Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ohio's total deer harvest headed for dozen- or more-year low

With the finish line well in sight, Ohio’s deer hunters will almost assuredly fall short of last year’s all-seasons’ preliminary white-tail kill of 191,459 animals.

As of January 28, the Ohio Division of Wildlife reported a preliminary 2014-2015 to-date/all-seasons’ deer kill of 173,096 animals.

The whole 2014-2015 all-seasons’ package of archery, muzzle-loading, early muzzle-loading, general firearms and youth hunts ends promptly 30 minutes after sunset on Sunday, February 1.

By comparison, the 2013-2014’s to-date/all-seasons’ deer kill as of January 29, 2014 was 188,967 animals.

Thus, the to-date/all-seasons’ decline amounts to 8.40 percent; well within the agency’s initial pre-hunts’ anticipated drop of 5 to 10 percent.

Some of the state’s note-worthy deer-hunting counties that are posting declines include: Adams (down 14.76 percent), Ashtabula (down 11.65 percent), Belmont (down 21.36 percent), Coshocton (down 9.16 percent), Columbia (down 18.61 percent), Harrison (down 24.05 percent), Hocking (down 18.82 percent), Muskingum (down 14.89 percent), Noble (down 22.08 percent), and Trumbull (down 12.05 percent).

So far 33 of Ohio’s 88 counties are posting gains, however. Among them are Brown (up 2.48 percent), Lake (up 13.62 percent), Medina (up 3 percent), Wood (up 47.70 percent).

It may also be telling that the vast majority of counties which are demonstrating increased deer kills are tucked away in the state’s northwest and western regions as well as a number of counties that were positioned in the Wildlife Division’s once-designated Urban Deer Zones.

In the case of the former the Wildlife Division has long established restrictive bag limits in an effort to bolster their respective deer herds. The increased kills in these counties then could be the evidence that restrictive bag limits can allow a deer herd to either rebound or build from a near scratch population.

As for the latter, it could be argued the state is still trying to get a handle on deer herds in urban counties where hunting is a more difficult option for many communities to accept or accomplish.

In any event, with just a handful of days left in the archery deer-hunting season in all likelihood fewer than 4,000 animals will be added to the current 2014-2015 to-date/all-seasons. This point could mean that the total deer harvest may not reach 180,000 animals.
The last time that 180,000 or fewer deer were killed in Ohio by hunters was 2001 when 165,124 animals were taken.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

REVISED: Ohio's Deer Summit reaches height in concern for white-tail herd size, health

In a juxtaposition of genuine concern, bubbling anger and a heartfelt belief that Ohio’s deer management program is off-kilter, some 90 sportsmen and landowners listened intently January 23 in Akron while the state’s wildlife officials presented their side of the multi-headed topic.

That 90-person figure represented just the number of people who assembled at the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.

Other – albeit, smaller – crowds were concurrently gathered in each of the agency’s other four wildlife districts, all of the congregations going through the same established protocols that explored three different and pre-determined components:

An update on chronic wasting disease in Ohio, the deer herd condition trends in the state, and a look at the anticipated transition to greatly refined deer management units, likely to transpire beginning with the commencement of the various 2016-2017 deer-hunting sessions.

The five-district concurrent program also represented an expanded offshoot from the state’s first-ever Ohio Deer Summit, held at just one location last year. This year’s program at five venues allowed for easier access and participation by interested stakeholders, Wildlife Division officials said.

And though Akron’s first presentation by District Three wildlife biologist Scott Peters was carefully observed by summit attendees, it was the second address by the Wildlife Division’s deer management administrator Mike Tonkovich that fell totally on wide-awake ears.

No wonder since Tonkovich is the lead agent on how the Wildlife Division looks at such thorny and tough-nut-to-crack issues on the order of bag limits, numbers of deer-hunting seasons and their lengths, fawn recruitment, coyote depredation on deer, deer herd health, composition and population size/density, along with a plethora of other associated satellite topics.

Given the balancing act of juggling what this or that hunter wants with the interests of landowners even Tonkovich wryly noted the challenges he and his agency associates face.

“I know I am doing my job if I am hated equally by everybody,” Tonkovich said.

Yes, Tonkovich said, the Wildlife Division is well aware that the state’s deer herd is smaller, even much smaller than what it, landowners, sportsmen and other stakeholders saw a decade or two ago.

Yet the reduction was necessary, Tonkovich said, noting that with a herd that swelled to unprecedented high numbers was not in its best interest.

If anything, just the opposite, Tonkovich said, pointing out that when the state’s deer herd blossomed to mind-boggling numbers its health suffered.

