Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ohio's weekly deer kill stats may be hinting at urban white-tail herd declines

Today marked the 18th archery hunt of the season, totaling 48 hours, without so much as seeing an animal.

Note, not passing on a deer nor failing to have one come within crossbow range. Nope, those figures are without so much as catching a glimpse of a departing flagged tail.

The hunts are divided between three Lake County sites, each of which in years past provided antlered and antlerless deer. One of the sites is located on a friend’s property in a village that allows controlled archery deer hunting via a community-issued permit. Another is sequestered on a private arboretum that requires both its and a city’s permission. The last one is “free range,” located in a township without the legally binding demands of antler point restrictions or a doe-first policy as is the case with the other two spots.

However, I have taken note that over the past few years the numbers of deer I’ve seen - and consequently recorded in a journal - has dropped. Which is a good thing if you are the director of an arboretum or else a village or city police chief who has to send a squad car out when a Buick and a buck meet on a darkened highway.

For a deer hunter? Not so much. Which got me to thinking about the weekly deer kill updates I assemble utilizing data compiled by the Ohio Division of Wildlife and made available each Wednesday.

I’ve have taken note of my home county and a number of others that seem to be struggling in reaching the same deer kill levels they did at the same point in time one year ago. So dug a little deeper into the raw statistics.

Mind you, this is not a scientific report nor an in-depth research paper. Still, the information is cool in a “huh” sort of way. If nothing else it might provide fodder for discussion around the deer camp dinner table.

What I did was take Ohio’s four largest cities, their respective core county and all of the counties adjacent to them. Then I compared these urban/suburban/bedroom units’ respective to-date deer kills with their comparable 2017 to-date numbers.

The idea being to mull over whether more generous deer bag limits, increased allowance by communities to permit controlled archery deer hunting – along with the assumption that deer hunters are sticking closer to home – may finally be having an impact on deer herd size in Ohio’s urban/suburban/bedroom counties.

The cities are Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Toledo. Here is what I saw for each cell, using the current November 6th, 2108 to-date figures with their comparable November 7th, 2017 to-date figures.

Cleveland: The core is Cuyahoga County – 381 (417); Lorain County – 548 (582); Media County – 571 (515); Geauga County – 451 (506); Summit County – 491 (517); and Lake County – 252 (300). (I tossed out Portage County since the only the corners of Cuyahoga and Portage meet.) Consequently, five of the six counties have thus experienced to-date deer kill declines.

Columbus: The core is Franklin County – 214 (238); Fairfield County – 390 (349); Licking County – 1,082 (1,101); Madison County – 120 (110); Pickaway County – 133 (130); Delaware County – 417 (419); and Union County – 249 (249, identical). Consequently, three of these seven counties have thus far seen declines and one has seen identical to-date numbers.

Cincinnati - The core is Hamilton County – 565 (634); Butler County – 357 (410); Warren County – 309 (313); and Clermont County – 614 (634). Thus, all four counties have seen to-date deer kill declines.

Toledo – The core is Lucas County – 235 (278); Fulton County – 156 (166); Ottawa County – 125 (118); and Wood County – 237 (216). (I pitched Henry County for the same reason I did for the Cuyahoga-Portage reason.) Here, two of the four counties have seen to-date declines and two have seen to-date increasees.

It would be easy to dismiss such an examination since some individual county comparisons show minuscule differences. After all, there’s not much variance in Pickaway County’s two numbers nor those of Ottawa County.

Ah, here’s the “but,” though. Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 37 of of them have to-date deer kill declines when stacked up against their respective and comparable 2017 numbers. And 14 of those 37 counties are clustered around just these four major cities; four in the Cincinnati and five in the Cleveland areas alone.

Perhaps even more importantly I’ve watched a trend whereby these named counties are generally tracking in the decline column throughout the to-date 2018-2019 weekly deer kill tallies.

As for my own Lake County? Well, I’ve taken interest in noting the current to-date deer kill is about 18 percent less than its comparable 2017 numbers. Also, if my recollection is worth anything, it has continued to fall the past few years.

If nothing else, spending time with the numbers have helped given me a great excuse as to why I am not seeing many deer.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Ohio's deer hunters now taking huge advantage of species' annual autumn rut

In the see-saw swing between Ohio deer hunter success and white-tails giving the slip, the state’s sportsmen came out ahead in the latest weekly deer kill report when stacked up against the same data-collecting period in 2017.

Based upon figures available via the Ohio Division of Wildlife, as of November 6th, 2018 Ohio’s deer hunters had killed 38,326 animals. Among them were 17,683 antlered deer.

For the comparable period ending November 7th, 2017, Ohio’s deer hunters had shot 37,861 animals, of which 17,354 were antlered deer.

Also in further mining the data, between the October 30t, 2018 and the November 6th, 2018 reporting periods, Ohio hunters had killed an additional 11,621 animals – or about 30 percent of the 2018 to-date total. This almost certainly indicates the vulnerability of deer during the rut.

And of Ohio’s 88 counties, 48 saw increases in their respective to-date deer kills when the November 6th, 2018 and November 7th, 2017 reporting periods are examined side by side. Three counties saw identical reporting period kills while the remaining counties experienced declines.

That 48 figure likewise is a huge jump from the October 30th, 2018 reporting period where just 26 counties had seen increases from the respective October 31st, 2017 deer kill numbers.

Among the beneficiaries of increases in their respective November 6th, 2018 kills when laid side-by-side with their comparable November 7th, 2017 kills (with their corresponding November 7th, 2017 numbers in parentheses) were: Carroll – 614 (560); Coshocton – 1,431 (1,305); Gallia – 422 (350); Jackson – 600 (549); Knox – 953 (894); Media – 571 (515); Meigs – 534 (462); Mercer – 176 (154); Muskingum – 891 (859); Portage – 705 (589); Scioto – 409 (377); Seneca – 417 (367); Stark – 727 (698); and Wayne – 533 (485).

Among the counties with decreases in their November 6th, 2018 kills when compared to their respective November 7th, 2017 kills (with their corresponding November 7th, 2017 numbers in parentheses) were: Adams 651 (676); Ashtabula – 1,059 (1,171); Butler – 357 (410); Erie – 233 (255); Fayette – 56 (68); Geauga – 451 (506); Holmes – 940 (972); Lake – 252 (300); Lucas – 235 (278); Morrow – 330 (358); Richland – 733 (788); Summit – 491 (517); Trumbull – 1,022 (1,040); and Williams – 362 (382).

The three counties posting identical numbers were: Guernsey – 766; Montgomery – 224; and Union – 249.

- Jeffrey L. Frishkorn

Head boat Linda Mae will rise again and host charters

With a Coast Guard recommended welding patch and refurbishment of its engine, the iconic 42-foot Linda Mae party head boat is expected to again host Lake Erie fishing charters, beginning next late spring.

The 33,000 vessel became a victim October 20th, sinking after what was believed to be caused by a seiche rolling the across the 50-plus mile width of Lake Erie. This seiche is thought to have started at the Ontario shoreline, slamming into its Ohio counterpart.

This unstoppable force piled up a wall of water along the Ohio shoreline estimated at more than five feet high.

About midnight the resulting surge broke loose the head fishing boat from its mooring at Cleveland Metroparks’ Wildwood Marina complex in Cleveland. The wall of water than pushed the vessel some 75 yards, crashing the boat into the rocks adjacent to the marina’s gas docks, resulting in the boat sinking stern first into thick mud.

Among the damage to the Linda Mae – built in 1952 as a commercial gill-net fishing platform – was featured structural issues to the starboard side near the engine, said the vessel’s owner, Vitus Kijauskas.

Kijauskas said shortly after the incident the Linda Mae was raised and transported to a marine repair facility along the Chagrin River in the Lake County city of Eastlake.

An inspection by the Coast Guard led the agency to conclude that the damage would require an approximately eight-foot-long welded fix to the hull, a job that easily can be performed by an experienced tradesman familiar with marine welding requirements, Kijauskas said.

As for the Linda Mae’s 160 horsepower/more than 500 foot-pound torque/supercharged diesel engine, a specialist was called in who performed what is called “pickling.” This term implies that a diesel engine that’s been submerged is thoroughly drained of all water, the internal metal components wiped down with a light oil to prevent rusting, and the engine refilled with oil.

Kijauskas said the vessel will be worked on through the winter and be ready for charters again sometime by May.

The “where” of such a charter service is still being worked out but very likely will mean a move to the Grand River from its previous 35-year stay at the Cleveland Metroparks’ Wildwood unit.

It is hoped that besides the Linda Mae the enterprise’s bait store, small tackle and refreshment emporium also will be transferred to a marina in Lake County’s Grand River Village, Kijauskas said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, November 5, 2018

September was second wettest in 136 years for Ohio; October showed wild swings in rainfall

Few other Ohioans can appreciate the vagaries of wet or dry conditions more than can the state’s hunters and anglers.

And though nearly all of Ohio was stressed by too much – in many case, way too much – precipitation in September, the state still saw erratic rainfall that resulted in localized flooding in some areas.

September’s wetness is easier to quantify in large measure because the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Geological Survey conducts a monthly wrap-up with what it calls a “water inventory report.”

The agency’s September report says that this past September was the second-wettest for the month for Ohio in 136 years, averaging 6.52 inches – or 3.35 inches above normal.

In fact, eight of the state’s 10 climatic regions – the Geological Survey segments Ohio into 10 climatic zones, or regions – ranked in the top five wettest Septembers on record, the agency says.

Again, however, not all areas experienced an equal amount of bonus rainfall. Scioto County’s Lucasville saw 10 inches of rainfall in September while Williams County’s Edon saw only 0.85 inches of rainfall.

How all of this translated into stream flow - which plagued anglers in more than a few locations during September - also is documented in the Geological Survey Division’s September water inventory report. In Northeast Ohio, the Grand River at Painesville saw its discharge rate (as measured in cubic feet per second) surge to 745 percent of normal.

Meanwhile, the Little Beaver Creek as measured at East Liverpool was 995 cubic feet per second.

Neither of these two streams held a candle to the Stillwater River at Pleasant Hill, however. Here, the discharge rate was an astounding 1,956 percent of normal.

And though Lake Erie’s water level made its seasonal September decline the lake’s that month was still 0.23 feet above where it was in September 2017.

Yet October appears to have demonstrated an extraordinarily fickle nature when it came to precipitation. Though the Geological Survey Division’s 10-climatic-region-based monthly water inventory report for October won’t be available for several weeks, data from the National Weather Service does shows some huge swings in precipitation amounts for Ohio.

Such swings impacted anglers in Northeast Ohio who saw their steelhead streams and late season Lake Erie walleye fishing ventures both hampered. Meanwhile, some deer hunters in southwest Ohio reported very dry woodland conditions.

National Weather Service statistics support both views. In Cleveland for October, 3.78 inches of rain fell, which was 0.71 inches above average for the month, though several communities further to the east saw more rain, such as Mentor and Thompson Township.

Further south and west, Mansfield saw 4.53 inches of rain in October, or 1.59 inches above the monthly average for the city. At the same time, Youngstown saw 3.77 inches of rainfall, or 1.59 inches above normal.

From there, several areas of the state experienced deficits, subtracting from their September abundance.

For example, Toledo during October saw 1.94 inches of rain. That measurement was 0.66 inches below average. Experiencing even greater monthly deficits in October were both Dayton and Cincinnati. Dayton saw 1.53 inches of rain during October, or 1.40 inches below the monthly average while Cincinnati encountering 1.67 inches of rainfall, or 1.63 inches below its average.

Only Columbus appears to have closed in on its October average. Based on National Weather Service data, the city saw 2.60 inches of rain, which was a statistically insignificant 0.01 inches below average.

As for the calendar year, if your weekend fishing trips seemed washed out more often than not, that’s because through September 2018’s rainfall stood at 39.90 inches, which is 9.49 inches above average. These excessive rainfalls ranged anywhere from 15.73 inches above average in the state’s southeast region to 3 inches above normal for the northwest region.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ohio's to-date deer kill still lags, down 972 animals from the same point in 2017

With the advent of the rut in Ohio, the state’s deer hunters are beginning to take more animals, the figures showing an additional 7,079 deer being killed between the October 23rd and October 30th reporting periods.

However, based on the weekly data made available via the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s computer-based harvest reporting system, 972 fewer deer have been taken to-date when laid side-by-side with the comparable to-date 2017 numbers.

In short, so far this year – and as of October 30th – Ohio’s deer hunters have killed 26,705 animals. For the to-date October 31st, 2017 reporting period, 27,677 deer were taken.

How the deluge and flooding conditions that are plaguing the state at the moment will play out verses the rut’s acceleration won’t be known until the November reporting week period figures are available. Those numbers will be released by the Wildlife Division November 7th.

