Muzzleloader kill chilled by temps

Columbus — It would appear that Winter Storm Ion has frost-bitten Ohio’s statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season.

And even though the season's first two days – Saturday and Sunday – had respectable hunting weather across much of Ohio, the harvest was still off by more than 9 percent.

Preliminary figures supplied by the DNR Division of Wildlife show that on Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 4 and 5), muzzle-loading hunters killed 12,625 deer.

The harvest for the first two days of the 2013 statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season was 13,912 animals.

With life-threatening winter storm warnings blanketing the entire state through Jan. 8, almost certainly very few deer will have been taken Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, the final two days of this year’s season.

Thus it is highly unlikely that last year's muzzle-loading season total harvest of 21,555 animals will be breached, let alone the all-time record of 25,006, achieved in 2009.

After the first two days of the four-day season – only 17 of Ohio’s 88 counties had posted gains in their harvest. And the vast majority of these counties are not in the top tier of typically large deer-harvest-associated counties, either.

Among the big to-date fall-behinds are (2013 versus 2014): Ashtabula County – 229 versus 259 (off 13.13 percent); Brown County – 187 versus 209 (off 10.53 percent); Coshocton County – 511 versus 543 (off 5.89 percent); Guernsey County – 507 versus 553 (off 6.32 percent); Harrison County – 402 versus 451 (off 10.86 percent); Knox County – 296 versus 342 (off 13.45 percent); Noble County – 255 versus 304 (off 16.12 percent); Richland County – 180 versus 241 (off 25.31 percent); and Tuscarawas County – 460 versus 519 (off 11.37 percent).

In Northeast Ohio and besides Ashtabula County, declines occurred as well. Among them: Lake County – 16 versus 35 (off 54.29 percent); Geauga County – 67 versus 69 (off 2.9 percent); Trumbull County – 152 versus 200 (off 24 percent); Lorain County – 108 versus 133 (off 18.8 percent).

Some traditionally go-to deer-hunting counties have (so far, anyway) bucked the downward trend. Among them are: Adams County – 241 versus 211 (up 14.22 percent); Ashland County – 223 versus 198 (up 12.63 percent); Holmes County – 270 versus 252 (up 7.14 percent); Lawrence County – 172 versus 152 (up 13.16 percent); and Washington County – 309 versus 289 (up 6.92 percent).

Overall, for all of Ohio’s various archery and firearms-related deer-hunting seasons, the statewide total as of January is 185,965 animals. The compatible to-date figure for 2013 was 209,215, or off 12.12 percent.

To date only seven of Ohio’s 88 counties have seen net gains, and none by overwhelming percentages. These seven counties are: Ashtabula County (up 1.29 percent); Erie County – up 9 percent; Lucas County – up 3.9 percent; Mahoning County – up 9.7 percent; Ottawa County – up 6.94 percent; Stark County – up 0.08 percent; Trumbull County – up 1.93 percent.

The statewide archery deer-hunting season runs through one-half hour after sunset on Feb. 2.

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