Friday, February 13, 2015

Ohio's Wildlife Division employs too many explosives in its deer management profile

It was a classic line in a classic movie but speaks volumes regarding Ohio’s start-stop-redo deer-management program.

In the 1969 blockbuster “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the duo had just robbed a train, using a significant amount of pyrotechnics to accomplish their nefarious ends.

As the two men get up and dust themselves off, the Sundance Kid (portrayed by actor Robert Redford) looks to Butch Cassidy (played by actor Paul Newman) and rhetorically asks: “Think ‘ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?”

The obvious answer is an unqualified “yes.” It’s also the same rhetorical Q&A response that more than a handful of Ohio deer hunters are cynically applying to the Ohio Division of Wildlife and its deer-management strategies, goals, rules, bag limits and other such accompanying truck.

For good reason, too, since the Wildlife Division just doesn’t get it. Instead, the agency has jumped into the cold waters of rejuvenating the state’s deer herd via revamped (but still proposed) 2015-2016 deer-hunting regulations, any number of which defy common sense.

Startling in oh-so-many ways, the Wildlife Division doesn’t even think the look of the proposed 2015-2016 deer regulation are all that different from the ones Ohio’s hunters dealt with during the 2014-2015 season.

That the Ohio Division of Wildlife abandoned – at least for now and almost assuredly forever if truth be told – the early two-day antlerless-only/muzzle-loading-only season and substituted it with the calendar-relocated youth-only/general firearms deer-hunting season is a sure sign of how agency officials are groping in the dark in an effort to make (most) everyone happy.

Likewise, for the agency’s chief to say that a five-day gap between the proposed two-day so-named “holiday” gun season and the start of a four-day muzzle-loading season is ample time for deer to calm down is pretty much proof positive the Wildlife Division is out of touch with reality.

After all, one of the reasons cited for the reshuffling of the deer season deck that (among other things) would move the youth-only season further back in the calendar, was to keep it at long-arm’s length from the general firearms deer-hunting season.

Ignored as well is that a tacked-on two-day late season falls immediately after Christmas Day properly leaves deer hunters scratching their heads in wonderment.

The day after Christmas: Really and seriously, Wildlife Division? Perhaps such a season makes sense for those hunters who have the good fortune to be able to walk out their back doors.

However, for any hunter who wants to head out for deer camp late on Christmas Day, the best advice would be to have on retainer a good divorce attorney. Surely one will be needed on returning to the home front and a family that was abandoned on this all-important and family themed holiday.

Then too there comes to mind the words of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s deer-management administrator Mike Tonkovich.

At the Wildlife Division’s recently held Deer Summit  at the agency’s Akron office, Tonkovich more than implied how little different the 2015-2016 deer-hunting regulatory framework would look when stacked next to the just concluded 2014-2015 regulatory (supposed) twin.

Focus, rather, on the 2016-2017 season, Deer Summit attendees were told. That is when the Wildlife Division will roll out a totally redesigned deer-hunting model, complete with a zone/unit, Tonkovich noted.

In attempting to explain it all away, the Wildlife Division’s chief Scott Zody said during a teleconference with outdoors writers yesterday (Thursday, February 12) the agency’s proposals were tweaked a short while after after the deer summits.

Don’t want to incorporate too many changes all at once, was the way Zody put it.

Ho-boy, tweaking is a word of vast understatement. Especially since Zody’s take on the subject is polar opposite of what hunters were exposed to at the several concurrently held deer summits only a few weeks earlier.

And demonstrating further a believability disconnect is the notion of how the Wildlife Division all too often says one thing only to retract it later under the guise of fine-tuning.

A source in Columbus says the revisions really weren’t the Wildlife Division’s design anyway. Instead, the agency is being overly manipulated by politically hired and politically motivated minions within the parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Who –in turn, it’s being said – are seeing their puppet strings livened by state legislators and a governor hell-bent on dismantling as many Natural Resources divisions as possible.

All of which falls under the spreadsheet of speculation, more or less.

Still, where there is smoke there has to be at least a spark of some fire. And few people inside the Wildlife Division - coupled with some who have retired or left the agency as well as more than a few deer-hunting sportsmen and sportswomen - believe this is not the same agency it was a generation or even a decade ago.

Far from it, they’ll note, saying the Wildlife Division used way too much dynamite is its previous efforts to reduce the state’s deer herd with better management and with fewer deer-damage complaints in mind.

Even so and for whatever reasons and for whomever in political power is helping to call the shots, the Wildlife Division’s 2015-2016 deer-hunting proposals are no less an extravagant overuse of regulatory explosives.

This has all got to come to a screaming halt if the Wildlife Division is ever again to regain the respect of its constituency base and the trust of its hard-working grunts in the field.
- 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.


1 comment:

  1. When asked about doing away with early muzzleloader season, Tonkovich stated that the early muzzleloader season was QUOTE "rock solid". Google SSA Newsletter February 2015!!! Also in OON a while back. Can you really question why there is poor attendance at the Deer Summits? Everyone knows what DOW says and then what they do are two totally different things.