Closer look reveals deer in droves
One hundred and thirty-seven. I write the number out because the mere numeral “137” seems too brief, does not have the impact I seek.
But that is the number of deer my wife and I counted on a recent Sunday evening during a “winter deer ride” in western Sandusky County. Anyone who takes a meandering, leisurely, 30-minute spin along country backroads in his or her home county and spies that many deer would, or should, think that is a lot of deer. In our agricultural northwest Ohio county, it borders on awesome – maybe even troublesome, if you look at it from another way.
We have lived in the same rural homestead for 40 winters, and have watched the deer herd grow steadily. Sandusky County always was one of the state’s west and northwest counties to harbor relatively few deer and thus annually was in the cluster of counties having the most restrictive deer hunting regulations.
Prior to the recent deer-count of 137, our high tally ever for an evening cruise was 67. Just a month ago we spotted 42, still a good average number. So this count was off the charts, astronomically so; did just trot on over from say, Trumbull County or Hocking County, each 150 miles or more distant. They have been here all along.
At four sites we counted 20 to 25 deer at a time; the herds are concentrated, naturally, in late winter. But such numbers, here, in multiple sites make it quite evident that Ohio Division of Wildlife deer managers are right on target in wanting to boost the bag limit in the county come next fall.
At the same time deer have been scare for weeks right around my homestead, which sits high over a little creek bottom. If we had not looked around beyond our home ground and simply projected what we saw, or didn’t see, in our own backyards, we might be complaining about “no deer.” Yet, I know why deer numbers are low around my bailiwick. This winter, the snows have drifted deeply in the bottom, and a couple of quick thaws and floods followed by more deep freeze and snowdrifts have rendered the creek bottom inhospitable.
I know this because I have slogged through it after snowstorms, looking for signs of bedding and even tracks of deer moving through. All were scarce to nonexistent. The deer obviously just moved on to some other woodlots or cover on higher ground where they could find some comfort and protection. I learned that on the recent deer ride.
I have heard and read plenty of no-deer complaints from fellow hunters across the state from the past season. And I will grant that that locally, elsewhere, deer numbers actually may be well down because of several years of very liberal bags and seasons that were aimed right at reducing numbers. As a result deer managers accordingly want to throttle back the kill in some regions. That is the right move in the ongoing balancing act of deer management, just as proposing to boost the take in my home county is the right move.
Here, all I had to do to know that was take a ride and count to 137.