Based on the October 30th to-date numbers, Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 26 saw gains when their respective to-date 2017 and 2018 numbers are compared while two counties saw identical figures. The remaining counties recorded declines between the two respective reporting periods.

Among the gainers between their respective to-date 2017 and 2018 numbers (with the 2017 figures in parentheses) were: Allen – 193 (176); Carroll – 418 (381); Columbiana – 410 (386); Coshocton – 957 (912); Hardin – 196 (171); Jefferson – 208 (163); Knox – 656 (618); Medina – 438 (382); Meigs – 364 (320); Noble – 330 (302); Portage – 553 (461); Stark – 532 (494); and Wood – 177 (160).

At the opposite end are the counties that have thus far posted to-date declines from their respective 2017 numbers. Among them (with their comparable 2017 to-date figures in parentheses) are: Adams – 405 (484); Ashtabula – 801 (892); Brown – 329 (337); Clarmont – 457 (505); Franklin – 161 (182); Guernsey – 493 (513); Huron – 332 (359); Lake – 196 (237); Licking – 740 (814); Lorain – 404 (448); Lucas – 156 (224); Morrow – 221 (270); Richland – 539 (582); Trumbull – 810 (814); and Vinton – 275 (321).

In terms of antlered deer taken to-date verses its comparable 2017 to-date number, the figures are 10,432 and 11,040, respectively. Thus, as the annual rut begins the number of antlered deer being shot so far is off last year’s pace.

Generally in Ohio the peak of the rut falls around Veteran’s Day, November 11th.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, October 26, 2018

(UPDATED) First tweleve days of Ohio's 2018 fall turkey season is off to (very) slow start

The first twelve days of Ohio’s 2018 fall turkey hunting season is a fowl ball when stacked up against its 2017 counterpart.

And compared to the first twelve days of the 2016 season, this year’s fall turkey-hunting season’s duodenary start.

For 2018 the first twelve-day turkey kill stood at 331 birds. For the same twelve-day period in 2017 that number was 364 birds; not a huge difference.

Where the figures diverge in a big way is the difference between the first twelve days in 2018 and the first twelve days in 2016, which saw a whopping kill of 685 turkeys, both hens and toms since any turkey is fair game during Ohio’s fall turkey-hunting season.

Of the 57 Ohio counties opened to fall turkey hunting season in both 2017 and this year, 20 of them have recorded increases, eight have posted identical tallies, and the rest of the group have seen declines: some markedly so, too.

In the summaries, you’ll see that the fall harvest total for the first 12 days of the 2016 season is approximately double the 2017 and 2018 totals over the same period,” said Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist, Mark Wiley.

Fall harvest in 2016 was exceptional, whereas harvest during 2017 and 2018 (first 12 days) were much closer to Ohio’s average. The bulk of that difference lies within southeast and east-central counties, which had evidence of phenomenal poult production and survival in 2016.”
Wiley said too that spikes in fall turkey harvest sometimes occur in years with high reproductive indices. 

Among the counties that have seen first twelve day increases, the 2018 figures (with their respective 2017 numbers in parentheses) are: Belmont – 7 (4); Gallia – 12 (9); Geauga – 13 (4); Harrison – 18 (13); Holmes – 11 (9); and Meigs – 6 (4).

Yet some counties saw first twelve day declines that are dramatic. Among them - with their 2018 figures first and their respective 2017 numbers in parentheses - are: Ashtabula – 10 (18); Coschocton – 18 (26); Guernsey – 12 (14); Jefferson – 3 (7); Lorain - 1 (7); Morrow – zero (4); Stark – 4 (13); Trumbull – 6 (14); and Vinton – 5 (10).

However, the gap is a chasm when the first twelve days of the 2016 season and the first twelve days of the current season are examined side-by-side. Of the 52 counties which had a fall turkey season in 2016 and again this year, fully 44 thus far have experienced declines. Only four counties have so far posted gains with the remainder showing identical first twelve-day kills.

Among the counties with whopping first twelve-day declines from 2016 to 2018 - with the 2018 figure first and their respective 2016 figure in parentheses – are: Ashland – 5 (11); Ashtabula – 10 (21); Coshocton – 18 (25); Gallia – 12 (18); Hocking – 4 (17); Holmes – 11 (30); Jackson – 4 (22); Licking – 9 (15); Mahoning – 3 (10); Meigs – 6 (27); Morgan – 3 (21); Muskingum – 5 (21); Noble – 6 (24); Perry – 4 (23); Pike – 3 (15); Ross – 3 (13); Stark – 4 (11); Tuscarawas – 7 (32); Vinton – 5 (16); and Washington – 6 (21).

