Early on deer kill lagging in numbers

A lackluster Ohio firearms deer-hunting season did nothing to bolster the state’s to-date white-tail kill.

As of December 6th Ohio’s deer hunters have taken 143,602 animals. That number is 9,690 fewer deer harvested than the comparable 2015 to-date kill of 153,292 animals.

However, not to worry, says the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s wildlife management biologist and supervisor Mike Tonkovich who opines scientifically that “… last year hunters enjoyed higher than normal success due to a mast crop failure in most regions of the state.”

“Thus, it may be more appropriate to compare this year with 2014 or an average of 2015, and 2016 with 2014,” Tonkovich says.

Still, the current, raw to-date numbers are reflecting that fewer deer have walked within the gun and bow sights of hunters. And a closer examination of the 2015 to-date deer kill compared to the 2016 respective to-date figures is pointing to a much greater decline in the number of antlerless deer killed than the number of antlered deer harvested.

The tale of the tape shows that to-date Ohio hunters have shot 66,965 antlered deer compared to the 2015 to-date figure of 65,132 antlered white-tails for a decline of 1,832 animals.

However, the drop in the antlerless deer kill is much greater. The 2015 to-date harvest of antlerless deer was 86,328 animals while the 2016 to-date take of antlerless deer is 78,470 animals; or a drop of 7,858 antlerless deer. All of which is a part of the Wildlife Division’s game plan to go slow in rebuilding the state’s deer herd where necessary, Tonkovich says also.

“Beginning in 2013, we started to ‘soften’ regulations to reduce antlerless harvest,” Tonkovich says. “ Each year since then, we’ve made changes designed to grow the herd in a very ‘contained’ manner.” 

In an overview of the current to-date deer kill figures, 53 of Ohio’s 88 counties have recorded harvests in excess of one thousand animals each. Included in this count are eight counties with to-date tallies of three thousand or more animals each and of which one has a to-date figure surpassing the four-thousand animal harvest.

Since numbers take on meaning only when they are placed alongside at least one other relevant figure, the comparable 2015 to-date number of counties having recorded respective deer harvests of at least one thousand animals was 59. This latter number also hosted 11 counties with kills of at least three thousand deer each. And three of these counties recorded kills of at least four thousand animals each.

Tonkovich likewise defends the manner in which the Wildlife Division is approaching the state’s several forms of deer hunting seasons. What happens in the early archery season “bleeds over into gun season” and that season into the rest of archery season and the late firearms season, Tonkovich says. 

Thus the “bottom line,” says Tonkovich also, is that the nine-percent drop in the “gun harvest does nothing to inform deer management decisions.”

“We’ll wait until the season is over and compare the buck harvest this year with 2014 or average of this year’s and last year with 2014 and then make harvest recommendations,” Tonkovich says.

A look at select 2016 to-date individual county tallies (with their respective to-date 2015 numbers in parentheses) are:  Adams – 2,627 (3,423); Ashtabula – 3,796 (3,933); Athens – 2,803 (3,162); Belmont – 2,435 (2,556); Brown – 1,906 (2,189); Carroll – 2,760 (2,854); Clermont – 1,747 (2,165); Coshocton – 4,749 (4,602); Cuyahoga – 724 (570); Defiance – 1,381 (1,520); Delaware – 1,242 (1,358); Fairfield – 1,443 (1,623); Fayette – 257 (270); Franklin – 659 (620); Gallia – 2,134 (2,450); Geauga – 1,377 (1,458); Guernsey – 3,535 (3,566); Hamilton – 1,173 (1,542); Hardin – 989 (1,062); Harrison – 2,891 (3,113); Highland – 2,117 (2,411); Hocking – 2,515 (2,990); Holmes – 3,095 (3,078); Huron – 1,892 (1,889); Jackson – 2,228 (2,556); Jefferson – 2,114 (2,112); Knox – 3,749 (3,677); Lake – 696 (697); Lawrence – 1,543 (1,743); Licking – 3,875 (4,292); Logan – 1,559 (1,681); Lorain – 1,951 (1,946); Lucas – 580 (613); Mahoning – 1,499 (1,432); Medina – 1,568 (1,467); Meigs – 2,657 (2,850); Monroe – 1,955 (2,075); Montgomery – 451 (521); Morgan – 2,299 (2,525); Morrow – 1,241 (1,214); Muskingum – 3,978 (4,034); Noble – 2,254 (2,345); Ottawa – 328 (315); Paulding – 808 (948); Perry – 2,176 (2,358); Pike – 1,690 (1,933); Portage – 1,685 (1,783); Richland – 2,605 (2,634); Ross – 2,399 (2,714); Scioto – 1,945 (2,491); Seneca – 1,566 (1,542); Stark – 2,117 (2,229); Summit – 1,115 (1,073); Trumbull – 2,845 (2,763); Tuscarawas – 3,914 (3,879); Van Wert – 399 (446); Vinton – 2,119 (2,462); Washington – 2,618 (2,852); Wayne – 1,684 (1,624); Williams – 1,378 (1,618); Wyandot – 1,223 (1,233).

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