Despite enduring some poor weather, hunters in Ohio checked 60,557 white-tailed deer during the 2018 week long deer-gun season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Last year, hunters checked 72,814 deer over the same period.
Locally, the harvest numbers were horrible. Morrow, Richland, Knox, Marion, and Crawford counties were way down from last year. Why the drastic change? Some of it was the weather for sure. The weather was extremely tough on the opener but I am not completely convinced that the poor harvest is all weather related because the weather did improve throughout the week. Are there less deer in the area than there used to be?
My unscientific observation and speaking with other hunters is that yes, the local population isn’t what is used to be thanks to very liberal limits a few years ago in attempt to reduce the state deer herd. But, even though the deer population overall may be down a bit, there was still plenty of deer out there to harvest. So what is the biggest cause of the drop in deer harvest numbers locally? In my opinion, it’s the lack of hunters out pursuing deer during the gun season.
I can tell you as a high school teacher for thirty years, the number of absences we had on opening day for deer gun season was no different than a normal school day. Hardly any of my students took the day off to hunt. Ten or fifteen years ago, the absence list would have been two pages long for the opener. Not any more. Why is that? Well, I am sure the increased opportunity to harvest deer in Ohio has a lot to do with that. With the increased popularity of bow hunting and the legality of of using a crossbow during the archery season, many hunters are bagging their deer earlier in the fall. Add to that the availability of the youth gun weekend, several of my students are taking advantage of the early opportunity to bag a deer, which is great.
But, I can tell you, even in rural Morrow County, as we continue to lose more of our ruralness every year, I am seeing less and less of our youth take up the sport of hunting. There are various reasons for that. Kids are very busy now a days and their faces are buried in PlayStations and cell phones but a lot of it also has to do with a lack of opportunity and the loss of the family tradition of hunting. As I drove around in the evenings and the weekend of the gun season, I saw very few hunters out. I certainly didn’t see the large drives that involved multiple hunters that I used to see growing up. Deer hunting isn’t quite the family affair that it used to be. It’s sad to witness and I am not sure where the sport of hunting is heading but it should be a cause of alarm for those that want to preserve the sport. It’s a trend, unfortunately, that I am not sure can be reversed.
For Ohio hunters who missed the deer-gun week, there are still more options to pursue deer. Hunters can enjoy two more days of deer-gun season on Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16, and muzzleloader season is Jan. 5-8, 2019. Ohio hunters still have two months left of deer archery season, which remains open through Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Find more information about deer hunting in the 2018-2019 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations or at wildohio.gov.
Past year’s harvest summaries and weekly updated harvest reports can be found at wildohio.gov/deerharvest.
For the first time this year, Ohio resident hunters can purchase multi-year and lifetime licenses at wildohio.gov and at hundreds of participating agents throughout the state. License buyers can choose from 3-year, 5-year, 10-year and lifetime hunting or fishing licenses. All money generated from the sale of multiyear and lifetime licenses is deposited into the Wildlife Fund, where it will be used to protect and enhance Ohio’s wildlife populations.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife remains committed to properly managing Ohio’s deer populations. 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.
Ohio ranks fifth nationally in resident hunters and 11th in the number of jobs associated with hunting-related industries. Hunting has a more than $853 million economic impact in Ohio through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging and more, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Hunting in America: An Economic Force for Conservation publication.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.