Columbus — Ohio bowhunters made up for lost ground on the first weekend in October in the number of deer killed since the season opened Sept. 27.
On opening day, Ohio’s archery deer hunters shot 2,095 deer. This figure represents a 15.22 percent decline from the 2013 opening day bag of 2,471 animals.
However, the to-date tally in the obviously still-young archery deer-hunting season now stands at 9,666 whitetails. For the same 2013 to-date period, the figure was 8,697 deer.
Another way of putting it is that Ohio’s archery deer hunters experienced a nearly 11-percent increase in the to-date statewide whitetail harvest.
Yet this news was only one component addressed during an Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife teleconference with a number of Ohio outdoors writers in early October.
This conference call was held on Oct. 7 and included several of the agency’s chief wildlife management, law enforcement, and public information administrators.
Among some of the conference call’s other touched-upon highlights were the changes made in the use of antlerless-only deer-hunting permits, the inclusion of certain straight-walled rifle cartridges during the statewide general firearms deer-hunting season, and the threat of disease in the herd and associated impact on hunters.
Along with other sundry deer-hunting rules and regulations that are now in play or will be as the rest of the deer-hunting year comes into view.
“We feel pretty good about the rules,” said Ken Fitz, the wildlife division’s law enforcement administrator.
Of concern to the teleconference’s agency-associated collective voice was the matter related to the use of antlerless-only permits. No wonder, since such documents are legal to use in some counties but are not permitted in others.
Here is a for instance: In Northeast Ohio, deer hunters in Lake, Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Trumbull, and Portage counties all can use at least one of the less expensive antlerless-only tags up through when the general deer-gun season begins Dec. 1.
However, no antlerless-only permits are eligible for use in Geauga County, which is surrounded on all sides by the aforementioned other counties.
The wildlife division fully understands this new wrinkle in the rules very possibly will add a layer of confusion as to what, when, and where something is legal to use.
All in spite of Fitz’s optimistic “we feel pretty good about the rules,” too.
Thing is, Ohio has just concluded a six-year run of generally stable hunting regulations and nothing is more consistent than change.
“We can’t do our jobs without the tools, and change is one of those tools,” said Mike Tonkovich, the wildlife division’s white-tailed deer management administrator.
Tonkovich said during the teleconference that adjustments, changes, and accommodations are all necessary for Ohio to remain flexible in its ability to best manage the state’s deer herd.
“And I believe that our deer hunters understand this,” Tonkovich said as part of the agency’s “adaptive management” strategy.
“The herd is not the same throughout the state,” Tonkovich also said.
Neither are the new deer-hunting rules. Gone now is the requirement that a slug shotgun or a straight-walled caliber-using rifle must be plugged so that the firearm can handle only two rounds in a magazine and one round in the chamber.
Even so, a deer hunter is still limited to a maximum of three rounds in a firearm at any one time.
Fitz does say his staff of county-assigned wildlife officers and other commissioned staff will be afield, watching to see how many cartridges or slugs a hunter slips into a firearm, ejects from a firearm, or else cuts loose at a deer.
“It won’t be as easy to enforce,” Fitz did say.
In terms of the number of citations issued during the 2013 statewide general firearms deer-hunting season, having an unplugged shotgun ranked fourth at 89, or just one citation less than hunting without written permission (90 violations) but far more than the failure to wear hunter orange at 32 citations issued.
With the advent of the use of certain straight-walled calibers and the yes/no use of antlerless-only permits, the field officers will have some wiggle room in dealing with game law violators, Fitz said.
“I’m not going to second-guess what our officers do,” Fitz said.
Still, in the end it is up to each individual deer hunter to know the rules, regardless of how clumsy they may seem on the surface.
That is why – said Suzie Vance, the person in charge of the wildlife division’s public information section – it is important for all Ohio deer hunters to bone up on the rules, old as well as new.
These requirements are found within the Wildlife Division’s 44-page “Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations 2014-2015” game law digest.
If some rule still stumps a hunter that person can call the Wildlife Division’s Call Center hotline at (800) 945-3543.