Ohio biologists delve into status of deer population

Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager, said it isn’t clear whether the additional positives indicate a westward expansion of the disease or individual deer movements, given that all the presumptive positive deer were adult males.

Most of us deer hunters can’t stop thinking about big bucks here at the onset of the rut, and it is timely to review of a thoughtful discussion by Ohio’s top deer biologists, Mike Tonkovich and Clint McCoy.

They produced a document called “Quality vs. Quantity: a closer look at deer herd condition in Ohio,” and you can google it up on-line by using the keywords “ODNR” and then the title of the document. It has been disseminated widely since it was released more than a year ago, including a discussion in my own print column, “Open Season,” in Ohio Outdoor News. It recently was reproduced almost verbatim in a national deer hunting magazine, which has revived interest in the topic.

The gist of Tonkovich and McCoy’s professional take on the status of the Ohio deer herd is that herd health and habitat health are the keys to producing big deer and trophy bucks. Surprisingly, trophy buck antler-beam size has been declining in Ohio since the early 1970s and is related to increases in the deer population and, in most regions, declines in habitat quality. The changes are subtle and slow – not obvious to the casual eye on the tailgate of a pickup truck – and that has caused some criticism of state deer management over the years.

I will leave it to you to read and digest the whole quality-versus-quantity paper, as space does not permit a thorough discussion here. But do read it, and keep an open mind. Tonkovich and McCoy know what they are talking about, back up their words with years of painstaking research, and tell their story clearly and understandably.

Once you understand the real story of Ohio deer status, it will be easier to understand why deer hunting regulations, especially seasons and limits, are proposed and set they way they are.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Hunting News, Ohio – Steve Pollick, Whitetail Deer

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