Wednesday, November 26, 2014

REPLACES: New Ohio Wildlife Division data shows youth gun deer hunters didn't do badly after all

UPDATED AND REPLACES with significantly revised figures supplied by the Ohio Division of Wildlife the original story regarding the 2014 two-day, youth-only firearms deer-hunting season. This story is now:

What goes down must stay down, but not down as much as the Ohio Division of Wildlife originally said happened to the just-concluded two-day, youth-only firearms deer-hunting season.

Still, with the significant alterations to what was killed by youths age 17 and younger, attempting to tie the young people’s hunt with the upcoming general firearms deer-hunting season will result in creating a knot that won’t hold.

Overall, properly licensed young people age 17 and under shot 6,453 deer. That figure represents something much less (minus-2.82 percent, in fact) than the 28.4 percent drop the Wildlife Division initially said.

The 6,453 figure also is a whooper of a difference from the agency’s first released report which cited a kill of only 4,765 animals.

For reference purposes the 2013 two-day, youth-only deer hunting-season’s kill was 6,640 animals.

Humm, so one may ask as to why the agency’s admitted statistical goof. Blame the computers or its programs, or something or another, the Wildlife Division retorts.

While that is the official position and the Wildlife Division is sticking to it, some other outdoors writers believe the agency is simply attempting to cover up for a deer herd that is much smaller than state biologists are willing to admit.

We'll save such an arguement for another day, though.

For now we'll jump into the newly revised set of deer kill numbers. Consequently this go-round with the computer-generated correct figures for the youth-only gun hunt saw 47 counties reporting either identical or increased kills over what young people killed in 2013.

Initially, however, the Wildlife Division’s county-by-county statistical report showed that fully 79 of Ohio’s 88 counties saw slippage in the number of deer killed by youth during the two-day season.

Even so, down is down. And there may be some good and logical reasons why Ohio’s youth didn’t gain traction in the 2014 harvest. Chief among the probable difficulties was a mid-November freezing rain and ice storm that eventually gave way to unseasonably warm weather.

Gone too was any snow cover, even in Northeast Ohio’s legendary Snow Belt and the wider secondary Snow Belt that hovers around Cleveland’s suburbs and dips down toward Akron and west toward Medina.

Regardless, let’s (briefly, please) rehash some of the old figures and examine them against the news and improved numbers.

Ashtabula County was first said to have seen 135 deer killed. Instead, the revised ledger showed that 167 deer were actually taken; a 32-deer difference. That statistical revision was enough to boost Ashtabula County’s official percentage increase from the previously cited plus-20.54 percent to a more-than-doubled plus-49.11 percent.

Again, for reference, in 2013 Ashtabula County recorded a youth-only deer hunt kill of just 112 animals.

Among some other examples of notable counties with significantly revised figures were Guernsey County - 191 deer in 2014 and 182 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 138 deer); Tuscarawas County – 220 deer in 2014 and also 220 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 171 deer); Muskingum County – 187 deer in 2014 with 212 deer in 2014 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 138 deer); Licking County – 168 deer in 2014 and 189 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 118 deer) and Hocking County – 71 deer in 2014 and 127 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 51 animals.)

Northeast Ohio counties that experienced readjustment to their 2014 youth-only deer hunt harvest figures were: Lake County – Eight deer in 2014 and also eight deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of four deer); Cuyahoga County – Zero in 2014 and one in 2013 (no change in the re-tweaking of figures); Geauga County – 46 deer in 2014 and 38 deer in 2013 (originally noted with a 2014 kill of 37 deer and thus going from a deficit to a plus); Trumbull County – 81 deer in 2014 and 72 in deer 2013 (originally noted with a kill of 66 deer in 2014 and thus also moving from the 2014’s harvest deficit side to its plus side).

Yet with all things being considered, the Wildlife Division’s statement that a computer glitch burped out wrong numbers for the youth-only season is hardly preparatory for the up-coming statewide, general firearms deer-hunting season. That seven-day season will begin the Monday after Thanksgiving, or December 1st.

More likely (and as stated before) much of what will come beginning December 1st  will be – as always - weather dependent.

An updated look ahead via AccuWeather’s extended forecast for Northeast Ohio suggests a high on opening day approaching 40 degrees with a possible morning rain shower. The temperature is forecast to rise almost to 50 degrees by December 3rd (Wednesday) and then possibly climb to 50 degrees by December 7th.

In central Ohio, the weather forecast initially was to be even balmier for opening day. 
Not anymore, AccuWeather is now forecasting. For the opener deer hunters can expect a high only in the low 40s (colder than the just-concluded weekend) along with some rain showers. As the week progresses the temperature forecast includes a rise to near 60 degrees by Wednesday and then a steady drop until December 6th (Saturday) when the forecast says the temperature will rise toward 50 degrees again.

Southern Ohio is in for a weather-dismal opener, if AccuWeather’s latest forecast is to be believed. Rain at times will be accompanied with temperatures in the low 50s. The sun will come out tomorrow, says AccuWeather, with the forecast for December 2nd including sunshine.

Though the sun will be hidden by clouds for December 3rd the temperature forecast is now predicted to rise to at least 60 degrees before beginning a decent into the 50s for December 4th and the 40s for December 5th before slightly recovering for the hunt’s final two days.

In short, expect highly variable temperatures, cloud cover, likely rain showers at some point; and if you live in Northeast Ohio then an equal probability of snow showers somewhere along the way.

After-all - and let’s face i -, if AccuWeather’s scientists and their latest high-tech gadgetry used in forecasting the weather can’t always produce spot-on data than we ought not to be too hard on the Ohio Division of Wildlife and its stable of bean-counters and biologists.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

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