Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Poor mast crop credited with "artificial bump" in Ohio's increased buck kill

With only 11 more days left in Ohio’s long ledger of deer-hunting opportunities the number of antlered animals continues to leave the previous two seasons in the dust.

Credit goes to a couple of factors; one Nature-induced and the other a human-made product. The latter reason was designed to help keep the state’s deer herd from tumbling to a point where Ohio’s deer hunters begin looking around for tar and feathers to coat various Ohio Division of Wildlife officials.

The to-date antlered deer kill – as compiled through Tuesday, January 26th and reported January 27th stands at 75,804 animals, of which 39,123 were shot by archery hunters.

For comparison, the 2014 to-date equivalent figures were 66,635 animals and 34,118 animals, respectively. Also, the 2015 match to-date numbers were a respective 65,371 animals and 35,317 animals.

All of this being said, however, the total to-date figures – and which includes the number of antlerless deer killed along with the number of to-date antlered deer killed - are assayed at 184,791 animals whereas the 2014 equivalent figure was 188,963 animals and the 2015 figure was 175,096 deer.

When asked for the “why” in regards to the 15-percent increase in the antlered deer kill, Ohio Division of Wildlife deer biologist Clint McCoy called the up-tick an “artificial bump” and attributed it to a poor mast crop through much of the state.

“It is a significant increase in the harvest, and if you look at the counties with the biggest increases came the mast crop was especially weak,” McCoy said.

The bottom line is that deer have to eat and if they cannot find the fat-rich acorns from white oaks and to a lesser extent, red oaks, they’re going to seek out the corn placed by hunters, McCoy said.

“There’s also a few more deer out there; a small population increase,” McCoy said.

McCoy says as well that the El Nino-influenced more mild weather conditions during much of this year’s deer hunting seasons favored a good harvest of animals.

A natural question then to ask about why the antlerless deer kill has not kept a percentage-pace with the antlered deer kill is best explained by the Wildlife Division’s efforts to tamp down the number of does that hunters shoot, McCoy said.

Yet here, too, reality did not mesh with expectations. The Wildlife Division was shooting for a reduction in the number of antlerless deer killed somewhere in the neighborhood of five to eight percent, McCoy says.

What has happened instead is an increase of about one percent in the to-date kill of antlerless deer, primarily does, McCoy says.

Not that the agency is ready just yet to ratchet any proposed deer-hunting rules so as to shrink the antlerless deer kill further, McCoy says.

“If we had not dialed back on our regulations I believe we’d have seen a ‘bump’ in the antlerless deer harvest the way we’re seeing it with the antlered deer harvest,” McCoy said. “I really think we’re going to see an even keel (with deer-hunting regulations) for the next year or two.”

As for the to-date deer kill as noted in the Wildlife Division’s latest posting, again, the total as-of-January 26th stands at 184,791 animals. That is 1,930 more deer than were tallied for the January 19th report of 182,861 deer. This pretty much mirrors the roughly two-thousand additional animals shot between the January 12th and January 19th reports.

In trying to assess how many more deer will be taken between now and when the books close on February 7th, the previous two years showed that roughly an additional 2,500 to 2,700 deer were killed for each year.

If that holds true than the final number for the 2015-2016 all-seasons’ deer kill may be pegged at approximately 187,300 and 187,500 animals. The comparable 2014 figure was 191,488 animals and the comparable 2015 figure was 175,745 animals.

Some other statistics shows that Coshocton County maintains its hold on first place with a to-date deer kill of 5,603 animals. Licking County remains in second place with a to-date deer kill of 5,204 animals. Neither position is in danger of being overthrown, either.

The six counties with to-date deer kills of 4,000 to 5,000 animals (with their January 19th to-date deer kill figures in parentheses) are: Adams – 4,098 animals (4,067); Ashtabula – 4,764 animals (4,690); Guernsey County – 4,348 animals (4,311); Knox – 4,395 animals (4,362); Muskingum – 4,895 animals (4,851); Tuscarawas – 4,835 animals (4,722).

And of Ohio’s 88 counties, 26 still have to-date deer kills of fewer than 1,000 animals each. They are Auglaize (814); Clark (733); Clinton (779); Cuyahoga (741); Darke (730); Erie (734); Fayette (305); Franklin (772); Fulton (797); Greene (814); Henry (678); Lake (875); Lucas (728); Madison (485); Marion (884); Mercer  (598); Miami (818); Montgomery (646); Ottawa (396); Pickaway (787); Preble (945); Putnam (698); Sandusky (845); Union (919); Van Wert (489); and Wood (822).

All counties did record a gain in the reported deer kill between the January 19th reporting period and the January 26th reporting period; but some counties not by much. Both Van Wert and Fayette counties posted an increase of one deer each for the week-long reporting span.

Meanwhile, Putnam County and Mercer County each saw their tally grow by just two animals even as Fulton, Henry, Clark, and Wood counties each noted respective increases of three deer killed.
- 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.

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