Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Firearms deer season didn't stop Ohio white-tail harvest slide

Ohio’s firearms deer hunters are following the footsteps of their archery deer-hunting brethren and that is spelling a reduced kill.

For Ohio’s recently concluded seven-day firearms deer-hunting season, sportsmen shot 104,442 animals. For the same seven-day hunt in 2009, Ohio sportsmen killed 114,633 deer.

Ditto the drop for both the first six weeks of the statewide archery deer-hunting season as well as the two-day youth-only firearms deer hunting season. For the former, archer killed 49,384 deer while last year archers shot 53,959 deer.

And youths killed 9,024 deer during their two-day, Nov. 20 and 21 season this year and compared to the 9,331 animals shot during the same hunt in 2009.

The total preliminary do-date deer harvest is off as well. This figure stands at 163,362 animals thus far this season and compared to the 178,397 deer taken for the same period in 2009.

Bucking the gun-week white-tailed deer decline, however, was much of Northeast Ohio. Modest gains were noted in this sector and based upon preliminary figures reported to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

In all, about three dozen of Ohio’s 88 counties experienced preliminary gains their respective deer harvest while about 50 saw declines.

Among the not-so-fortunate were the traditional high-deer-kill counties located in southeast Ohio. Notable harvest drops were seen in such places as Guernsey, Muskingum, Harrison, and Washington counties.

Here are the reported figures for select counties with their 2009 figures in parentheses (note that this year’s figures are preliminary and are based on county of check-in and not necessarily county where taken): Lake - 300 (282); Geauga - 641 (509); Ashtabula - 2,310 (2,084); Cuyahoga - 128 (107); Trumbull - 1,514 (1,474); Lorain - 823 (808); Medina - 685 (639); Erie - 253 (332); Tuscarawas - 5,513 (5,901); Guernsey - 3,455 (4,289); Muskingum - 2,447 (2,829); Harrison - 3,741 (4,310); Coschocton - 3,320 (3,680); Washington - 2,935 (3,589); and Athens - 2,395 (3,049).

Ohio firearms deer hunters can still make amends. The state’s bonus two-day firearms deer-hunting season runs Dec. 18 and 19 with the statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season scheduled for Jan. 8 through 11.

If all of this weren’t enough, the state’s fall wild turkey hunters saw an even precipitous drop in their harvest. For this year’s fall turkey season, hunters shot 1,336 birds. That’s way below the 2,180 turkeys killed during the 2009 fall season.

In almost every county opened to fall wild turkey hunting declines were seen; chief among them being Ashtabula County. Though this county still ranked Number One in the state for the fall wild turkey harvest it was a hallow win. Ashtabula County saw 75 turkeys killed this fall season - a huge drop from the 127 birds shot during there the 2009 fall season.

Some other counties were, also with their 2009 figures in parentheses: Lake - 8 (23); Geauga - 45 (58); Cuyahoga 0 (1); Trumbull - 56 (73); Lorain - 14 (39); Medina - 27 (67); Guernsey - 44 (72); Harrison - 34 (57); Muskingum - 28 (23); Tuscarawas - 49 (135); Highland - 52 (18); Hocking - 16 (68).

Wildlife Division biologists speculate that the rather large descend in the fall wild turkey harvest is directly linked to this year’s massive white oak acorn (mast) crop. When the mast crop is plentiful the turkeys spread themselves out and are thus much more difficult for hunters to locate, these biologists say.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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