Bad weather swatted what expectedly might have proven an Ohio record-setting muzzle-loading deer-hunting-season harvest.
The preliminary figures for the statewide season that ran January 4 through 7 was a harvest of 16,464 animals, off 23.62 percent from the 2013 muzzle-loading season kill of 21,555 deer.
With just two exceptions virtually every other one of Ohio's 88 counties report a preliminary decrease in this year's muzzle-loading deer-hunting season.
That divergence shows up in southwest Ohio's Fayette County which is posting back-to-back identical muzzle-loading deer season harvests of 27 animals.
The only other at least status quo county-wide harvest was in Vinton County where its back-to-back identical muzzle-loading season harvest consisted of 392 animals each time.
Some counties recorded significant drops, too.
Among them being Lake County. Here, muzzle-loading hunters reported a total statewide black-powder season kill of just 20 deer. That figure is off a whopping 66.10 percent from the 2013 muzzle-loading season harvest of 66 deer.
No other county - except, again for Fayette and Vinton counties - was immune from the decline, with only eight counties displaying harvest declines of 10 percent or less.
The other 80 counties all saw shortfalls greater than Meigs County's drop of "only" 11.83 percent.
Some counties share in Lake County's misery. Among them is Ashtabula County where the muzzle-loading season harvest fell 25.83 percent from 422 animals taken during the 2013 season to the 313 deer shot during this year's winter storm-tossed season.
Other noteworthy declines are noted. Thee include - with the preliminary 2014 season harvest followed by the 2013 season kill and then the percentage decline: Adams County - 296 deer (347 deer), off 14.70 percent; Brown County - 233 deer (305 deer), off 23.61 percent; Coshocton County - 630 deer (813 deer), off 22.21 percent; Geauga County - 96 deer (126 deer), off 23.81 percent; Guernsey County - 652 deer (821 deer), off 20.58 percent; Harrison County - 513 deer (677 deer), off 24.22 percent; Jefferson County - 472 deer (619 deer), off 23.75 percent; Licking County - 511 deer (675 deer), off 24.30 percent; Lorain County - 142 deer (197 deer), off 27.92 percent; Muskingum County - 593 deer (751 deer), off 21.04 percent; Trumbull County - 222 deer (321 deer), off 30.84 percent; Tuscarawas County - 592 deer (784 deer). off 24.49 percent.
Ohio deer hunters still have time to bag a deer. The state's archery deer-hunting season runs through February 2.
However, Ohio Division of Wildlife officials do not believe the kill during these remaining hunting days will up the state's total deer-harvest ante to equal - much less - exceed the 2012-2013 all seasons deer harvest of 218,910 animals.
As of today, the preliminary to-date statewide deer harvest stands at 184,891 animals.
Last year between this point in the season and the last day, Ohio deer hunters killed roughly an additional 5,000 animals. If that figure is added to this year's to-date harvest figure than a 2013-2014 all-seasons deer harvest of around 190,000 animals.
The last time Ohio has experienced a total deer harvest of less than 200,000 animals was in 2003; 11 years ago.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn