In a seismic shift not seen since the state first allowed the taking of multiple deer, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is proposing sweeping changes for the 2013-2014 various deer-hunting seasons.
Among the proposals:
* The establishment of a two-day, muzzle-loader-only, antlerless-only season, tentatively set for Oct. 12-13. (Archery hunters during the season also can take only antlerless deer.)
* Changing the daily time all gun hunters must cease hunting to one-half hour AFTER Sunset. Presently it is sunset
* Eliminate the two-day mid-December, so-called bonus firearms deer-hunting season.
* Eliminate the Urban Deer Hunting zones, including the one incorporating all of Lake and Cuyahoga counties as well as that portion of Geauga County west of Rt 44.
* Restrict the sale of antlerless deer tags to no more than one and which MUST be used prior to the start of the statewide firearms deer-hunting season. (This stipulation includes the former Urban Deer zones).
* Eliminate the current set of deer-hunting zones by moving to a more county-by-county management and permit-required system.
“This represents a lot of changes from we’ve seen the past several years,” said Wildlife Division chief Scott Zody this morning in a phone-in webiner with the state’s outdoors writers.
Zody and a large contingent of agency officials fielded answers to an extensive series of questions during the nearly one-hour-long program.
Agency officials noted the moves are being made a potential step toward the development of even more precise deer management strategies. These strategies may very will - over time - evolve into the unit management approach used in many other states, Wildlife Division officials said.
“That is a few years down the road,” said Mike Tonkovich, the agency’s deer management administrator, who added the current zone-management approach was done more for convenience than for a scientific move.
“There are a lot of positives coming out of these proposals,” Tonkovich said also.
In every respect, Zody, Tonkovich, and the other officials said the object is to better manage the state’s deer herd, especially by reducing the number of fawn-bearing does.
In the case of the early muzzle-loader season, the rationale is based on the fact that less than one percent of the statewide total deer kill occurs during the second weekend in October by archery hunters.
And the vast majority of those animals have been antlerless deer.
Thus such a primitive weapons hunt is intended to increase both the take of antlerless deer, increase gun hunting opportunity but not interfere with the rut, which typically peaks in mid-November, Wildlife Division officials said.
Yet the agency did respond to a posed question that, yes, push-back from some archery hunting interests is anticipated. And which the Wildlife Division is prepared to fend off.
Citing statistics gleaned from previous hunting law proposal open houses, agency officials said 65 percent of responding attendees supported such a season.
“I think the majority (of them) spoke loudly in favor of it,” Zody said.
As for the elimination of the increasingly unpopular two-day, so-called “bonus” December firearms deer-hunting season, the total number of deer taken during this period has shrunk just has hunter participation, Wildlife Division officials said also.
Also, for hunters in the current Urban Deer zones the elimination of these designated areas is a watershed development.
Where previously an Urban Zone deer hunter in Lake, Cuyahoga and the western half of Geauga County need buy only one either-sex tag and multiple antlerless-only tags, those participants will now be able to buy up to three either-sex tags but only ONE antlerless-only tag.
And that tag MUST be used prior to the start of the statewide general firearms deer-hunting season, said Wildlife Division officials.
Zody did acknowledge such a requirement will become more expensive for some former Urban Zone hunters who seek to shoot multiple numbers of antlerless deer. The reason being is that either-sex tags cost $24 while antlerless-only permits cost $15.
However, Zody says, these antlerless-only tags still may be used at any time during any of the special controlled deer hunts such as those conducted at Plumbrook and the Ravenna Arsenal.
The Wildlife Division officials concluded their presentation by saying these are proposals only, and are not the final okay.
That will come after a series of public open houses are done in which citizens can express their thoughts, after which a single statewide meeting is conducted and then a vote taken by the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council.
The nearest such public open house forum will be conducted from noon to 3 p.m., March 2, at the Wildlife Division’s Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station, 1190 High St., Fairport Harbor.
Here is the text of the Wildlife Division’s press release on the proposed 2013-2014 deer-hunting regulations:
An October antlerless-only white-tailed deer muzzleloader hunting season, extended hunting hours and new bag limits were proposed to the Ohio Wildlife Council on Wednesday, Feb. 6, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
The proposed antlerless-only muzzleloader hunting season would be Oct. 12-13 and scheduled for the second weekend of October in subsequent years. The proposal includes making the October muzzleloader season for antlerless deer only, regardless of the method of take, and eliminating both the bonus gun weekend in December and the early muzzleloader season at three public hunting areas (Salt Fork Wildlife Area, Shawnee State Forest and Wildcat Hollow).
Hunting hours are proposed to be extended 30 minutes past sunset for all deer firearms seasons, including the weeklong deer-gun season, youth season and muzzleloader seasons. This will make the hours the same as archery season.
County bag limits are proposed to replace deer zones. Proposed bag limits will be two, three or four deer, determined by county
The proposed statewide bag limit is nine deer with additional controlled hunt opportunities, which do not count against the statewide bag limit. The nine deer bag limit is reduced from last season’s 18 deer limit.
t is also proposed that antlerless permits will only be valid until the Sunday before the deer-gun season. Urban deer zones would be eliminated. Hunters may harvest only one buck in Ohio, regardless of the method of take or location.
Proposed deer bag limits, from the following counties combined:
One either-sex permit, one antlerless permit (eight counties): Darke, Erie, Fayette, Hancock, Madison, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood.
Two either-sex permits, one antlerless permit (23 counties): Auglaize, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Gallia, Harrison, Henry, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Logan, Meigs, Mercer, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Preble, Ross, Shelby, Van Wert and Washington.
Three either-sex permits, one antlerless permit (57 counties): Adams, Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Clinton, Columbiana, Coshocton, Crawford, Cuyahoga, Defiance, Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Fulton, Geauga, Greene, Guernsey, Hamilton, Hardin, Highland, Holmes, Huron, Knox, Lake, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Paulding, Pickaway, Pike, Portage, Putnam, Richland, Scioto, Seneca, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Vinton, Warren, Wayne, Williams and Wyandot.
Proposed seasons for 2013-2014:
Deer archery: Sept. 28, 2013 - Feb. 2, 2014.
Deer antlerless muzzleloader: Oct. 12-13, 2013.
Youth deer gun: Nov. 16-17, 2013.
Deer gun: Dec. 2-8, 2013.
Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 4-7, 2014.
The start of fall turkey hunting season is proposed to be moved to the Monday following the antlerless deer muzzleloader season. The proposed fall turkey hunting season is Oct. 14 - Dec. 1, 2013.
Butler, Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Seneca and Warren counties are proposed to be added to the existing list of counties open for fall turkey hunting, which would bring the total to 56 counties.
Deer and fall wild turkey permits would go on sale June 1, instead of March 1.
Changes in hunting regulations are proposed by ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists and wildlife management staff. These proposed changes, if approved by the Ohio Wildlife Council, will take effect for the 2013-2014 hunting seasons.
Open houses will be held statewide March 2 for public input on the proposals, and public comments are welcome online at wildohio.com. After receiving public input, the Ohio Wildlife Council will vote at its April 17 meeting.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.com.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn