Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ohio's wildlife officials go to the mat in support of their deer-hunting proposals

Ohio’s wildlife officials are standing firm that piggy-backing a two-day so-named “holiday” general firearms deer-hunting season only five days before the statewide four-day muzzle-loading deer-hunting season is good deer hunter management.

Similarly the Ohio Division of Wildlife says the reconfiguration of how many deer can be shot in which county is a planned effort in order to break trail for even more anticipated regulatory changes for the various 2016-2017 deer-hunting seasons.

These and other related deer-hunting topics were addressed during a teleconference conducted today, February 12,  by several Wildlife Division officials and various Ohio outdoors writers.

At hand are some sweeping alterations and course corrections in the regulations; much more so than at least one agency official noted a few weeks back at the Wildlife Division’s concurrent series of deer summits.

Among the significant proposed changes are:

·        Reduced bag limits in the majority of Ohio’s 88 counties.

·        Antlerless permits to be valid in only 10 of Ohio’s 88 counties and all of which are considered as being urban counties.

·        A statewide maximum limit on the number of deer that a person can shoot at six animals, down from the previous nine animals.

·        A suspension of the early, mid-October antlerless-only/muzzle-loader-only deer hunting season.

·        Moving the youth-only general firearms deer-hunting season to the mid-October weekend slot previously enrolled in the antlerless-only/muzzle-loading-only deer-hunting season.

·        The addition of a two-day general firearms deer-hunting season for December 26 and 27.

Standing firm that a five-day break between the proposed two-day holiday gun hunt and the muzzle-loading-only season is a right fine and capital idea is Scott Zody, the Wildlife Division’s chief.

“We want to provide two unique (deer) hunting opportunities,” Zody said during the teleconference. “We wanted to create as much time as possible between the two seasons.”

Of general importance, Zody and his staff said as well, is that the proposed revamped regulations will help assure a smoother and less complicated transition to a more intense zone/unit management system.

By prepping and pruning this year’s regulations the Wildlife Division also can better establish a goal of stabilizing the state’s deer herd rather than working toward rebuilding deer numbers.

At least not until a refined zone/unit management plan is established, said Zody.

Or in Zody’s words this year’s proposals will help make for a “soft landing” come 2016-2017 when the zone/unit management concept is cemented.

Zody did say the Wildlife Division “tweaked” its proposals following a recent and concurrent series of deer summits.

Consequently,  any comments related to an expectation of few changes - and made by Wildlife Division staff - were not attempts to misguide hunters.

“We’d rather tweak them now instead of later,” Zody said.

As for mothballing the mid-October antlerless-only/muzzle-loading-only season, Zody said shrink-wrapping this season doesn’t mean it is now confined to Ohio’s deer management history books.

“We’re just putting it back into the tool box and we can pull it back out if we need to,” Zody said.

In defending substituting the early muzzle-loading/antlerless-only deer-hunting season with a rescheduled youth-only/general firearms season Zody and his staff believe archery hunters won’t mind too much.

Especially since now they’ll have the option of shooting either bucks or does.  During the prior two-day antlerless-only/muzzle-loading-only season even archers were limited to shooting does and button bucks.

“Everyone will still have to wear blaze orange, of course,” Zody said.

As for antlerless tags in the 11 counties where they will be legal, the permits will continue to expire the day before the general firearms deer-hunting season. Their cost of $15 each remains, too, Zody says.

And deer hunting license costs – specifically those paid by non-resident deer hunters - was another issue that cropped up during the teleconference even though that subject is on the periphery of the deer management proposals.

Zody said increases to what non-resident deer hunters must pay to hunt in Ohio are components contained within Gov. John Kasich’s just-introduced biennium budget. This budget will be reviewed by and then acted upon by the state legislature.

If the package is approved a non-resident hunter would see his (or her) general hunting license cost $129, up from the present $120. Meanwhile, a newly created non-resident either-sex deer tag would cost $99.

Under current law, non-residents pay the same as do Ohio residents for an either-sex tag, or $24.

And, yes, says Zody, the Wildlife Division can administratively create a non-resident antlerless-only deer tag, good for any of the proposed 11 counties where such a license would be permitted.

Zody did emphasize that hunters need to voice their concerns, support and opposition to the Wildlife Division’s deer-hunting proposals.

"Apathy is the greatest enemy of sportsmen," Zody said.

Interested persons have several venues including visiting one of the game hearing open houses scheduled for noon to 3 p.m., Saturday, March 7. Each of the agency’s five wildlife district offices will host an open house.

Petitioners also can contact the Wildlife Division via telephone (800-WILDLIFE) or via e-mail at
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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