Monday, December 8, 2014

No good spin: Ohio's 2014 deer gun season kill crashes and burns

Any attempt by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to put a good spin on the just concluded statewide firearms deer-hunting season will likely be seen by at least some participants as nothing more than an agency trying to gain traction with bald tires.

A total seven-day count nearly 10,000 animals smaller than for last year’s deer gun season is not sitting well with some hunters who fruitlessly sought venison for the freezer and a trophy for the wall.

The final, preliminary total kill figure for Ohio’s 2014 seven-day firearms deer-hunting season is 65,485 animals. For the 2013 firearms deer-hunting season the figure was 75,408 animals.

Down as well is the to-date deer kill. For the 2014 header the figure stands at 148,830 animals while to comparable 2013 to-date statistic was 162,720 animals.

A quick look at the county-by-county breakdown shows that nearly 60 of Ohio’s 88 counties posted declines. And the really heavy-hitting counties such as Guernsey, Ashtabula, Morgan, Harrison, Coshocton, Gallia and Washington are all in the deficit column when their 2014 deer gun season stats are placed alongside their comparable 2013 deer gun season figures.

In announcing the 2014 firearms deer-hunting season the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was quick to note that the slashes in the county-by-county harvest rates is something to crow about.

“Until recently, the population in nearly all of Ohio’s counties were above their target numbers,” the Natural Resources Department’s press release says.

Continuing the agency’s explanation reads: “In the last few years, through increased harvests, dramatic strides have been made in many counties to bring those populations closer to their goal, and the effectiveness of these herd management efforts are reflected in the number of deer checked this season.

“Once a county’s deer population is near (its) goal, harvest regulations are adjusted to maintain the population.”

Yet not every Ohio deer hunter is buying into that line of white-tail management strategy. Among these dissenters is Dennis J. Malloy Jr., a former Wildlife Division wildlife officer who now toils away as an official with Whitetails Unlimited.

In an email sent to Mike Tonkovich – the Wildlife Division’s point-man on deer management in the state – Malloy wrote that the state “has to stop the bleeding.”

“I have never seen so many hunters apathetic and discouraged about our deer herd and deer hunting tradition,” Malloy wrote.

Continuing and adding that two of his uncles have thrown “in the towel,” Malloy writes he saw but three deer in Trumbull County on opening day and zilch in Harrison County on Sunday.

Further, Malloy writes in his email to Tonkovich, at the several rural gas stations he stopped at the bucks he observed were all small; their owners shooting them “because they were the only deer they saw.”

“They couldn’t be too picky after not seeing deer all week,” Malloy writes.
Malloy chides the Wildlife Division for taking a wrong approach to deer management, in the process alienating the constituency base that could abandon the field all-together in no small way.

“… the natives are restless..,” Malloy writes in conclusion. “…Please stop the bleeding before opening another wound.”

Here is the county-by-county kill for the 2014 statewide firearms deer-hunting season and as posted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The corresponding 2013 figures are in parentheses:

