Ohio deer kill for 2016-17 drops 3.2 percent

Columbus — A statistically insignificant drop in Ohio’s 2016-2017 all-seasons’ deer kill still remains highlighted by some serious drops in any number of counties.

However, deer harvest gains occurred in enough of Ohio’s other counties to have helped compensate for such shortfalls.

In all, Ohio deer hunters shot 182,169 whitetails for the 2016-2017 all-seasons’ deer kill total, representing a 3.27 percent decline from the 2015-2016 all-seasons’ total deer harvest of 188,329 animals.

And of Ohio’s 88 counties fully 55 of them registered declines, of which 17 each saw a shortfall of 10 percent or more. One of the counties taking on the biggest hits was Adams. Adams County  posted a 21.29 percent decline: from a total of 4,157 deer killed during the 2015-2016 season to 3,272 deer for the 2016-2017 all-seasons’ total.

Other significant declines were seen in such stalwart and deer-harvest giants as Hocking County (down 12.13 percent from 3,727 animals to 3,275 animals); Vinton County (down 12.78 percent from 3,059 animals to 2,668 animals); Clermont County (down 16.94 percent from 2,821 animals to 2,343 animals); and Scioto County (down 18.29 percent from 3,034 animals to 2,479 animals).

Buffering such severe drops was noted in the state’s remaining 23 counties, a few of which saw marked gains. Among them was the standout Cuyahoga County, which saw its all-seasons’ harvest climb more than 38 percent from a total deer kill of 814 animals in 2015-2016 to 1,124 deer for the 2016-2017 total tally.

In Cuyahoga County the near unanimous belief for the increase stems from the fact that in 2015 voters in five communities there approved allowing controlled archery deer hunting. Thus such a tool is evidence that archery hunting is a positive deer management tool, state biologists believe.

“With the addition of several cities in the western part of Cuyahoga County allowing archery hunting for the first time this past season, there is likely a strong correlation to that and the significant harvest increase in that county,” said Geoff Westerfield, the assistant wildlife management administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) Office in Akron.

Other counties gaining deer-harvest ground included Erie (up 15.73 percent at 868 and up from 750); Trumbull (up 12.33 percent at 3,699 and up from 3,293); and Ashtabula (up 4.05 percent at 5,040 and up from 4,844).

And as a region, Northeast Ohio appears to have demonstrated the most consistent rise in the county-by-county deer harvest when stacked next to their respective 2015-2016 all-seasons’ numbers. Of the 19 counties associated as being inclusive of Northeast Ohio, 15 posted harvest gains.

Granted, some of the drops and some of the gains in Northeast Ohio and elsewhere in the state number less than one percent (plus-0.65 percent in Stark County and minus-0.63 percent in Harrison County as two such examples), a wide range of contributing unknowns almost certainly come into play and which may well be beyond wildlife management influence, let alone, wildlife management control, says Westerfield

“While this year counties such as Medina and Trumbull saw fairly large increases over last year, variables such as mast crop, crop removal, harvest regulations, and current herd trend can play into those changes,” Westerfield said.

Perhaps in some cases – particularly in highly urbanized Northeast Ohio , Westerfield says also, fragmentation of land use and “no hunting areas” likely creates refuges that combine with a still-growing deer herd that has probably helped increase any potential harvest.

“Even stuff like the number of hunters who must stay closer to home because land where they once had permission to hunt on they no longer have access to can drastically affect a particular county’s harvest,” Westerfield said.

In the end, said Westerfield, what is most important is not what the number is doing on a county level “but locally what is going on; not only for that year but over the last seven or eight years.”

“Keep in mind, too, that hunter desires for herd growth and herd structure can vary from one side of the fence to the next,” Westerfield said.

And all of which could be said for any Ohio county that saw an increase or a decrease in its respective all-seasons’ deer harvest, says Clint McCoy, one of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s lead deer biologists.

“Whether looking at three-year or five-year averages, in both instances we had 25 counties with a buck harvest smaller than average, and 53 counties with buck harvest larger than average.  However, many of the differences were insignificant; less than five percent,” said McCoy.

All true, says Mike Tonkovich, the wildlife division’s deer management program administrator and McCoy’s boss.

Consequently, says Tonkovich, hunters should begin seeing both more antlered and antlerless deer this autumn as the agency’s two-years’ worth of tighter harvest-associated restrictions begin to pay expected dividends.

