Ohio deer season likely to remain largely unchanged in 2017

Columbus — Ohio’s hunters will all but assuredly encounter more of the same for the upcoming 2017-2018 hunting season.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife presented its list of game law proposals to the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council on Feb. 8. The following day various agency officials presented the same during a teleconference with outdoors writers from around the state.

Much of what was presented were boilerplate/housekeeping duties involving the starting and ending dates for various seasons as well as bag limits for small game, waterfowl, and wild turkeys. In the middle, the wildlife division is proposing that the daily bag limit on canvasback ducks be increased to two from the present one, while the daily bag limit on pintails shrink from the current two to one.

Also, the age for participating in the youth-only two-day waterfowl hunt could rise from the present 15 to 17 in order to conform to federal law.

For turkey hunting, the state is proposing adding another 11 counties to the fall season with the season bag limit still entrenched at one bird of either sex.

During the teleconference, the questions and answers pretty much focused on Ohio’s proposed deer seasons, deer-hunting regulations, and the status of Ohio’s deer herd. On those scores, the agency is shuffling the deck as to which counties will see increased or decreased bag limits.

For this the wildlife division’s troupe of law enforcement agents, wildlife biologists, and administrators all agree that while tweaking the rules is necessary, a wholesale and game-changing series of new regulations is not necessary.

At least not until the ink on a work-still-in-progress/10-year deer management plan is finalized. That effort is not expected to be completed until May with a potential host of major rule shifts more than likely to appear sometime around 2020.

What is needed now, says the wildlife division, is for everyone to begin looking at the long view in terms of deer harvest trends and not so much at comparing one hunting season’s kill numbers against another.

“We (all) need to step back and look at the larger picture and not get so hung up on year-to-year (harvest) differences,” said Mike Tonkovich, the wildlife division’s deer management administrator.

Tonkovich did say that while no one portion of Ohio is seeing any “worrisome” decline in deer herd strength, the wildlife division is proposing some “adjustments” to all-seasons’ bag limits in northwest Ohio.

“We’re in a good place by and large in the state, and it seems that folks are generally happy,” Tonkovich said. “I definitely feel that we are moving in the right direction.”

Even so, the wildlife division admits that most deer hunting license sales have either remained stagnant or else have declined of late. Sales of the resident either-sex tags were down 5.45 percent, while those for nonresidents showed a moribund increase of 0.22 percent, for instance.

Other proposed deer hunting regulatory moves would include allowing the use of any straight-walled rifle cartridge of at least .357 caliber but not greater than .51 caliber. Such a change would permit the use of such cartridges as the .450 Bushmaster and the .50 Beowolf, among many others.

Both of these calibers have a strong presence in AR-platform rifles – the kind frequently cited in the media as being “assault weapons.” A point that Ken Fitz – the agency’s law enforcement administrator – said was of no concern to the agency since type-casting a firearm is not what drives hunting laws.

Fitz noted that the agency has long-recognized a wealth of different shotgun styles and has not seen any ill effects by doing so.

As for eventually allowing the use of large caliber air rifles or the “air bow,” Fitz said the agency has not discussed the topic in-house. That is because few proponents of these implements have stepped up to the plate and approached the Wildlife Division regarding any rule change on them.

Here are the proposed specifics as to what the Ohio Division of Wildlife is requesting as to all-seasons’ deer bag limits for Ohio’s 88 counties:

• It shall be unlawful to hunt or take more than two deer per license year from the following counties: Allen, Athens, Auglaize, Belmont, Butler, Carroll, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Coshocton, Darke, Defiance, Erie, Fairfield, Fayette, Fulton, Gallia, Geauga, Greene, Guernsey, Hancock, Harrison, Henry, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Meigs, Mercer, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Ottawa, Paulding, Perry, Pickaway, Preble, Putnam, Sandusky, Shelby, Tuscarawas, Van Wert, Vinton, Warren, Washington, Williams, or Wood counties, provided further,

(a) It shall be unlawful to hunt or take more than two deer per license year under the authority of a deer permit outside of a Division of Wildlife authorized controlled hunt, from the following counties: Allen, Athens, Auglaize, Belmont, Butler, Carroll, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Coshocton, Darke, Defiance, Erie, Fairfield, Fayette, Fulton, Gallia, Geauga, Greene, Guernsey, Hancock, Harrison, Henry, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Meigs, Mercer, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Ottawa, Paulding, Perry, Pickaway, Preble, Putnam, Sandusky, Shelby, Tuscarawas, Van Wert, Vinton, Warren, Washington, Williams, or Wood counties.

(b) It shall be unlawful to hunt or take any deer under the authority of an antlerless deer permit, outside of a Division of Wildlife authorized controlled hunt, from the following counties: Allen, Athens, Auglaize, Belmont, Butler, Carroll, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Coshocton, Darke, Defiance, Erie, Fairfield, Fayette, Fulton, Gallia, Geauga, Greene, Guernsey, Hancock, Harrison, Henry, Hocking, Jackson,Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Meigs, Mercer, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Ottawa, Paulding, Perry, Pickaway, Preble, Putnam, Sandusky, Shelby, Tuscarawas, Van Wert, Vinton, Warren, Washington,Williams, or Wood counties.

• It shall be unlawful to hunt or take more than three deer per license year from the following counties: Adams, Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont Columbiana, Coshocton, Crawford, Defiance, Fulton, Fairfield, Gallia, Guernsey, Hardin, Henry, Harrison, Highland, Hocking, Holmes, Huron, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lake, Lawrence, Licking, Logan, Lorain, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Paulding, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Portage, Putnam, Richland, Ross, Scioto, Seneca, Stark, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Vinton, Washington, Wayne, Williams, and Wyandot counties, provided further,

• It shall be unlawful to hunt or take more than three deer per license year under the authority of a deer permit, outside of a division of wildlife authorized controlled hunt, from the following counties: Adams, Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Columbiana, Coshocton, Crawford, Defiance, Fulton, Fairfield, Gallia, Guernsey, Hardin, Henry, Harrison, Highland, Hocking, Holmes, Huron, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lake, Lawrence, Licking, Logan, Lorain, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Paulding, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Portage, Putnam, Richland, Ross, Scioto, Seneca, Stark, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Vinton, Washington, Wayne, Williams, and Wyandot counties, and

• It shall be unlawful to take any deer under an antlerless deer permit, outside of a Division of Wildlife authorized controlled hunt, from the following counties: Adams, Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Columbiana, Coshocton, Crawford, Defiance, Fulton, Fairfield, Gallia, Guernsey, Hardin, , Henry, Harrison, Highland, Hocking, Holmes, Huron, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lawrence, Licking, Logan, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Paulding, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Putnam, Richland, Ross, Scioto, Seneca, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Vinton, Washington, Wayne, Williams, and Wyandot counties.

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