Adams: 1,134 (1,343); Allen: 348 (380); Ashland: 1,160 (1,162); Ashtabula: 1,730 (2,334); Athens: 1,360 (1,745); Auglaize: 278 (299); Belmont: 1,428 (1,851); Brown: 940 (932); Butler: 308 (312); Carroll: 1,477 (2,019); Champaign: 434 (414); Clark: 195 (198); Clermont: 685 (667); Clinton: 285 (250); Columbiana: 1,245 (1,726); Coshocton: 2,308 (2,658); Crawford: 515 (528); Cuyahoga: 24 (31); Darke: 241 (170); Defiance: 871 (744); Delaware: 422 (393); Erie: 219 (176); Fairfield: 708 (827); Fayette: 142 (103); Franklin: 124 (113); Fulton: 336 (341); Gallia: 1,220 (1,420); Geauga: 470 (509); Greene: 213 (224); Guernsey: 1,788 (2,401); Hamilton: 165 (202); Hancock: 443 (338); Hardin: 487 (544); Harrison: 1,491 (2,133); Henry: 334 (326); Highland: 1,004 (1,041); Hocking: 1,195 (1,456); Holmes: 1,349 (1,494); Huron: 921 (1,029); Jackson: 968 (1,156); Jefferson: 1,120 (1,494); Knox: 1,727 (1,966); Lake: 138 (126); Lawrence: 779 (1,002); Licking: 1,655 (1,887); Logan: 672 (653); Lorain: 646 (678); Lucas: 105 (131); Madison: 154 (127); Mahoning: 555 (750); Marion: 340 (348); Medina: 567 (555); Meigs: 1,270 (1,482); Mercer: 206 (219); Miami: 250 (211); Monroe: 1,056 (1,337); Montgomery: 130 (109); Morgan: 1,207 (1,445); Morrow: 671 (640); Muskingum: 2,084 (2,604); Noble: 1,031 (1,454); Ottawa: 121 (88); Paulding: 509 (499); Perry: 1,160 (1,362); Pickaway: 330 (343); Pike: 701 (818); Portage: 451 (568); Preble: 272 (274); Putnam: 315 (255); Richland: 1,159 (1,182); Ross: 1,106 (1,167); Sandusky: 261 (208); Scioto: 761 (1,099); Seneca: 710 (747); Shelby: 397 (371); Stark: 759 (883); Summit: 122 (140); Trumbull: 983 (1,298); Tuscarawas: 2,074 (2,604); Union: 313 (301); Van Wert: 283 (214); Vinton: 1,032 (1,424); Warren: 321 (285); Washington: 1,409 (1,606); Wayne: 639 (724); Williams: 831 (838); Wood: 389 (213); Wyandot: 749 (690). Total: 65,485 (75,408).

-         - 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.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ohio's opening day deer kill plunges by more than 25 percent; leaving hunters to ponder "why?"

If Ohio’s woodlots appeared unusually empty and the air was surprisingly quiet on Monday’s start of the state’s seven-day general firearms deer-hunting season a very good reason exists.

Far fewer deer were taken on Monday’s gun deer opener than on the same important shotgun start to the season. In all, 17,512 deer were taken Monday, including 1,805 animals shot with a number of now-legally acceptable straight-walled cartridge-firing rifles.

For the 2013 opener, licensed hunters killed 22,619 deer. In 2014 the state did not permit the use of straight-walled cartridge-firing rifles for deer hunting.

The short of the story may be more about the methodology of how today’s Ohio deer hunters go about their job than it does whether the state’s deer herd is in a nose-dive.

After all, prior to Monday’s firearms deer-hunting season the state’s bucks and does had to run a gauntlet that included an archery season that began way back on September 27,  a two-day/muzzle-loading-only/antlerless-only season October 11 and 12, and a just concluded two-day/youth-only/firearms season November 22 and 23.

Up through November 26 and for the first 60 days of the archery deer-hunting season, 79,994 deer had been taken. The year before (2013) for the first 60 days, 82,228 deer were taken.

Given that nearly 80,000 animals were shot and the deer pressured for more than two months, maybe an approximately 25-percent decline in the opening day kill is excusable.

Then again, the weather in many parts of Ohio for the opener was about as nasty as it gets: a persistent and cold mist that skipped along the edge of rain, a gnawing wind that would curl around the body until it found an opening in your garment, and a sun that simply could not peel back the clouds.

Regardless, the data, statistics, press release comments all will provide fireside debate fodder for the Ohio Division of Wildlife biologists and their hunting constituent base.
Let the arguments commence, which won’t end until the Wildlife Division holds its hunting law game hearings in late winter.