“There is other evidence that supports the decline in the overall health of Ohio’s deer herd, too,” Tonkovich says. “We have much older bucks running out but with smaller antlers.”

Such comes with a biological understanding that too much competition for a hard-hit natural food source was resulting in an ever-so-slow decline in the production of trophy bucks.

To illustrate, Tonkovich notes that submissions of qualifying entries into the popular Ohio Big Bucks Club have not kept pace with the annual, overall antlered deer kill.

Indeed, Tonkovich continued, the odds of a buck being eligible for inclusion in the Ohio Big Bucks Club is today one-half of what it was in 1990.

Along with an almost imperceptible drop in the number of trophy bucks came reduced poor fawn recruitment with females exhibiting the natural phenomenon of lowered pregnancy rates during times of distressed habitat.

“The roller coaster is now on its way down,” Tonkovich said.

Perhaps but more than a few attendees believe that ride is headed south too fast and has already plummeted too far.

When given the opportunity to express themselves several attendees would recite the same mantra, that being, “I hunted the gun season/the early doe-only muzzle-loading season/the statewide muzzle-loading season/the archery deer-hunting season and I never saw an animal.”

Other participants groused how the Wildlife Division should never have allowed – and must end – allowing hunters to legally kill “four, five and six deer.”

“That’s too many; you can’t use that many,” complained one of the summit’s attendees.

Meanwhile, taxidermist Fritz Brekhimer of Trumbull County’s Cortland provided an anecdotal glimpse of the Ohio’s deer herd decline by saying this season he’s received only about 100 deer heads for mounting purposes.

“I usually see 150,” Brekhimer said.

And no one argued with Joel Reynolds of Delaware County who chimed in that the Wildlife Division must come up with a resolution to the state’s ever-expanding coyote population, an almost certain major factor in an ever-shrinking deer herd.

“I’d prefer to kill them all,” Reynolds said of the coyotes, not the deer.

Reynolds said too that a solution must be found before his nine-year-old son Caleb loses interest in deer hunting before he even graduates from apprentice hunter status to a legally licensed junior hunter, complete with having passing a hunter education course.

And thus the onus of what will percolate to the top when the Wildlife Division’s work-still-in-progress refined deer management unit strategy goes from concept stage to show-room model rests squarely with the agency; the bulk of the summit’s attendees appeared to share.

“(With) all of the issues we’ve talked about, we are here to remind the Ohio Division of Wildlife that you work for us,” said Dennis Malloy, an official with Whitetails Unlimited and himself a former agency wildlife officer.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Newly enacted HB 234 is all good for Ohio's concealed carry permit holders

Here is an excellent example of why the Buckeye Firearms Association has time and again proven itself a tremendous asset to Ohio's gun owners.

In a detail and concise way the group's Jim Irvine explains the role of newly enacted House Bill 234. The language Irvine uses also easily and clearly spells out the new law's many benefits to firearms owners who posses as well a concealed carry handgun permit.

Among the legislation's likely benefits is that more states will enter into concealed carry reciprocity agreements with Ohio.

Maybe best of all is that by utilizing the same federal background now employed when a gun is bought via a licensed firearms dealers at some point down the road, Ohio will be allowed to make note on CCW (or CCL) permit holders' carry cards that the owners are compliant.

That not-so-small detail almost certainly will mean Ohio's CCW (CCL) permit holders won't have to fill out the one-page-and-a-quarter federal form because they've all ready been through all the necessary hoops.

Here's Irvine's response as it appears in the Council's latest on-line, electronic newsletter:

What HB 234 Means to You: Part I - NICS compliant background checks

There has been a considerable amount of discussion and misinformation related to HB 234 (and HB 203) relating to the provision making the background check for obtaining an Ohio CHL a “NICS compliant” background check.

Let us start with some rumor control. HB 234 when enacted will NOT put the federal government in charge of who qualifies for an Ohio CHL, give them a database of Ohio gun owners, or prohibit people who can get a license and carry a gun from qualifying for that license.

This has nothing to do with ceding power over firearms rights to the federal government.

Most gun owners know that when they buy a gun from any firearms dealer, they must fill out Form 4473 federal paperwork and pass a NICS background check.

NICS stands for National Instant Criminal background Check system. It is not “gun registration" but rather a system that checks three databases to comprise what has been agreed upon as an adequate background check for gun buyers.

When an FFL dealer receives a shipment of guns, they are required by federal law to log each firearm and where it came from in a "bound book." Once this is done, the guns can go on the shelf for sale.