“Exactly,” said Tonkovich. “So what we have going on is that ‘the check is in the mail’ so to speak with the doe harvest being dialed back. In many cases the antlerless harvest was not only expected it was intentional.”

As a result, while an unknown number of Ohio deer hunters certainly encountered fewer animals of either sex this past season, they almost assuredly will see more of everything come the 2017-2018 deer hunting sessions, says Tonkvich.

“Some of the unharvested button bucks last year will show up as antlered deer this fall and in 2018,” Tonkovich said. “I can almost assure you that we will see an uptick in the buck harvest this fall, and if you’re seeing more antlered deer you’ll begin to see more antlerless deer, too.”

A list of all white-tailed deer checked by hunters during the 2016-2017 deer season is shown below. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest number for the 2016-2017 season, and the 2015-2016 season number is in parentheses.

  • Adams: 3,272 (4,157)
  • Allen: 1,039 (1,102)
  • Ashland: 2,954 (3,026)
  • Ashtabula: 5,040 (4,844)
  • Athens: 3,646 (3,979)
  • Auglaize: 751 (828)
  • Belmont: 3,236 (3,205)
  • Brown: 2,448 (2,754)
  • Butler: 1,231 (1,382)
  • Carroll: 3,586 (3,557)
  • Champaign: 1,118 (1,242)
  • Clark: 661 (759)
  • Clermont: 2,343 (2,821)
  • Clinton: 719 (789)
  • Columbiana: 3,189 (3,299)
  • Coshocton: 5,929 (5,700)
  • Crawford: 1,113 (1,165)
  • Cuyahoga: 1,124 (814)
  • Darke: 679 (738)
  • Defiance: 1,675 (1,767)
  • Delaware: 1,527 (1,684)
  • Erie: 868 (750)
  • Fairfield: 1,800 (1,955)
  • Fayette: 312 (310)
  • Franklin: 837 (817)
  • Fulton: 826 (802)
  • Gallia: 2,720 (2,914)
  • Geauga: 1,871 (1,886)
  • Greene: 816 (835)
  • Guernsey: 4,565 (4,435)
  • Hamilton: 1,589 (2,007)
  • Hancock: 1,179 (1,185)
  • Hardin: 1,220 (1,270)
  • Harrison: 3,763 (3,787)
  • Henry: 708 (684)
  • Highland: 2,587 (2,919)
  • Hocking: 3,275 (3,727)
  • Holmes: 3,731 (3,717)
  • Huron: 2,279 (2,204)
  • Jackson: 2,870 (3,194)
  • Jefferson: 2,800 (2,663)
  • Knox: 4,495 (4,465)
  • Lake: 961 (908)
  • Lawrence: 1,942 (2,113)
  • Licking: 4,971 (5,364)
  • Logan: 1,919 (2,071)
  • Lorain: 2,511 (2,458)
  • Lucas: 755 (759)
  • Madison: 482 (497)
  • Mahoning: 1,933 (1,835)
  • Marion: 886 (892)
  • Medina: 2,109 (1,872)
  • Meigs: 3,476 (3,592)
  • Mercer: 661 (603)
  • Miami: 774 (833)
  • Monroe: 2,571 (2,598)
  • Montgomery: 591 (684)
  • Morgan: 2,992 (3,096)
  • Morrow: 1,486 (1,437)
  • Muskingum: 5,118 (4,966)
  • Noble: 2,855 (2,970)
  • Ottawa: 450 (424)
  • Paulding: 954 (1,064)
  • Perry: 2,787 (2,867)
  • Pickaway: 724 (803)
  • Pike: 2,083 (2,382)
  • Portage: 2,211 (2,178)
  • Preble: 847 (965)
  • Putnam: 709 (704)
  • Richland: 3,246 (3,189)
  • Ross: 3,029 (3,425)
  • Sandusky: 862 (874)
  • Scioto: 2,479 (3,034)
  • Seneca: 1,842 (1,785)
  • Shelby: 961 (1,050)
  • Stark: 2,778 (2,760)
  • Summit: 1,572 (1,487)
  • Trumbull: 3,699 (3,293)
  • Tuscarawas: 5,039 (4,921)
  • Union: 842 (932)
  • Van Wert: 458 (492)
  • Vinton: 2,668 (3,059)
  • Warren: 1,095 (1,266)
  • Washington: 3,402 (3,526)
  • Wayne: 2,020 (1,971)
  • Williams: 1,687 (1,836)
  • Wood: 857 (841)
  • Wyandot: 1,484 (1,515)

Total: 182,169 (188,329). 

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