Here is this year’s opening day county-by-county statistics with the comparable 2013 statistics in parentheses:

Adams: 219 (375); Allen: 98 (77); Ashland: 353 (318); Ashtabula: 586 (880); Athens: 305 (529); Auglaize: 77 (99); Belmont: 329 (530); Brown: 183 (262); Butler: 38 (92); Carroll: 451 (698); Champaign: 103 (137); Clark: 39 (56); Clermont: 131 (160); Clinton: 51 (68); Columbiana: 372 (584); Coshocton: 793 (940); Crawford: 161 (140); Cuyahoga: 4 (2); Darke: 53 (44); Defiance: 280 (269); Delaware: 119 (100); Erie: 45 (43); Fairfield: 186 (228); Fayette: 25 (24); Franklin: 19 (25); Fulton: 125 (127); Gallia: 282 (382); Geauga: 124 (153); Greene: 57 (66); Guernsey: 512 (742); Hamilton: 29 (42); Hancock: 127 (89); Hardin: 141 (142); Harrison: 455 (738); Henry: 98 (112); Highland: 230 (294); Hocking: 284 (382); Holmes: 477 (521); Huron: 296 (338); Jackson: 222 (325); Jefferson: 303 (448); Knox: 573 (645); Lake: 35 (30); Lawrence: 142 (276); Licking: 501 (572); Logan: 183 (186); Lorain: 174 (157); Lucas: 17 (27); Madison: 28 (26); Mahoning: 157 (227); Marion: 83 (76); Medina: 139 (146); Meigs: 251 (435); Mercer: 57 (72); Miami: 66 (53); Monroe: 203 (364); Montgomery: 24 (34); Morgan: 272 (387); Morrow: 184 (176); Muskingum: 652 (831); Noble: 234 (402); Ottawa: 17 (25); Paulding: 151 (158); Perry: 326 (419); Pickaway: 78 (102); Pike: 140 (198); Portage: 104 (150); Preble: 46 (73); Putnam: 85 (72); Richland: 337 (314); Ross: 227 (307); Sandusky: 61 (60); Scioto: 113 (264); Seneca: 205 (199); Shelby: 98 (111); Stark: 183 (243); Summit: 18 (23); Trumbull: 331 (482); Tuscarawas: 667 (853); Union: 77 (82); Van Wert: 69 (42); Vinton: 248 (397); Warren: 66 (78); Washington: 350 (497); Wayne: 170 (190); Williams: 286 (340); Wood: 95 (59); Wyandot: 207 (178). Total: 17,512 (22,619).

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

REPLACES: New Ohio Wildlife Division data shows youth gun deer hunters didn't do badly after all

UPDATED AND REPLACES with significantly revised figures supplied by the Ohio Division of Wildlife the original story regarding the 2014 two-day, youth-only firearms deer-hunting season. This story is now:

What goes down must stay down, but not down as much as the Ohio Division of Wildlife originally said happened to the just-concluded two-day, youth-only firearms deer-hunting season.

Still, with the significant alterations to what was killed by youths age 17 and younger, attempting to tie the young people’s hunt with the upcoming general firearms deer-hunting season will result in creating a knot that won’t hold.

Overall, properly licensed young people age 17 and under shot 6,453 deer. That figure represents something much less (minus-2.82 percent, in fact) than the 28.4 percent drop the Wildlife Division initially said.

The 6,453 figure also is a whooper of a difference from the agency’s first released report which cited a kill of only 4,765 animals.

For reference purposes the 2013 two-day, youth-only deer hunting-season’s kill was 6,640 animals.

Humm, so one may ask as to why the agency’s admitted statistical goof. Blame the computers or its programs, or something or another, the Wildlife Division retorts.

While that is the official position and the Wildlife Division is sticking to it, some other outdoors writers believe the agency is simply attempting to cover up for a deer herd that is much smaller than state biologists are willing to admit.

We'll save such an arguement for another day, though.

For now we'll jump into the newly revised set of deer kill numbers. Consequently this go-round with the computer-generated correct figures for the youth-only gun hunt saw 47 counties reporting either identical or increased kills over what young people killed in 2013.

Initially, however, the Wildlife Division’s county-by-county statistical report showed that fully 79 of Ohio’s 88 counties saw slippage in the number of deer killed by youth during the two-day season.