When a customer wants to purchase one of the guns, they must fill out the ATF Form 4473, which contains all the required information needed to properly do a background check.

It also contains an entry for the FFL dealer to enter the manufacturer name, caliber, firearm type, and serial number for each gun being purchased.

Once the FFL does their part, and the customer shows proper ID, and completes their part, the dealer will initiate the background check.

This can happen in one of two ways. The dealer can call the NICS operations center and speak with a customer service rep, read the descriptive information about the customer, and receive a response that way. Dealers can also log onto an FBI website and access the NICS system online.

The three main databases that comprise the NICS check are:
  • The Interstate Identification Index, (III), which contains criminal history records
  • The National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which contains warrants and protection orders
  • NICS index, which contains other prohibited persons, such as dishonorable discharge or under indictment for a disqualifying arrest
At no time is ANY information about the firearm being purchased transmitted to the FBI. They do not care what gun someone buying. They just care if the customer is legally allowed to buy a gun.

These databases hold information on individuals prohibited by law from buying guns. Once the person is checked against the databases, NICS will receive a response and relay it to the FFL dealer.

If there are no matches, the dealer will receive a “proceed.” The sale can be completed immediately.

Sometimes, people have common names, or may have something questionable on their record. In this case, NICS may respond with a delay. If they do not return a response within three business days, the customer can return and pick up the firearm.

Once a sale is completed the FFL dealer will record the disposition of the gun in his "bound book" as a way of keeping track of sales and where the inventory went. This is the only record of who purchased what gun.

More information regarding the NICS background check can be found here:

After March 23, 2015, Ohio Sheriffs will check the same three databases as NICS. Unlike the FFL, the sheriff will see the record (or lack of one) of the person in question. The sheriff will make the determination if the record disqualifies the applicant for a CHL under Ohio law.

Again, the federal government has no say; just your local sheriff. If a person meets the requirements, the sheriff “shall issue” that person a CHL.

Benefits for the gun owner

The first benefit we expect is an increase in reciprocity agreements. Some states refuse to sign an agreement with Ohio because we issue to persons who are unable to possess firearms.

Ohio also fails to do an adequate background check. HB 234 will solve these problems, bringing increased permission for Buckeyes to carry in other states.

In time, Ohio will apply to the BATFE to have our CHL background check certified as “NICS compliant.” By showing that we conduct a background check at least as thorough as NICS, and that our list of disqualifications for obtaining a CHL are at least as strict as federal law for possession of a gun (and a few other technical details) we hope to be awarded that distinction.

Once certified NICS compliant, Ohio sheriffs may begin putting the certification on new/renewed CHL’s. All this is leading to a neat feature in the whole NICS background check rules for buying guns.

On the bottom of page 2 of a Form 4473, there is a box where the FFL dealer can check a customer’s CHL license as an exemption to the NICS check. Anyone who qualified for a CHL, and has “NICS compliant” on their license is legal to buy a gun.

No more delay issues for people who are legal to buy a gun, but regularly get delayed at the point of purchase. Kentucky, Texas and many other states have been doing this for years. Both dealers and buyers love it.

A NICS check is valid for five years. Ohio CHL’s are valid for five years. So a valid “NICS compliant” CHL is proof of a valid NICS check.

On a busy Saturday when the NICS system is overloaded, or it is just plain down for some reason, or maybe you are a person who regularly gets a “hold” when trying to buy a gun and is forced to make multiple trips because someone with a name similar to yours has committed a disqualifying offense, you will be able to fill out the Form 4473, show your CHL as proof of passing the required background check, and buy your gun.

Some people worry that five years is a long time and people issued a license might commit an offense and no longer be able to legally buy a gun. In such cases, however, the person's CHL will be revoked. Keep in mind that less than one half of one percent of all CHL’s issued in Ohio in the past decade have been revoked for any reason, including reasons other than the commission of a disqualifying offense.

This same basic setup has been used in many other states for years. We are simply copying what has worked well in those other states -- for gun owners, for dealers, and for society. In time, gun owners will see the NICS compliant background check as a great feature of CHL’s.

Jim Irvine is the Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman, BFA PAC Chairman and recipient of the NRA-ILA's 2011 "Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award" and the CCRKBA's 2012 "Gun Rights Defender of the Year Award."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Strange tale of a Winchester Model 1873 rifle

Here’s is an amazing story from the Washington Post about a very old Winchester Model 1873 in .44-40 caliber found lying against a very old tree in Great Basin National Park.

Though in its day the rifle could be bought for less than $50, today the value of such a rifle in excellent condition would run from $2,500 to $5,000.

Of course, this particular rifle is far from being in good condition, let alone in excellent condition.

Still, I suspect there are collectors out there who would be more than willing to pay the premium simply because of its existence and how/where it was found.



The mystery of the 132-year-old Winchester rifle found propped against a national park tree


By Elahe Izadi January 14 at 6:59 PM, The Washington Post

The Winchester rifle was spotted leaning against a tree in Great Basin National Park. (Courtesy of National Park Service)

Archaeologists conducting surveys in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park came upon a gun frozen in time:  a .44-40 Winchester rifle manufactured in 1882. It was propped up against a juniper tree.

“They just happened to notice the rifle under the tree,” said Nichole Andler, Basin National Park’s chief of interpretation. The public will get a chance to view the rifle over the weekend.

Although staff  have no idea how the rifle ended up there, “it looked like someone propped it up there, sat down to have their lunch and got up to walk off without it,” Andler said.

It’s remarkable that anyone was able to spot the gun back in November, as it had blended in so well with its surroundings. The unloaded gun appears to have been left undisturbed for more than 100 years; its wooden base had turned gray and was partially buried, and the barrel had rusted.

Courtesy of National Park Service

Though not in very good shape, the rifle is certainly salvageable, Andler said, and it will be preserved so it remains in its current state.

While the rifle’s back story remains a mystery, the history of the place offers some clues: Great Basin was primarily a mining site at the time, but could have also been home to grazing cattle and sheep. The gun may have also been the relic of game hunting in the area.

This particular model of Winchester rifle was quite popular at the time, so it wasn’t necessarily a rare and precious item for a person to leave behind. The year this particular rifle was made, 25,000 others were also manufactured. In fact, the prevalence of the gun may have contributed to a massive price drop, from costing $50 in 1873 to $25 in 1882. Here is a close-up of the rifle:
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-         Jeffrey L. Frischkorn



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Donation-only showing of "American Sniper" in Mentor to benefit war-injured Marine

A local real estate company and the local chapter of the Friends of the NRA are teaming up to offer a free (but by reservation only) showing of the film “American Sniper.”

The popcorn will be on your own.

This single, one-time free showing is set for 6:30 p.m., Monday, January19 at the Atlas Great Lakes Mall Cinema 16, 7860 Mentor Ave., Mentor, Ohio.

It is intended as a fund-raising project for local Maine Daniel Hanson, who served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

Hanson injured his spine during one of his tours and also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

While the Veterans Administration is treating Hanson for his PTSD, such is not the case for his physical injuries.

Consequently, Hanson must undergo rehabilitation and treatment not covered by his VA benefits.

Hanson needs these services in order to return to work so as to support his wife and two young children, says Kim Moss of the Owens Group which is representing the Platinum Real Estate Company and its “Hero Fund.”

“American Sniper” is a current Warner Brothers movie that stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller. It tells the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kayle, acclaimed as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. The film was directed by Clint Eastwood.

The film has already won the National Board of Reviews’ Best Director Award for Eastwood and the Denver Film Critics’ Best Actor Award for Cooper, among other honors.

Entry to the movie is complimentary, provided by Platinum Real Estate, Commerce Firearms Training Academy, and the Western Reserve Friends of the NRA.

Seating is limited and the deadline for ticket requests is Thursday, January 15. Yep, tomorrow. RSVP via e-mail only to

Donations for Hanson’s rehabilitation efforts will be accepted at the showing as well as through the web site,
Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Decline almost guaranteed for Ohio's 2014-2015 all-seasons deer-hunting harvest

With just 18 days left of Ohio’s archery deer-hunting season the clock has pretty much run out on the 2014-2015 all-seasons’ harvest matching that for the comparable 2013-2014 deer kill.

That’s okay, though, says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

It was the agency’s intent all along to see a total all-seasons’ harvest decline of five to 10 percent.

And as of the January 15 weekly reporting cycle the drop amounts to a spot-on 9.21 percent decline. The figure also is roughly within one-percent of the decline noted since just before the statewide firearms deer-hunting season about six weeks ago.

What the agency’s current figures show in raw numbers is that to-date as per the Wednesday reporting period, a statewide total of 169,179 deer have been harvested. For the same 2013-2014 to-date period the figure was 186,347 deer.

Broken down a little further it is seen that the current to-date archery kill includes 34,394 antlered deer: An actual increase from the same 2013-2014 to-date reporting figure of 33,539 antlered deer.

However, where the numbers take a nosedive and as a result, becomes the critical factor in the overall to-date harvest is the number of antlerless deer killed.

Thus, the 41,282 antlerless deer shot thus far by archery hunters represents a 13.47 drop from the same 2013-2014 reporting period figure of 47,708 deer.

Similarly – and for those hunters who continue to grouse that too many does are being killed – the to-date all-seasons’ total antlerless deer kill is down 12.93 percent from its respective 2013-2014 period posting.

Among the noteworthy counties demonstrating arguably significant to-date all-seasons harvest declines are Adams (down 14.44 percent); Ashtabula (down 13.20 percent); Coshocton (down 9.65 percent); Guernsey (down 22.41 percent); Harrison (down 24.52 percent); Knox (down 9.51 percent); Licking (down 7.98 percent); Muskingum (down 15.49 percent); Noble (down 22.53 percent); Tuscarawas (down 16.40 percent); and Vinton (down 20.15 percent).

Some of the “up” counties include Brown (up 2.32 percent); Lake (up 9.89 percent); Montgomery (up 16.61 percent); Ottawa (up 19.84 percent); and Wood (46.81 percent).

Ohio’s archery deer-hunting season runs until Sunday, February 1st.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife also is hosting a series of five concurrently held “Deer Summits” from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, January 24.

Pre-registration is required though as of Tuesday, January 13 only a baker’s dozen – 13 – people had signed up for the program scheduled for the Wildlife Division’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.

Details for the programs are:

Hunters who wish to attend the summit should preregister by Friday, Jan. 23, as seating is limited. Summits will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the following locations:

- Columbus: Wildlife District One Headquarters, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, 43215. Call 614-644-3925 to preregister.

- Findlay: Wildlife District Two Headquarters, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay, 45480. Call 419-424-5000 to preregister.

- Akron: Wildlife District Three Headquarters, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, 44319. Call 330-644-2293 to preregister.

- Athens: Wildlife District Four Headquarters, 360 East State Street, Athens, 45701. Call 740-589-9930 to preregister.

- Waynesville: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Caesar Creek Lake Learning Center, 4020 N. Clarksville Road, Waynesville, 45068. Call 937-372-9261 to preregister.

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

State to host important, concurrent public Deer Management Summits January 24

A sometimes-said phrase states that the other people who should have a right to complain about politicians are those individuals who vote.

And though the courts would no doubt disagree with such a Free Speech Amendment interference such a restriction does contain a gram or even an ounce of making sense.

The same is true for sportsmen who complain the Ohio Department of Natural Resources/Division of Wildlife should A) Stock more this or that fish, B) Provide more fishing holes and hunting areas, and C) Increase the number of deer in the state, especially does.

On A and B the Wildlife Division has not set aside part of a day for sportsmen to grouse, voice their opinion and make suggestions as to how the agency should go about  (properly, of course) doing things.

That's not true for Item C. The Wildlife Division is setting aside four hours on Saturday, January 24 for deer hunters to listen, learn - and educate - the Wildlife Division as it expresses its current deer management goals and strategies. As well as what may be in store, too.

So here's the Wildlife Division's press release on the public forums, one held in each of the agency's five districts.

So if you don't attend and you don't bend your ear or chip in your two cents then you have no right to grouse when the state presents its 2015-2016 deer-hunting regulations and looks to infinity and beyond as it relates to Ohio's deer management program, goals and mission.

Your First Amendment Right to speak up whenever even if you're too lazy/too busy/too forgetful/too whatever to attend a meeting, not-withstanding, of course.

COLUMBUS, OH – Ohio hunters and others interested in the state’s white-tailed deer management programs have the opportunity to provide feedback about hunting regulations and season structures on Saturday, Jan. 24, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
The first part of each summit will offer updates from ODNR Division of Wildlife staff, including Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance efforts and results, long-term trends in deer herd condition, and the transition from counties to deer management units (DMUs). The second portion of each summit will give attendees the opportunity to provide comment regarding deer hunting in Ohio.
Hunters who wish to attend the summit should preregister by Friday, Jan. 23, as seating is limited. Summits will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the following locations:
- Columbus: Wildlife District One Headquarters, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, 43215. Call 614-644-3925 to preregister.
- Findlay: Wildlife District Two Headquarters, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay, 45480. Call 419-424-5000 to preregister.
- Akron: Wildlife District Three Headquarters, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, 44319. Call 330-644-2293 to preregister.
- Athens: Wildlife District Four Headquarters, 360 East State Street, Athens, 45701. Call 740-589-9930 to preregister.
- Waynesville: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Caesar Creek Lake Learning Center, 4020 N. Clarksville Road, Waynesville, 45068. Call 937-372-9261 to preregister.
More information about deer hunting in Ohio is available at
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at