Oh, this is all so deliciously arrogant of a state government bureaucracy bent on manipulating what information it believes the public is capable of understanding.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife administration has begun prepping the media and the state’s sportsmen on the new way the agency will be providing data for the up-coming deer and turkey kill statistics.
In short, the watered-down material will pretty much be delivered on a need-to-know basis, largely curtailing the use of year-to-year comparisons.
By declaring that it will “… no longer include harvest comparisons in news releases or in the weekly harvest reports” the Wildlife Division’s leadership has determined that it – and it alone – knows what data, statistics and information Ohio’s deer and turkey hunters are best capable of understanding.
“Traditionally, harvest numbers have been released in comparison to the past year’s harvest, or by ranking county harvests. Neither of these comparisons has relevance or biological significance when considering wildlife management goals. While on the surface this may seem harmless, it has resulted in significant confusion and a lack of understanding among hunters and other interested parties,” said the Wildlife Division’s acting communication’s chief John Windau.
Windau made the statement in an electronic press release sent September 28 to members of the media.
The stuff that exists between the lines of the Wildlife Division’s new deer/turkey kill information distribution policy points with ever-so-sharp precision how Ohio’s sportsmen are ill-prepared and somehow incapable of understanding statistics and data without the information first being filtered by the Wildlife Division.
To claim that by comparing one year’s or one week’s county-by-county deer or turkey kill numbers against another year’s or week’s “…raw data without incorporating and factoring this other information leads to false conclusions, assumptions, and confusion” is a deliberately armed torpedo aimed squarely at the very core of openness in government.
Thus and consequently, the Wildlife Division’s leadership patronizingly believes that Ohio’s deer and turkey hunters need to be spoon fed pre-digested numbers in order for the information to be relevant, the agency condescendingly huffs and puffs.
What we are seeing here, of course, is a division, a department, and an administration that genuinely - and perhaps purposefully - confuses opaqueness for transparency.
No less suspect is how the Wildlife Division’s big guns are attempting to deflect criticism by basically noting that those who oppose the agency’s efforts at manipulating deer and turkey kill data are, shall we say, unpatriotic.
In a separate email exchange with a number of the state’s outdoor writers, Windau said “What is important is how populations are managed, the importance of hunting for conservation, and the health and quality of Ohio's deer herd.
“The fact is that Ohio has an exceptional deer herd because of the management practices, and that is a story that seems to get forgotten by the media.”
If laying a guilt trip on the media is what the Wildlife Division’s leadership is seeking it is doubtful that many of Ohio’s outdoor media members will bum a ride.
The Wildlife Division does say in its electronic missive that, yes, if a person really, really does want to compare one subset of deer or turkey kill numbers against another subset, a way exists to uproot such information.
“For those who still wish to make these comparisons, the data is still available from past news releases, the annual deer harvest summaries (publication 304) (actually publication 5304), and from the past year’s harvest updates, all available at wildohio.gov.,” the agency’s electronic notice says.
However, this will require a sportsman or a member of the media to hunt and peck his or her way through the labyrinth and sometimes Byzantine Wildlife Division electronic file cabinet; but without the assistance of the librarian, of course.
Ultimately what we are encountering here is an increasingly belligerent Wildlife Division leadership crowing that it knows what’s best not only for Ohio’s deer herd and turkey flock but also Ohio’s deer and turkey hunters.
Simultaneously the Wildlife Division’s brass has launched an offensive diversionary tactic directed at its critics by attempting to make these cynics believe they are in some fashion culpable in fostering an uncharitable attitude regarding the agency.
In the end we are witnessing a once-respected state agency moving from a policy of politely asking “How may I help you?” to one that now sneeringly responds “Go away; I’m busy. Look it up yourself.”
It’s all so very sad, really.
By 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 125 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.