Even so, down is down. And there may be some good and logical reasons why Ohio’s youth didn’t gain traction in the 2014 harvest. Chief among the probable difficulties was a mid-November freezing rain and ice storm that eventually gave way to unseasonably warm weather.

Gone too was any snow cover, even in Northeast Ohio’s legendary Snow Belt and the wider secondary Snow Belt that hovers around Cleveland’s suburbs and dips down toward Akron and west toward Medina.

Regardless, let’s (briefly, please) rehash some of the old figures and examine them against the news and improved numbers.

Ashtabula County was first said to have seen 135 deer killed. Instead, the revised ledger showed that 167 deer were actually taken; a 32-deer difference. That statistical revision was enough to boost Ashtabula County’s official percentage increase from the previously cited plus-20.54 percent to a more-than-doubled plus-49.11 percent.

Again, for reference, in 2013 Ashtabula County recorded a youth-only deer hunt kill of just 112 animals.

Among some other examples of notable counties with significantly revised figures were Guernsey County - 191 deer in 2014 and 182 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 138 deer); Tuscarawas County – 220 deer in 2014 and also 220 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 171 deer); Muskingum County – 187 deer in 2014 with 212 deer in 2014 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 138 deer); Licking County – 168 deer in 2014 and 189 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 118 deer) and Hocking County – 71 deer in 2014 and 127 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 51 animals.)

Northeast Ohio counties that experienced readjustment to their 2014 youth-only deer hunt harvest figures were: Lake County – Eight deer in 2014 and also eight deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of four deer); Cuyahoga County – Zero in 2014 and one in 2013 (no change in the re-tweaking of figures); Geauga County – 46 deer in 2014 and 38 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 37 deer and thus going from a deficit to a plus); Trumbull County – 81 deer in 2014 and 72 in deer 2013 (originally noted with a kill of 66 deer in 2014 and thus also moving from the 2014’s harvest deficit side to its plus side).

Yet with all things being considered, the Wildlife Division’s statement that a computer glitch burped out wrong numbers for the youth-only season is hardly preparatory for the up-coming statewide, general firearms deer-hunting season. That seven-day season will begin the Monday after Thanksgiving, or December 1st.

More likely (and as stated before) much of what will come beginning December 1st  will be – as always - weather dependent.

An updated look ahead via AccuWeather’s extended forecast for Northeast Ohio suggests a high on opening day approaching 40 degrees with a possible morning rain shower. The temperature is forecast to rise almost to 50 degrees by December 3rd (Wednesday) and then possibly climb to 50 degrees by December 7th.

In central Ohio, the weather forecast initially was to be even balmier for opening day. 
Not anymore, AccuWeather is now forecasting. For the opener deer hunters can expect a high only in the low 40s (colder than the just-concluded weekend) along with some rain showers. As the week progresses the temperature forecast includes a rise to near 60 degrees by Wednesday and then a steady drop until December 6th (Saturday) when the forecast says the temperature will rise toward 50 degrees again.

Southern Ohio is in for a weather-dismal opener, if AccuWeather’s latest forecast is to be believed. Rain at times will be accompanied with temperatures in the low 50s. The sun will come out tomorrow, says AccuWeather, with the forecast for December 2nd including sunshine.

Though the sun will be hidden by clouds for December 3rd the temperature forecast is now predicted to rise to at least 60 degrees before beginning a decent into the 50s for December 4th and the 40s for December 5th before slightly recovering for the hunt’s final two days.

In short, expect highly variable temperatures, cloud cover, likely rain showers at some point; and if you live in Northeast Ohio then an equal probability of snow showers somewhere along the way.

After-all - and let’s face i -, if AccuWeather’s scientists and their latest high-tech gadgetry used in forecasting the weather can’t always produce spot-on data than we ought not to be too hard on the Ohio Division of Wildlife and its stable of bean-counters and biologists.

- 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.