Deer-archery season ended Sunday, Feb. 2, bringing all deer hunting seasons to a close.
Ohio hunters checked 191,459 white-tailed deer during the 2013-2014 hunting season for all implements. That is drastic drop from the year before. Hunters checked 218,910 deer during the 2012-2103 hunting season. This decline in the deer hunter harvest comes following several years of liberal bag limits and deer regulations, which helped bring Ohio’s white-tailed deer population closer to target levels.
According to the ODNR Division of Wildlife, they remain committed to properly managing Ohio’s deer populations through a combination of regulatory and programmatic changes. The goal of Ohio’s Deer Management Program is to provide a deer population that maximizes recreational opportunities, while minimizing conflicts with landowners and motorists. This ensures that Ohio’s deer herd is maintained at a level that is both acceptable to most, and biologically sound.
Until recently, the populations in nearly all of Ohio’s counties were above their target numbers. In the last few years, through increased harvests, dramatic strides have been made in many counties to bring those populations closer toward their goal. Once a county’s deer population is near goal, harvest regulations are adjusted to maintain the population near that goal.
The Ohio counties that reported the most checked deer for all implements during the 2013-2014 season: Coshocton (6,270), Tuscarawas (5,774), Licking (5,711), Muskingum (5,547), Guernsey (5,307), Ashtabula (4,981), Harrison (4,533), Knox (4,529), Carroll (4,203) and Athens (4,053). Coshocton County also reported the most deer harvested in 2012-2013 (7,413). Locally, Richland hunters tagged in 3,242 deer compared to last year’s 3,878. Morrow county hunters bagged 1,549 deer compared to last year’s 1,936.
Hunters continue to utilize various methods to report deer kills. Since the deer season began on Sept. 28, 2013, 47 percent of hunters phoned in their report, 32 percent reported online, 11 percent traveled to a license agent’s location, and 10 percent used the new mobile-friendly website.
• As the 20013-14 comes to an end, plans are already being made for next year. Last week, the Ohio Wildlife Council received the 2014-2015 hunting proposals for deer season dates, changes to deer bag limits and the possibility of allowing some straight-walled rifle cartridges for deer hunting.
ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists proposed that 2014-2015 deer hunting season dates remain consistent with previous years, with one exception. In an effort to provide more potential hunting opportunity, it was proposed that deer-muzzleloader season begin on Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, and end on Monday, Jan. 5, compared to last year when the season began on a Saturday and concluded on a Tuesday. A proposal to continue the October antlerless deer-muzzleloader weekend for a second season was also introduced.
Proposed seasons for 2014-2015: Deer archery: Sept. 27, 2014 - Feb. 1, 2015; Antlerless deer muzzleloader: Oct. 11-12, 2014; Youth deer gun: Nov. 22-23, 2014; Deer gun: Dec. 1-7, 2014; Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 2-5, 2015
Bag limit proposals reflect the reduction in the deer population in many counties as numbers continue to move closer to target levels. The proposal presented to the council called for a reduction in 44 counties and an increase in five counties, while bag limits in 39 counties would remain the same.
It was also proposed that antlerless tags be eliminated in some counties as deer populations approach target levels. Antlerless tags were introduced as a way to reduce Ohio’s deer herd, and have been successful, thereby eliminating their need in certain counties.
Proposed county deer bag limits: Two (no more than one antlerless permit): Auglaize, Darke, Fayette, Hancock and Madison counties. Three (no more than one antlerless permit): Adams, Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Athens, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Columbiana, Crawford, Erie, Hardin, Henry, Highland, Huron, Knox, Lawrence, Licking, Logan, Lorain, Marion, Medina, Morgan, Ottawa, Paulding, Pickaway, Pike, Preble, Putnam, Ross, Sandusky, Scioto, Seneca, Shelby, Tuscarawas, Union, Vinton, Wayne, Wood and Wyandot counties. Three (antlerless permits are not valid): Belmont, Carroll, Coshocton, Defiance, Fairfield, Fulton, Gallia, Geauga, Greene, Guernsey, Harrison, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Meigs, Mercer, Miami, Monroe, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Richland, Van Wert, Washington and Williams counties. Four (no more than one antlerless permit): Brown, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Delaware, Franklin, Hamilton, Lake, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Portage, Stark, Summit, Trumbull and Warren counties.
A proposal was also offered that would allow the use of pistol cartridge rifles for deer hunting. The proposed rifles are the same caliber and use the same straight-walled cartridges that are currently legal for use in handguns. The proposal is designed to allow additional gun-hunting opportunities for hunters that own these guns or want to hunt with these guns. These rifles have reduced recoil compared to larger shotguns, and the proposed rifles are more accurate than the same caliber handgun.
Proposed hunting rifles are chambered for the following calibers: .357 Magnum, .357 Maximum, .38 Special, .375 Super Magnum, .375 Winchester, .38-55, .41 Long Colt, .41 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .444 Marlin, .45 ACP, .45 Colt, .45 Long Colt, .45 Winchester Magnum, .45 Smith & Wesson, .454 Casull, .460 Smith & Wesson, .45-70, .45-90, .45-110, .475 Linebaugh, .50-70, .50-90, .50-100, .50-110 and .500 Smith & Wesson.
Open houses to receive public comments about hunting, trapping and fishing regulations and wildlife issues will be held on Saturday, March 1. Open houses will be held at the ODNR Division of Wildlife District One, District Two, District Three and District Four offices, the Greene County Fish and Game Association clubhouse in Xenia, the Lake Erie Fairport office and the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Regional Welcome Center in Port Clinton. Directions to the open houses can be found at wildohio.com or by calling 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543).
Open houses give the public an opportunity to view and discuss proposed fishing, hunting and trapping regulations with the ODNR Division of Wildlife officials. For Ohioans who are unable to attend an open house, comments will be accepted online at wildohio.com. The online form will be available until Sunday, March 2. A statewide hearing on all of the proposed rules will be held at the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s District One office on Thursday, March 6, at 9 a.m.
The office is located at 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, Ohio 43215. Council meetings are open to the public. Individuals who want to provide comments on a topic that is currently being considered by council are asked to preregister at least two days prior to the meeting by calling 614-265-6304. All comments are required to be three minutes or less.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!