Hunters checked 73,399 white-tailed deer during Ohio’s 2015 deer-gun hunting season, Nov. 30-Dec. 6, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife.. This represents a significant increase over last year’s harvest of 65,484 deer. During the 2013 deer-gun season, 75,408 deer were checked.

To date, for the 2015 deer hunting seasons, hunters have checked 152,554 deer. Last year at this same time, hunters had harvested a total of 148,821 deer. Given that the year-to-date harvest is only slightly higher, the significant increase in this year’s deer-gun season can most likely be attributed to better weather conditions compared to the 2014 deer-gun season.

A smaller contributing element could be the fact that there was not an antlerless muzzleloader season in October this year. This year’s harvest was closer to the 2013 deer-gun season harvest, which also points to last year’s poor weather as the primary factor for the increase. Despite the better weather, Morrow county was still down by over 90 head compared to last year’s dismal numbers.

Two days (Monday, Dec. 28, and Tuesday, Dec. 29) of deer-gun season remain. The muzzleloader season is Jan. 9-12, 2016, and archery season remains open through Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife remains 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.

Until recently, deer populations in nearly all of Ohio’s counties were well above goal. In the last few years, through increased antlerless harvests, most counties are now at or near goal. Therefore, to help stabilize deer populations, bag limits were reduced, and antlerless permit use has been eliminated in most counties for the 2015-2016 season.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife is in the process of revising Ohio’s population goals and is asking hunters that receive the survey to help by completing and returning their survey as soon as possible. Hunters for this year’s survey were randomly selected from the list of hunters who purchased a license and deer permit by Nov. 16. Landowner surveys have already been completed, and hunter surveys were mailed last week. Public input is an important part of Ohio’s deer management program, and survey participants are asked to complete and return their surveys to ensure that hunters have a clear voice in helping to decide the direction of deer management in Ohio.

• Hunters harvested 1,536 wild turkeys during Ohio’s 2015 fall wild turkey season, according to the ODNR. Ohio’s 2015 fall wild turkey hunting season was open in 56 counties Oct. 10-Nov. 29. Unfortunately, very few hunters take advantage of our lengthy fall season. Locally, only seventeen birds were tagged in for Morrow county and twenty-one for Richland county.

Wild turkeys were extirpated in Ohio by 1904 and were reintroduced in the 1950s by the ODNR Division of Wildlife. Ohio’s first modern day wild turkey season opened in the spring of 1966 in 9 counties, and hunters checked 12 birds. The wild turkey harvest topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. Spring turkey hunting opened statewide in 2000. Fall turkey season first opened in 19 counties in 1996.

• As good as the weather has been for the turkey and deer hunters, it has been absolute horrid for the waterfowl hunter. The United States Fish and Wildlife predicted near record numbers of ducks for the hunters to chase this fall, but with these spring like temperatures, the majority of the birds are still north of us. There is just no reason for the birds to migrate south yet with the Canadian waterways still unfrozen and the grain fields still uncovered in snow. The duck hunting has been so bad, most of the hunters have temporarily returned to the honey do lists waiting on the weather to change and bring with it some fresh new birds.

It is amazing to think one year ago today we were complaining about being frozen out so soon. What a difference a year can make. It is also important to remember, that no matter what outdoor activity you are doing, particularly if it is pursuing gilled, feathered, or four legged creatures, the weather plays a very strong role in success or failure.

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.

Water and Wings by Ken Parrott