitted there were some issues. Not with the season, per se, but with the system designed to provide timely statistical results.
Among them was some sort of computer software hiccup exchange between the state’s computer and the Missouri-based server the agency relies on to manage, record, and tabulate.
“Initially, according to our records we didn’t kill any deer,” Tonkovich said with a chuckle. “But our Office of Information and Technology got it all sorted out.”
An issue that wasn’t factored into the equation when the wildlife division’s leaders and eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council approved the new hunt was that the Monday following the two-day season also happened to be Columbus Day.
And Columbus Day is a federally declared holiday whereby most state and federal employees enjoy a paid day off from work. That perk applies to those folks who work for the wildlife division.
Consequently, said Tonkovich, no one was in the office on Monday (Oct. 14) either to straighten out the computer glitch or to provide the media and others with the season’s harvest figures.
And hunters can anticipate that in the future this same back-to-back antlerless-only/muzzleloading/Columbus Day scenario will become the norm and not the exception.
That is, so long as the wildlife division believes such a season is useful in promoting a reduction in the state’s deer herd, Tonkovich says as well.
Yet it’s going to take time before this newly established strategy will play itself out, Tonkovich says.
“There are no guarantees that this antlerless-only, muzzleloading-only season will become part of our long-term deer management program,” Tonkovich says. “We’ll have to look at the overall antlerless harvest in February to see how things stack up and how it may or may not have changed the dynamics of our management plan.”
At the core, too, will be how many of the season’s successful hunters will continue to go afield in an effort to legally shoot their second, third – or more – deer, says Tonkovich.
Which is asking a lot from hunters.
A cold, hard look at deer harvest statistics and hunter participation shows that last year 73 percent of successful Ohio deer hunters killed only one animal while 20 percent harvested two deer.
After that, the figures of hunter harvest plummet. Only five percent of Ohio’s successful deer hunters shot three animals last year, while only two percent harvested four or more deer, says Tonkovich.
“We want hunters to stay out there in the field,” Tonkovich said.
One hunter who was out in the field this weekend was Bill Burwinkel of Cincinnati. Burwinkel was successful in killing a doe on the Sunday of the hunt after hunting on and off most of the day.
“This is the first year that I’ve muzzleloader hunted in a couple of years now,” said Burwinkel, who killed his deer in Hamilton County. “This is the first year I’ve been a bowhunter, too, though I was using a muzzleloader this weekend.
“As a new bowhunter, I thought it was kind of interesting to have a muzzleloader weekend this early,” he said. “I’m not really sure how it’s going to affect the rest of the season but I’m excited to see how it plays out.”
Burwinkel, who was hunting private land, said he didn’t see any other hunters. But, he knew of some friends who also took advantage of the newly-instituted season, about half of whom were successful in killing a deer.
Ohio Outdoor News Editor Mike Moore also contributed to this report.
Editor’s Note: A list of all white-tailed deer checked by muzzleloader hunters during the 2013 antlerless muzzleloader hunting season, Oct. 12-13, is shown below. The antlerless muzzleloader harvest numbers do not include archery numbers.
Adams: 135; Allen: 46; Ashland: 111; Ashtabula: 200; Athens: 117; Auglaize: 39; Belmont: 99; Brown: 94; Butler: 57; Carroll: 120; Champaign: 36; Clark: 28; Clermont: 91; Clinton: 34; Columbiana: 128; Coshocton: 138; Crawford: 32; Cuyahoga: 5; Darke: 26; Defiance: 48; Delaware: 38; Erie: 25; Fairfield: 51; Fayette: 7; Franklin: 9; Fulton: 29; Gallia: 60; Geauga: 63; Greene: 26; Guernsey: 144; Hamilton: 18; Hancock: 31; Hardin: 43; Harrison: 115; Henry: 14; Highland: 79; Hocking: 103; Holmes: 89; Huron: 80; Jackson: 62; Jefferson: 82; Knox: 141; Lake: 18; Lawrence: 54; Licking: 164; Logan: 77; Lorain: 83; Lucas: 28; Madison: 19; Mahoning: 75; Marion: 27; Medina: 68; Meigs: 88; Mercer: 26; Miami: 20; Monroe: 68; Montgomery: 18; Morgan: 65; Morrow: 53; Muskingum: 143; Noble: 83; Ottawa: 10; Paulding: 56; Perry: 54; Pickaway: 18; Pike: 51; Portage: 64; Preble: 41; Putnam: 33; Richland: 105; Ross: 85; Sandusky: 27; Scioto: 64; Seneca: 69; Shelby: 63; Stark: 66; Summit: 9; Trumbull: 117; Tuscarawas: 115; Union: 32; Van Wert: 19; Vinton: 79; Warren: 39; Washington: 72; Wayne: 83; Williams: 93; Wood: 16; and Wyandot: 58. Total: 5,608.