Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Intensive crop harvest is eliminating deer hideaways

Many Ohio deer hunters don't pay much attention to crop reports though following the paper trail of what grain is being retrieved from the field is still of vital importance.

Just ask Mike Tonkovich, the Ohio Division of Wildlife's deer management administrator.

The reason Tonkovich is interested in how much corn is being harvested and how much soybeans are still left to be plucked is because these crops help determine how many deer are killed by hunters. Particularly firearms deer hunters.

The more standing corn that remains come the start of Ohio's deer firearms-hunting season - set for Nov. 29 - the many more places a white-tail has to hide in, Tonkovich says.

Give a deer a large chunk of unharvested corn and the animal will virtually disappear from sight. And toward the back end of the gun season a whole mess of hard-pressed deer will find sanctuary in a corn field. Only if they are booted out by a drive or a slow-moving solo hunter will the deer bolt for the hunter-filled woods.

And while the news has proven bad for archery hunters this fall because of the massive crop of white oak acorns, the take on the harvest of corn should encourage gun hunters at the very least.

The most recent weekly crop report issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Agriculture shows that 64 percent of the corn used for grain has been harvested. That's well ahead of the long-term five-year average of 23 percent, which indicates that Ohio's deer herd is experiencing shrinking hiding places.

Also, 80 percent of the state's soybean crop has been picked, compared to 59 percent for the five-year average. And while deer don't hide in soybean fields they do eat the bean pods. Thus, the deer have less agricultural grain to munch on at night.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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