It would appear that Winter Storm Ion has frost-bitten Ohio's statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season.
And even though the season's first two days - Saturday and Sunday – had respectable hunting weather across much of Ohio the harvest was still off by more than nine percent.
Preliminary figures supplied by the Ohio Division of Wildlife show that for Saturday and Sunday (January 4 and 5) muzzle-loading hunters killed 12,625 deer.
The harvest for the first two days of the 2013 statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season was 13,912 animals.
With life-threatening winter storm warnings blanketing the entire state through Wednesday almost certainly very few deer will be taken today and Tuesday, the final two days of this year's season.
Thus it is highly unlikely that last year's muzzle-loading season total harvest of 21,555 animals will be breached, let alone the all-time record of 25,006, achieved in 2009.
So far – and after the first two days of the four-day season – only 17 of Ohio's 88 counties have posted gains in their harvest. And the vast majority of these counties are not in the top tier of typically large deer-harvest-associated counties, either.
Among the big to-date fall-behinds are: Ashtabula County - 229 verses 259 (off 13.13 percent); Brown County – 187 verses 209 (off 10.53 percent); Coshcocton County – 511 verses 543 (off 5.89 percent); Guernsey County – 507 verses 553 (off 6.32 percent); Harrison County – 402 verses 451 (off 10.86 percent); Knox County – 296 verses 342 (off 13.45 percent); Noble County – 255 verses 304 (off 16.12 percent); Richland County – 180 verses 241 (off 25.31 percent); and Tuscarawas County – 460 verses 519 (off 11.37 percent).
In Northeast Ohio and besides Ashtabula County, declines occurred as well. Among them: Lake County – 16 verses 35 (off 54.29 percent); Geauga County – 67 verses 69 (off 2.90 percent); Trumbull County – 152 verses 200 (off 24 percent); Lorain County – 108 verses 133 (off 18.80 percent).
Some traditionally go-to deer-hunting counties have (so far, anyway) bucked the downward trend. Among them are: Adams County – 241 verses 211 (up 14.22 percent); Ashland County – 223 verses 198 (up 12.63 percent); Holmes County – 270 verses 252 (up 7.14 percent); Lawrence County – 172 verses 152 (up 13.16 percent); and Washington County – 309 verses 289 (up 6.92 percent).
Overall and to-date for all of Ohio's various archery and firearms-related deer-hunting seasons, the statewide total as of January is 185,965 animals. The compatible to-date figure for 2013 was 209,215, or off 12.12 percent.
To-date only seven of Ohio's 88 counties have seen net gains, and none by overwhelming percentages. These six counties include: Ashtabula County (up 1.29 percent); Erie County – up 9.0 percent; Lucas County – up 3.90 percent; Mahoning County – up 9.70 percent; Ottawa County – up 6.94 percent; Stark County – up 0.08 percent; Trumbull County – up 1.93 percent.
Ohio's statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season concludes tomorrow, January 7 at one-half hour after sunset.
The statewide archery deer-hunting season runs through one-half hour after sunset on February 2.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn