With the launch of Ohio’s 2014-2015 archery deer-hunting season less than one week away the state’s game biologists are going out on a limb.
Sure, it’s a pretty big limb and the climb isn’t all that far away from the trunk but the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s deer management specialists are happily making their projections for the state’s various deer-hunting seasons.
More or less, as things shape up, however.
First up is the agency’s position that, regulation-wise, “… the 2014-15 season(s) will be relatively quiet in terms of regulation changes.”
The two chief changes include accepting the well-reasoned and data-strong arguments of seasoned hunters and ballisticians that allowing certain straight-walled rifle calibers is a pretty god idea after all.
And which has led to a run of sorts at area gun shops on available lever-action rifles chambered in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45-70 Springfield and .444 Marlin calibers.
Far more importantly in the way of deer management, though, is the tweaking of the lower cost antlerless-only deer tags.
Here the Wildlife Division’s white-tail deer management biologists say the agency is seeking to reduce deeper declines in the herds of 44 counties.
Thus in 29 counties where the agency believes “additional antlerless harvest reductions are warranted” hunters will not have the option of using an antlerless-only tag. None, zip, zero, as will be the case this deer-hunting season.
It is all intended to throttle back on the kill of antlerless deer, chiefly the fawn-producing does, the agency says.
Even so, the bag limit won’t change in these counties; hunters will need to buy the more expensive $24 either-sex tags. Which – if Wildlife Division expectations bear fruit – fewer hunters will bother doing, too.
“We believe the removal of the antlerless-permit in these counties will likely have a greater impact on the antlerless harvest than a bag limit reduction,” the Wildlife Division says in defense of this significant deer management change.
Bolstering its own position via statistical analysis and management strategies the Wildlife Division stresses that its research demonstrates that who buys what tag dictates who kills what deer.
Hunters will purchase more than one deer-hunting tag (only about one-third of all Ohio’s deer hunters) will likely conduct a self-study on their buying habits, the agency contends.
Combination deer-tag buyers – or those who bought one either-sex tag and one antlerless-only tag, for instance – “were twice as likely to purchase multiple permits” at the same time.
Conversely, says the Wildlife Division’s deer-management specialists, hunters who buy one either-sex tag work to fill that permit first before deciding to buy a second (or third, or forth) either-sex tag.
Yet the – as many deer hunters say who tag one deer – “the pressure is off” in trying to kill another one, two, three, or whatever white-tail.
“Moreover, if their first deer is a buck, chances are good that they will be done hunting for the year,” the Wildlife Division says.
Stats bear out the Wildlife Division’s interpretation of the data as well. Fully 75 percent of all successful deer hunters killed just one animal last year. That figure dropped significantly to 19 percent of successful hunters killing two animals.
After that the figures fall off the radar screen. Only 5 percent of Ohio’s successful deer hunters last year shot three animals while only 1 percent killed three or more deer.
The bottom line, the Wildlife Division says, is a belief that hunters’ deer tag-buying habits will change. Consequently, with fewer permits expected to be sold then the revised process “…will lead to the intended goal of a reduced antlerless harvest.”
As for as the early two-day antlerless-only/muzzle-loading-only (set for October 11 and 12 this year), the Wildlife Division remains steadfast in its support of this controversial season.
It does so by noting research conducted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. This agency’s work clearly points to the fact that buck behavior did not artificially become more nocturnal after the conclusion of that state’s antlerless-only/muzzle-loading-only season, Ohio’s wildlife leaders say.
And Pennsylvania’s antlerless-only/muzzle-loading-only season is six days long, not just two days as is the case with Ohio, the Wildlife Division says as well.
For that matter, the Wildlife Division says in reaching for another nail to pound into the “no-to-doe”campaign coffin, the 2013-2014 to-date buck harvest by the archery season’s 33rd day actually exceeded the same to-date 2012-2013 archery season kill by 2 percent.
Furthermore, the Wildlife Division crows: “…this past year’s archery harvest accounted for a record 45% of the total (all seasons’ deer) harvest!”
“The timing of this antlerless-only season is consistent with the Division of Wildlife’s emphasis on the importance of harvesting antlerless deer early in the season verses later in the year; it is more biologically sound, it is easier to differentiate between button bucks and adult does early in the season, and balancing the sex ratio of the herd early in the season can intensify rutting activity,” the Wildlife Division says.
All of this is a prelude, by the way, to what the agency is willing to call for the various 2014-2015 deer-hunting seasons. On that score the agency takes a very short run.
By reducing bag limits in 44 counties and removing the use of antlerless-only tags in 29 counties the Wildlife Division is predicting a 2014-2015 total, all seasons kill of 180,000 to 185,000 deer.
By comparison, for the 2013-2014 all-seasons’ deer kill, 191,503 animals were taken while for the 2012-2013 all-seasons’ deer kill, 218,910 animals were taken.
- 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.