Deer regs not likely to change much next year
Columbus — On the heels of a larger than expected overall deer kill in the 2015-2016 season, proposals for Ohio’s 2016-2017 deer season dates and bag limits to remain mostly unchanged were presented at a recent meeting of the Ohio Wildlife Council.
“We’re set up well to keep our same (deer regulations) package for next year,” said Dave Kohler, administrator for wildlife research and management for the DNR Division of Wildlife.
Among the noteworthy proposals was to move the two-day deer-gun season to Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 28-29.
“We were shooting to have it between Christmas and New Year’s and we know from the process last year that having it right up against Christmas was not good for some people. So, it’s the same time period as it was last year, just different days of the week,” said Kohler.
The county bag limits were proposed to remain the same. The statewide bag limit was proposed to remain at six deer; only one deer may be antlered, and a hunter cannot exceed a county bag limit.
“Biologically speaking, there was no need to make any changes,” said Kohler. “We’re still comfortable where we’re sitting with bag limits and use of the antlerless permits. There is nothing screaming at us to make any changes.”
The proposed deer seasons are as follows:
• Deer archery: Sept. 24, 2016-Feb. 5, 2017
• Youth deer gun: Nov. 19-20, 2016
• Deer gun: Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2016; Dec. 28-29, 2016
• Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 14-17, 2017
During a teleconference with outdoor writers in February, Division of Wildlife officials explained the rationale behind the proposals.
One question that was posed was as to why Ohio has so many gun seasons all situated rather close together.
“What we need to work through and figure out for our long-term deer management plan is our constituents’ opinions,” Kohler said. “For every one who’s saying you’ve got too many gun days there’s others probably saying you don’t have enough.”
Ohio hunters killed 188,335 deer during the recently completed season, marking a 12,590 deer increase from the previous year. Many factors played a role in the bountiful harvest this past season, said Kohler.
“We know we had deer probably more vulnerable to harvest this year just because of the failed mast crop,” Kohler said. “When we have fewer acorns out there, deer have to travel farther. Also, in our western part of Ohio the crops were off a little bit early so that probably played a role, too.”
Is the Division of Wildlife satisfied with deer populations in the state?
“Most areas of the state, according to our recent goal setting meetings, can stand to grow the population just a little bit,” said Clint McCoy, a deer biologist with the Division of Wildlife. “So, there’s not any particular area of the state that is of more concern than another. They’re all pretty well close to or have reached (population) goal.”
The Ohio Wildlife Council will vote on all proposals after receiving public input.
A statewide hearing on all of the proposed rules will be held at the DNR Division of Wildlife’s District 1 office on Thursday, March 17, at 9 a.m. The office is at 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, Ohio 43215.
The Division of Wildlife last fall sent out more than 18,000 surveys to deer hunters and received in return about 6,000, which is a 30 percent return rate, said McCoy.
Also, the number of nonresident hunters in Ohio was near its peak in 2015-2016, said Mike Tonkovich, deer project leader for the Division of Wildlife. Last year, 39,360 nonresident hunting licenses were sold. That compares to the high water mark for nonresident hunters in 2012 when 39,4777 licenses were sold.
There is currently no proposal on the table that would raise nonresident license fees, said Susie Vance, administrator for information and education with the Division of Wildlife. Proposals that would have raised the nonresident fees were shot down in the legislature in each of the past two years.