The four gainers – with their 2018 first twelve-day number followed by their respective 2016 first twelve-day number – are: Belmont – 11 (10); Lake – 4 (3); Geauga – 13 (10); Summit – 5 (4).

However, said Wiley, Ohio’s fall turkey harvest total is not a reliable indicator of current turkey population status or trend. Variables like hunter effort likely influence fall harvest as much or more than turkey abundance. Hunter effort is challenging to measure for the fall turkey season.

It must be remembered that fall turkey hunting is markedly different from its spring sibling. It is widely understood that in autumn many turkeys are taken opportunistically; by archery deer hunters who have a flock come underneath a tree stand, by waterfowlers jump-shooting a woodland stream and who “spook” a family flock, that sort of thing.

There are some serious fall turkey hunters, though. These are the hunters who embrace using a specially trained bird dog to break up a flock and then immediately come to a stop, keeping the canine close. The hunter then uses hen-style “come back” call methods to lure in the young birds. 

The same can be done by a hunter charging forward.

Also, the total fall turkey-hunting season kill for 2013 through 2017 was: 2013 (1,037); 2014 (1,239); 2015 (1,537); 2016 (2,168); and 2017 (1,060). By comparison, the spring 2018 turkey hunting season saw a total kill of 22,571 bearded birds only.

Ohio’s 2018 fall turkey-hunting season continues through November 25th. One bird of either sex is permitted.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Ohio's 2018 to-date deer kill is on a rapid rise

Ohio’s archery deer hunting appears to have lit a fire with the arrival of much cooler weather.

The to-date deer kill as of October 23rd stands at 19,626 animals; a figure that represents a 1,502 animal gain in deer killed over the comparable October 24th, 2017 to-date figure, a look at the weekly tally provided on-line from the Ohio Division of Wildlife each Wednesday afternoon. The tallies continue through to the end of Ohio’s various deer-hunting seasons in early February.

Likewise, the to-date figure is a 6,576 animal increase over last week's reporting period.

Up until this current reporting period the 2018 numbers were trailing their respective 2017 counterparts. Most experts attributed the shortfall to the unseasonably – and even, record-breaking -warmth that stalked Ohio during October’s first couple of weeks.

And an abundant hard mast crop has not aided hunters, either. The Wildlife Division also notes in another report that the statewide proportion of white oak trees bearing acorns (hard mast) is up 22 percent over last year. White oaks are a preferred forage for deer. It is widely held that when mast is heavy that deer need not wander far and wide to feast, thus making themselves less visible to hunters.

Conversely, the red oak mast -a less desirable deer food source – is said to be down 10 percent this year, though some areas did see a greater supply of this nut, too.

Back to the current to-date deer kill. Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 65 showed gains over their previous respective October 24, 2017 reporting period while two counties – Erie (127) and Shelby (107) – reported respective identical weekly reporting figures. The remaining 21 Ohio counties saw declines between the two periods.

Among the counties posting gains between their respective 2017 and 2018 to-date reports (with their 2017 numbers in parentheses) were: Ashland – 347 (292); Brown – 253 (203); Coshocton – 695 (579); Defiance – 182 (130); Gallia – 186 (158); Geauga – 260 (254); Guernsey – 356 (316); Hancock – 154 (120); Hardin – 152 (106); Holmes – 481 (442); Knox – 483 (406); Medina – 330 (263); Meigs – 264 (198); Mercer – 105 (67); Noble – 248 (185); Paulding – 110 (81); Portage – 351 (311); Seneca – 227 (174); and Warren -162 (139).

Among the counties posting declines between their respective 2017 and 2018 to-date figures (with their 2017 numbers in parentheses) were: Adams – 299 (318); Ashtabula – 598 (650); Cuyahoga -245 (277); Fayette -26 (31); Franklin – 117 (139); Highland – 200 (233); Lake – 152 (173); Lorain – 317 (316); Lucas – 114 (150); and Trumbull – 609 (620).

In terms of antlered deer being taken to date, for the October 24th, 2017 reporting period the number was 5,824 animals while for the October 23rd, 2018 reporting period the figure was 6,735 animals.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn