Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ohio's to-date deer kill sputtering; crashing in trophy deer country

After trailing all season in the weekly to-date deer kill tally, Ohio saw the last 2016 installment creep nearly 700 animals ahead for the equivalent 2015 to-date head count.

However, that dash sputtered pretty poorly with the release of the current to-date numbers through December 27th. In fact, the decline from the to-date 2016 figure and the equivalent 2015 was a fall of 8,004 animals.

Worse for more than a few hunters, is that mind-boggling steep declines are occurring in some of Ohio’s most fabled trophy deer counties.

The current to-date kill for the 2016-2017season is 157,357 animals while the comparable to-date statistic for the 2015-2016 season was 165,361 animals.

For each year the totals from the two-day so-named “bonus” firearms deer season are included in the respective statistics.

Still not factored in yet for either running scores are the numbers from their respective four-day muzzle-loader seasons. And though hunters may yet enjoy a stellar blackpowder hunt January 7th through 10th the odds of not only equaling the 12,505 deer taken during the January 9th through 12th, 2015 muzzleloading season but adding another 10,000 animals to that figure is, well, about as impossible as derailing Donald Trump’s inauguration.

What we do see, however, are still some impressive county-by-county numbers; even if they are not as large as the ones that hunters complied one year ago. There are still twelve counties with to-date deer kills of at least three thousand animals each, including five with four thousand or more deer killed to-date each. In 2015, those totals were fifteen and also five, respectively.

And 31 of Ohio’s 88 counties are showing to-date deer harvest gains when compared to their 2015 – season statistics. While many of these gains are relatively small – number just a few deer – several others are showing increases that might beg a questioning response by hunters.

For instance: Lorain County shows a 107 deer kill increase (2,207 deer to-date this season compared to 2,100 deer to-date in 2015); Mahoning County shows a 111 deer kill increase (1,690 deer to-date this season compared to 1,579 to-date in 2015); and Trumbull County with a whopping increase of 270 animals (3,239 to-date this season and 2,969 to-date in 2015).

The opposite is happening also where the to-date kill has slipped; and measurably so, too. Among them: Adams County with a massive 864 season-to-season to-date shortfall (3,692 to-date this season compared to 2,828 to-date in 2015. This drop, by-the-way is greater than the to-date kill in 24 of Ohio's 88 counties); Clermont County with a 411 season-to-season to-date drop (1,925 to-date this season compared to 2,336 to-date in 2015) and Brown County with a numbing 300 to-date deer decline (2,085 to-date this year compared to 2,385 to-date in 2015).
These last three counties were picked as illustrations because national hunting magazines have been touting southwest Ohio as the state’s go-to trophy deer hunting destination. Should their respective harvest declines continue through the rest of the season, however, then perhaps a reevaluation of their big deer status and possible over-harvesting of their respective deer herds might be in order.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, December 22, 2016

UPDATED - Ohio's deer hunters have caught up to the 2015 to-date harvest numbers

Some 11,065 Ohio deer hunters received their respective Christmas bonuses early last week.

That’s the number of deer taken between December 13th and December 20th, and which includes the deer killed during the two-day so-named “bonus” firearms deer-hunting season.

Based on data supplied by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the to-date total deer kill stands at 156,034 animals. That 156,034 figure, by the way, is 694 more animals than were shot for the comparable 2015 to-date figure of 155,340 animals.

This modest number is the first time so far this season where the current to-date deer harvest figure has exceeded its 2015 season to-date counterpart number, too.

However - and this is a big "however" - the harvest results of Ohio's 2016 bonus two-day gun deer hunt are now recorded in the season's history books. Last year this time that two-day hunt did not occur until later in December; and consequently it's figures were not tallied until January. Which means in all likelihood that a serious dip in the to-date kill will be seen sometime in early January.

Fully 57 of Ohio’s 88 counties have crossed over the to-date deer kill total of at least one thousand animals each, though. Broken down a bit more and the data shows that ten of these counties have thus far recorded to-date kills of three thousand animals or more each.

Going even further, five of the counties have to-date harvests of at least four thousand animals each; and one – Coshocton – has a thus-far deer harvest tally of at least five thousand animals, or 5,042 deer.

By comparison, the 2015 to-date harvest showed 59 of Ohio’s 88 counties had harvest-kills of at least one thousand animals. And a little deeper into the numbers shows that three counties had harvests of at least four thousand deer each but none with at least five thousand animals.

Here’s a sort of random list of selected counties with their current to-date deer harvest kills with their respective 2015 figures in parentheses: Adams – 2,806 (3,474); Ashtabula – 4,306 (3,986); Athens – 3,038 (3,207); Auglaize – 680 (706); Brown - 2,068 (2,221); Clark - 582 (647); Coshocton – 5,042 (4,644); Cuyahoga – 819 (611); Fayette – 283 (273); Franklin – 716 (647); Gallia – 2,300 (2,465); Geauga – 1,548 (1,488); Guernsey – 3,892 (3,591); Harrison – 3,121 (3,127); Highland – 2,263 (2,437); Hocking – 2,726 (3,027); Knox – 3,958 (3,717); Lake – 759 (721); Licking – 4,165 (4,367); Madison – 424 (412); Meigs – 2,880 (2,868); Muskingum – 4,293 (4,067); Portage – 1,906 (1,812); Richland – 2,831 (2,667); Trumbull – 3,201 (2,793); Tuscarawas – 4,260 (3,930); Vinton – 2,270 (2,482); Washington – 2,798 (2,874); Williams – 1,527 2,068 (2,221);(1,627); Wood – 777 (722).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ohio's bonus gun deer hunt harvest excellent in spite of foul weather

Add an asterisk to the 9,228 total for Ohio’s just-concluded two-day so-named “bonus” firearms deer-hunting kill.

While the final figure for the two-day hunt is almost a mirror image of that for 2015 – which was 9,447animals - it must be remembered that the latter’s two-day hunt was held during the week on a Monday and Tuesday (December 28th and 29th) and following a Thursday-honored Christmas and when fewer hunters supposedly would be afield. (Ohio has an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 deer hunters; licensed, youths, senior citizens and landowners).

That was not the case this year, though, as the two-day season ran over a weekend and a full week prior to Christmas; a time frame that theoretically at least would increase opportunities for more deer hunters to be out and about.

Or not.

“Some people think that a post-Christmas weekday hunt provides more opportunity because more people are off work between the two holidays,” said Clint McCoy, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s deer management biologist.

Even so, expectations were that the poor weather conditions that plagued virtually the entire state December 19th and 20th would put a damper on the overall kill. This was particularly true for Northeast Ohio which received up to four feet of snow in some locations.

In any event, the kill numbers ran very similar to one another as a serious drop in the deer harvest did not happen. Indeed, Ashtabula County’s 422 deer kill was way out in front of the two-day season’s second place holder, Guernsey County with 302 animals.

That surprised McCoy as well who said Ashtabula County “cranked out the numbers.”

Then again, the other Northeast Ohio/Snow Belt counties of Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga, and Trumbull all also recorded gains – in spite of heavy snows that were overlaid with ice on Saturday.

Thus the expectation by Wildlife Division officials that the two-day season would yield between 9,000 and 11,000 deer proved accurate. In spite of the point that the total was on the low end of the estimate and also in spite of the generally very poor weather virtually throughout the state, McCoy said.

Consequently a mid-December, two-day/weekend “bonus” firearms deer-hunting might be taking on something of a fixture status. This is particularly true, says McCoy also, given that an on-line deer hunter survey found at the Wildlife Division’s web site ( is showing that about 65 percent of the respondents support a two-day season while 70 percent of those respondents back a weekend – rather than a weekday – hunt.

“We’ll be looking at how this season falls into place with the other seasons when everything is completed and we have all of the harvest data and numbers,” McCoy said.

Here is the unofficial tally of deer checked by hunters using firearms during the 2016 two-day deer-gun hunting season December 19th and 20th. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2016, and the 2015 numbers are in parentheses:
Adams: 138 (209); Allen: 60 (21); Ashland: 138 (142); Ashtabula: 422 (305); Athens: 174 (212); Auglaize: 35 (38); Belmont: 226 (216); Brown: 124 (162); Butler: 29 (51); Carroll: 184 (211); Champaign: 39 (41); Clark: 24 (21); Clermont: 85 (95); Clinton: 36 (37); Columbiana: 194 (196); Coshocton: 210 (349); Crawford: 57 (59); Cuyahoga: 3 (1); Darke: 19 (19); Defiance: 118 (74); Delaware: 52 (60); Erie: 44 (21); Fairfield: 89 (85); Fayette: 17 (10); Franklin: 23 (24); Fulton: 56 (16); Gallia: 139 (165); Geauga: 105 (77); Greene: 35 (21); Guernsey: 302 (263); Hamilton: 29 (21); Hancock: 58 (34); Hardin: 53 (53); Harrison: 193 (228); Henry: 41 (25); Highland: 121 (147); Hocking: 153 (203); Holmes: 118 (209); Huron: 162 (107); Jackson: 149 (194); Jefferson: 168 (169); Knox: 146 (236); Lake: 32 (21); Lawrence: 113 (147); Licking: 195 (236); Logan: 60 (86); Lorain: 169 (98); Lucas: 27 (10); Madison: 18 (26); Mahoning: 131 (107); Marion: 43 (55); Medina: 147 (83); Meigs: 188 (229); Mercer: 32 (18); Miami: 26 (37); Monroe: 156 (156); Montgomery: 16 (14); Morgan: 146 (181); Morrow: 70 (71); Muskingum: 256 (284); Noble: 138 (202); Ottawa: 31 (7); Paulding: 64 (34); Perry: 173 (181); Pickaway: 42 (38); Pike: 104 (140); Portage: 136 (88); Preble: 50 (29); Putnam: 45 (19); Richland: 164 (150); Ross: 146 (185); Sandusky: 66 (29); Scioto: 137 (164); Seneca: 100 (84); Shelby: 44 (34); Stark: 153 (124); Summit: 41 (26); Trumbull: 266 (166); Tuscarawas: 260 (296); Union: 28 (32); Van Wert: 24 (15); Vinton: 125 (201); Warren: 42 (44); Washington: 140 (210); Wayne: 92 (109); Williams: 127 (51); Wood: 37 (31); Wyandot: 60 (72); Total: 9,228 (9,447).
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Lake County (OH) Third-Quarter CCW permit revocations four time more than rest of state

Lake County’s 233 concealed carry permit revocations noted during the Ohio Attorney General’s third quarter reporting period is nearly four times the total number of similar revocations for all of the state’s other 87 counties combined.

In all during the third quarter of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s concealed carry permit statistical report, the state revoked the documents of 297 individuals statewide.

Revocations are demanded based upon one or more of several criteria established by the Ohio legislature which approved the enabling law. Among the reasons for revocation are such things as  dying, being declared dependent upon alcohol or drugs, as well as taking a course from an unapproved/improperly certified instructor, or not fulfilling the required minimum time demands for classroom and/or shooting range sessions.

However, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department notes that its 233 revocations helps to illustrate the due diligence and efficiency of its CCW permitting process. In almost every one of the 233 revocation cases the action was the result of an applicant failing to meet the state requirements for being issued such a permit – and that was due almost entirely to one instructor’s lack of properly and lawfully conducting the course.

A similar case of multiple revocations by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department occurred about 18 months ago.  In that incident Joshua M. Herbert of Mentor was then-alleged to have improperly conducted his CCW class.

Herbert pled guilty on October 24th of this year and was sentenced in Lake County Common Pleas Court on December 9th.

Likewise, Herbert pled to a fourth-degree felony charge of “Failure (to) Obtain Concealed Carry Handgun License” in Geauga County Common Pleas Court in August since at least one of his students had obtained his/her/their documents there and which similarly saw them revoked.

Among the judgment stipulations against Herbert were community control with conditions, to serve 60 days of electronic monitoring house arrest, and 21 days in the Lake County Jail, with one day credit for time served.

“Defendant is ordered to pay all costs,” the Lake County Clerk of Court’s ledger also says.

“The defendant is ordered to report to the Jail no later than February 4, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. at which time bond will be released.” The ledger says as well.

Lake County Sheriff’s Department corporal Robert Harps said that “every once in a while” the agency has an instructor who seeks to cut corners by shaving the legislatively approved mandate of six hours of classroom work and two hours of range time.

“We do not tolerate shortened classes,” says Harps, who runs the department’s concealed carry permit program – acknowledged by many CCW instructors as one of the most efficiently run in the Ohio.

While no charges have been filed against the errant instructor in this most recent incident, an investigation continues, Harps said.

As for the 233 individuals who saw their permits revoked, that action still stands because it remains the responsibility of the students to ensure that whatever class program they are involved with meets state code, Harps says.

What this means for this batch of now-former CCW permit holders is not only are they out whatever the class they took cost – typically $100 to $150 – they also had to forfeit the required $67 permit application fee to the Lake (or Geauga) County Sheriff’s Department.

“So if they decide to take the course again they’re really be paying double,” Harps said.

And the cost also impacts the Sheriff’s Department. That is because by state law the agency must send a certified letter to each of the 233 persons notifying them that their permit is being revoked. And the cost for each of those letters is $6.47, Harps said.

“It’s a time-consuming and costly process,” Harps said.

As for the CCW program itself, Lake County’s permitting process machinery is well-oiled, Harps says and as previously mentioned, acknowledged by many local licensed instructors.

Harps said as well that it is important that each prospective CCW student investigates whether the program they are about to take meets state standards and that the instructor likewise has fulfilled his or her lawful obligations.

The sheriff’s department does maintain a list of licensed instructors and it’s best to similarly utilize a course held at a bona fide business where such activity is common, Harps said.

This is a particularly important point because a student who knowingly takes a course from someone not lawfully qualified to instruct or knowingly takes an illegal shortened course can be charged with a forth degree felony, Harps says.

“Often in these cases it is one of the students who let us know of a problem,” Harps said.

As for CCW statistics for Lake County, to date for 2016 the Lake County Sheriff’s office has issued 6,679 new CCW permits along with 1,657 renewals. For 2015 those figures were 4,490 and 2,189, respectively, though Harps did say that because of the way the renewal process is set up that latter number for 2016 will likely swell in 2017.
In terms of Third Quarter figures provided by the Ohio Attorney General, Lake County ranks second in the number of new CCW permits issued at 1,454. The Third Quarter leader was Franklin County (Columbus) with 1,538 new CCW permits being issued. Other counties with more than one thousand CCW permits issued during the Ohio Attorney General’s Third Quarter reporting period included Butler (1,146); Clermont (1,007); Hamilton (1,020); and Montgomery (1,308).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, December 16, 2016

Worsening weather forecast likely to hit hard Ohio's bonus gun deer hunt

Faced with the prospects of snow, freezing rain, sleet  and good old-fashioned rain, many of Ohio’s deer hunters may sit out the state’s two-day oft-called “bonus" firearms deer hunting season, set for Saturday and Sunday.

Such abandonment could impact the kill, too, not surprising given the expected weather conditions, says the Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist who monitors and tweaks the agency’s deer management program.

Typically, between five percent and six percent of Ohio’s all-deer-hunting-seasons’ kill total is generated by the bonus gun season, says Clint McCoy, the Wildlife Division’s go-to biologist on deer management in the state.

That percentage range translates into a statewide kill (“harvest” in the vernacular of the Wildlife Division) into between nine thousand and eleven thousand animals.

For reference purposes, hunters killed 9,447 deer during the 2015 bonus two-day December firearms deer-hunting season. Prior to 2015 the last time Ohio experienced a two-day bonus gun deer season in December was 2012. That is when hunters killed 14,365 animals.

But, obviously, a kill/harvest of five to six percent would come about “without any bad weather being factored into the number,” McCoy said.

“Who knows what the impact of the (forecasted) weather will be?” McCoy asked rhetorically.

More than true enough as the present National Weather Service forecast includes a “Winter Weather Advisory” for nearly the entire top one-half of Ohio. This advisory spells out the possibility of three to five additional inches of snow tonight (Friday) before it changes over to a brew of sleet and freezing rain that will linger until near sunrise Saturday.

Coupled with winds of 10 to 20 miles per hour and overnight lows of 10 to 15 degrees, conditions for a stump sit or a tree stand post won’t be comfortable. Even with temperatures that are expected to rise into the 30s by morning and then into the mid- to upper-40s sometime after noon – when the precipitation changes over to all rain – a protracted outing will likely prove uncomfortable for many to most participants.

Almost ditto for the weather conditions to the south of this Winter Weather Advisory. There the National Weather Service is calling for a “Freezing Rain Advisory” from 10 p.m. tonight (Friday) to 8 a.m., Saturday.

Up to one-tenth of an inch of freezing rain may accumulate on SUV and pick-up truck windows, tree stands, and the roads that hunters will travel in order to reach their deer-hunting station. Ugh, nasty stuff this freezing rain. At least this weather concoction is forecast to switch over to all rain around daylight.

Then there is deer hunter fatigue; a rather new and interesting phenomenon brought about by Ohio’s banquet buffet table of hunting seasons and opportunities, says McCoy also.

“I suspect many of the deer hunters you’d think would be out have been at it for several months so motivation for some of them will all ready be low,” McCoy said. “And some hunters will have filled their tags or be just tired of hunting.”

Consequently, says McCoy, the Wildlife Division suspects that participation in the bonus season – whenever on the calendar it has appeared – has continued to shrink, though he doesn’t have “any statistics to prove it.”

Just how all of this shakes out over the next two days will be known on the third day – Monday, December 19th . That is when the Wildlife Division’s automated deer check-in system electronically crunches the numbers.

On the brighter side, fewer deer being shot Saturday and Sunday could mean more deer available for the muzzle-loading clan when their season runs January 7th through 10th.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

(UPDATED) Will Ohio's bonus gun deer weekend make up harvest deficit?

Twenty years ago I could have while 10 years ago I would have.
This weekend when Ohio conducts its two-day - often-called “bonus” firearms deer-hunting season -  I’ll be thinking twice about the weather, how much snow covers the ground in Lake and Ashtabula counties (expecting a whole big bunch), and how far the rescue squad can back up its meat wagon to take me either to the hospital or the morgue.
All given that I’m something of a fat, crippled old man who has to mull adventuring in crusted snow.
For sure what honey-combed snow that lies atop the earth leading to my various four deer-hunting blinds is going to play a big factor in whether I’ll even be able to participate. And with the threat that comes with a dire Lake Effect Snow Warning for Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties - I suspect that I won’t be the only extreme Northeast Ohio deer hunter who’ll give pause about going afield Saturday and Sunday.
For sure what we have on the ground now is what I refer to as “heart attack” snow, with the likely prospect of up to another foot only adding to the misery and potentially life-threatening conditions.
Thus, in all probability the opportunity to make up for Ohio’s to-date deer kill will be overrun with deep snows, holiday shopping and a general lack of interest that can be traced back to deer-hunting over-exposure.
As it now stands, the current to date total deer kill (as of December 13th) stands at 144,969 animals, including 65,638 antlered white-tails. For the comparable 2015 to-date experience (as of December 16th, 2015) the tally was 154,157 animals, of which 67,284 were antlered deer.
Simple math puts the difference at 9,188 more deer being taken during the respective 2015 to-date experience of 154,157 deer killed when placed alongside the current to-date number of 144,969 animals taken.
However, look more closely at the numbers. The difference in the total of antlered deer killed between last year’s to-date figure and its respective 2016 to-date number is just 1,646 more antlered animals.
Consequently, the spreadsheet demonstrates that the biggest drop in the number of deer being taken is falling on the heads on antlerless deer – those animals that make all of the baby deer we hunters see the following hunting season and beyond.
In 2015 the to-date number of antlerless deer shot stood at 86,873 animals. So far the to-date antlerless deer kill is 79,331 animals, for a decline of 7,542 deer.
Just how this weekend’s hunt will fare is uncertain, of course. That being said, the fresh snow that will shortly fall on the deep and heavily crusted mat that now lies over the extreme Northeast Ohio counties will almost certainly impact the harvest in Lake, Cuyahoga, Ashtabula counties and likeliest of all, Geauga County. And not for the better, either.
Then, too, the cold that will proceed this weekend might be enough to discourage a fair number of prospective deer hunters throughout Ohio; particularly if Friday night’s lows to tumble into the teens or even lower.
But enough of the maybes and possibilities; let’s take a peek at what’s in the books now. To date, 20 of Ohio’s 88 counties have recorded deer harvest gains when compared to their respective 2015 to-date numbers. One – Lake County – has posted identical to-date 2015 and 2016 figures.
The ledger as it currently stands features the following randomly selection counties with their to-date numbers followed by their comparable 2015 to-date figures in parentheses: Adams – 2,642 (3,435); Ashland – 2,431 (2,416); Ashtabula – 3,830 (3,951); Athens – 2,830 (3,188); Belmont – 2,454 (2,562); Brown – 1,924 (2,196); Butler – 987 (1,098); Carroll – 2,780 (2,868); Champaign – 933 (1,027); Clark – 551 (644); Clermont – 1,775 (2,195); Columbiana – 2,561 (2,721); Coshocton – 4,777 (4,624); Cuyahoga – 763 (589); Defiance - 1,388 (1,526); Delaware – 1,253 (1,364); Erie – 700 (631); Fayette – 261 (271); Franklin – 679 (628); Gallia – 2,144 (2,456); Geauga – 1,400 (1,470); Guernsey – 3,558 (3,575); Hamilton – 1,208 (1,575); Hancock – 996 (1,012); Hardin – 999 (1,069); Harrison – 2,904 (3,120); Henry – 612 (621); Highland – 2,122 (2,423); Hocking – 2,542 (3,011); Holmes – 3,112 (3,092); Huron – 1,898 (1,896); Jackson – 2,234 (2,567); Jefferson – 2,129 (2,125); Knox – 3,777 (3,688); Lake – 709 (also 709); Lawrence – 1,551 (1,747); Licking – 3,910 (4,317); Logan – 1,577 (1,686); Lorain – 1,979 (1,969); Lucas – 599 (623); Mahoning – 1,518 (1,444); Medina – 1,591 (1,482); Meigs – 2,672 (2,854); Mercer – 582 (551); Monroe – 1,964 (2,081); Montgomery – 463 (529); Morgan – 2,312 (2,532); Morrow – 1,248 (1,217); Muskingum – 3,996 (4,050); Noble – 2,267 (2,355); Ottawa – 337 (323); Perry – 2,193 (2,365); Pickaway – 579 (669); Pike – 1,701 (1,938); Portage 1,720 (1,797); Putnam – 619 (643); Richland – 2,632 (2,649); Ross – 2,418 (2,724); Sandusky – 681 (715); Scioto – 1,964 (2,509); Seneca – 1,570 (1,544); Shelby – 794 (891); Stark – 2,153 (2,244); Summit – 1,158 (1,099); Trumbull – 2,885 (3,783); Tuscarawas – 3,954 (3,898); Van Wert – 399 (446); Vinton – 2,130 (2,470); Warren – 863 (1,026); Washington – 2,633 (2,859); Wayne – 1,694 (1,634); Williams – 1,383 (1,621); Wood – 724 (717); Wyandot – 1,240 (1,241).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ohio's to-date deer kill off 10,000 animals; ODW says not to worry

A lackluster Ohio firearms deer-hunting season did nothing to bolster the state’s to-date white-tail kill.

As of December 6th Ohio’s deer hunters have taken 143,602 animals. That number is 9,690 fewer deer harvested than the comparable 2015 to-date kill of 153,292 animals.

However, not to worry, says the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s wildlife management biologist and supervisor Mike Tonkovich who opines scientifically that “… last year hunters enjoyed higher than normal success due to a mast crop failure in most regions of the state.”

“Thus, it may be more appropriate to compare this year with 2014 or an average of 2015, and 2016 with 2014,” Tonkovich says.

Still, the current, raw to-date numbers are reflecting that fewer deer have walked within the gun and bow sights of hunters. And a closer examination of the 2015 to-date deer kill compared to the 2016 respective to-date figures is pointing to a much greater decline in the number of antlerless deer killed than the number of antlered deer harvested.

The tale of the tape shows that to-date Ohio hunters have shot 66,965 antlered deer compared to the 2015 to-date figure of 65,132 antlered white-tails for a decline of 1,832 animals.

However, the drop in the antlerless deer kill is much greater. The 2015 to-date harvest of antlerless deer was 86,328 animals while the 2016 to-date take of antlerless deer is 78,470 animals; or a drop of 7,858 antlerless deer. All of which is a part of the Wildlife Division’s game plan to go slow in rebuilding the state’s deer herd where necessary, Tonkovich says also.

“Beginning in 2013, we started to ‘soften’ regulations to reduce antlerless harvest,” Tonkovich says. “ Each year since then, we’ve made changes designed to grow the herd in a very ‘contained’ manner.” 

In an overview of the current to-date deer kill figures, 53 of Ohio’s 88 counties have recorded harvests in excess of one thousand animals each. Included in this count are eight counties with to-date tallies of three thousand or more animals each and of which one has a to-date figure surpassing the four-thousand animal harvest.

Since numbers take on meaning only when they are placed alongside at least one other relevant figure, the comparable 2015 to-date number of counties having recorded respective deer harvests of at least one thousand animals was 59. This latter number also hosted 11 counties with kills of at least three thousand deer each. And three of these counties recorded kills of at least four thousand animals each.

Tonkovich likewise defends the manner in which the Wildlife Division is approaching the state’s several forms of deer hunting seasons. What happens in the early archery season “bleeds over into gun season” and that season into the rest of archery season and the late firearms season, Tonkovich says. 

Thus the “bottom line,” says Tonkovich also, is that the nine-percent drop in the “gun harvest does nothing to inform deer management decisions.”

“We’ll wait until the season is over and compare the buck harvest this year with 2014 or average of this year’s and last year with 2014 and then make harvest recommendations,” Tonkovich says.

A look at select 2016 to-date individual county tallies (with their respective to-date 2015 numbers in parentheses) are:  Adams – 2,627 (3,423); Ashtabula – 3,796 (3,933); Athens – 2,803 (3,162); Belmont – 2,435 (2,556); Brown – 1,906 (2,189); Carroll – 2,760 (2,854); Clermont – 1,747 (2,165); Coshocton – 4,749 (4,602); Cuyahoga – 724 (570); Defiance – 1,381 (1,520); Delaware – 1,242 (1,358); Fairfield – 1,443 (1,623); Fayette – 257 (270); Franklin – 659 (620); Gallia – 2,134 (2,450); Geauga – 1,377 (1,458); Guernsey – 3,535 (3,566); Hamilton – 1,173 (1,542); Hardin – 989 (1,062); Harrison – 2,891 (3,113); Highland – 2,117 (2,411); Hocking – 2,515 (2,990); Holmes – 3,095 (3,078); Huron – 1,892 (1,889); Jackson – 2,228 (2,556); Jefferson – 2,114 (2,112); Knox – 3,749 (3,677); Lake – 696 (697); Lawrence – 1,543 (1,743); Licking – 3,875 (4,292); Logan – 1,559 (1,681); Lorain – 1,951 (1,946); Lucas – 580 (613); Mahoning – 1,499 (1,432); Medina – 1,568 (1,467); Meigs – 2,657 (2,850); Monroe – 1,955 (2,075); Montgomery – 451 (521); Morgan – 2,299 (2,525); Morrow – 1,241 (1,214); Muskingum – 3,978 (4,034); Noble – 2,254 (2,345); Ottawa – 328 (315); Paulding – 808 (948); Perry – 2,176 (2,358); Pike – 1,690 (1,933); Portage – 1,685 (1,783); Richland – 2,605 (2,634); Ross – 2,399 (2,714); Scioto – 1,945 (2,491); Seneca – 1,566 (1,542); Stark – 2,117 (2,229); Summit – 1,115 (1,073); Trumbull – 2,845 (2,763); Tuscarawas – 3,914 (3,879); Van Wert – 399 (446); Vinton – 2,119 (2,462); Washington – 2,618 (2,852); Wayne – 1,684 (1,624); Williams – 1,378 (1,618); Wyandot – 1,223 (1,233).
- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ohio's 2016 gun deer season down from 2015 but up from 2014, down again from 2013

Preliminary figures point to a decline in the number of deer taken by Ohio hunters during the just-concluded seven-day firearms deer-hunting season when compared to the final tally for its 2015 counterpart.

The preliminary data shows that 66,759 deer killed during the just-concluded 2016 firearms deer-hunting season. That is 7,640 fewer animals when stacked up against the 73,399 deer shot during the 2015 gun deer season.

However, the 2016 gun season figure is still greater than the 65,484 animals shot during the 2014 gun deer-hunting season. And during the 2013 general firearms deer-hunting season, 75,408 animals were taken, based upon figure supplied by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Ohio’s 2016 firearms deer-hunting season ran November 28th through December 4th. Deer of either sex could be taken by lawful hunters, either licensed or with certain exemptions such as landowners hunting on their own property.

And of Ohio’s 88 counties, 23 still showed gains over their respective 2015 gun season numbers, though admittedly some counties saw increases of only a few animals each.

 “We had anticipated a deer harvest of between 70,000 to 80,000 animals; so we were only slightly below that range,” said Ohio Division of Wildlife media spokesman John Windau. “There is no way to know for sure at this point in the season why the gun week was somewhat lower.”

Importantly, says Windau, Ohio’s general firearms deer-hunting season has undergone a sea change over the past several years with an increasing number of hunters taking their animal (or animals) during the archery season.

Similarly, surveys compiled by the Wildlife Division have indicated that more hunters prefer stump sitting during gun season rather than participating in organized deer drives.

“And that likely impacts hunter success,” Windau says. “Anecdotally, too, we heard from people in the field that we had lower hunter participation, but that is just anecdotal.”

Windau also said that Ohio deer hunters who were not lucky enough to bag an animal during the seven-day general firearm season still have a considerable amount of opportunity to put a rack on the wall and venison in the freezer. Or add to what’s all ready there, Windau said.

“There is a lot of season left, including the gun weekend, December 17th and 18th, the muzzleloader season, January 7th through 10th and the rest of the archery season which closes out February 5th,” Windau said.

Ohio’s deer hunting success rate is around 33 percent. In terms of deer being killed, the Wildlife Division has found that of successful hunters, 78.3 percent shoot one deer, 17.7 percent shoot two deer, 3.2 percent shoot three deer, and a paltry 0.8 percent shoot four or more deer per season.

For the entire slate of deer hunting seasons for the 2015 year a total of 188,335 animals were killed compared to 175,801 animals in 2014.
Here is a quick rundown of select counties with their 2016 firearms deer-hunting season tallies followed by their respective 2015 and 2014 firearms deer-hunting season numbers in parentheses: Adams – 1,082 (1,585; 1,134); Ashland – 1,225 (1,232; 1,160); Ashtabula – 1,946 (2,002; 1,730); Athens – 1,377 (1,666; 1,360); Belmont – 1,360 (1,516; 1,428); Brown –823 (1,055; 940); Carroll – 1,494 (1,577; 1,477); Clermont – 542 (776; 685); Columbiana – 1,307 (1,458; 1,245); Coshocton – 2,325 (2,420; 2,308); Crawford – 569 (576; 5150; Cuyahoga – 47 (46; 24); Franklin – 157 (133; 124); Gallia – 1,211 (1,523; 1,220: Geauga – 479 (508; 470); Greene – 203 (220; 213);  Guernsey – 1,885 (508; 470); Harrison – 1,573 (1,664; 1,491); Highland – 948 (1,189; 1,004); Hocking – 1,288 (1,664; 1,491); Holmes – 1,484 (1,362; 1,349); Huron – 1,074 (1,008; 921); Jackson – 1,031 (1,323; 968); Jefferson – 1,138 (1,170; 1,120); Knox – 1,942 (1,755; 1,727); Lake – 167 (160; 138); Lawrence – 795 (1,021; 779); Licking – 1,609 (1,865; 1,655); Lorain – 683 (637; 646); Medina – 604 (545; 567); Meigs – 1,373 (1,544; 1,270); Monroe – 1,131 (1,316; 1,056); Morgan – 1,179 (1,418; 1,207); Muskingum – 2,112 (2,283; 2,084); Noble – 1,271 (1,333; 1,031); Perry – 1,156 (1,340; 1,160); Richland – 1,228 (1,222; 1,15); Ross – 1,102 (1,264; 1,106); (Trumbull – 1,144 (1,142;983); Tuscarawas – 2,045 (1,999; 2,074); Van Wert – 211 (237; 283); Vinton – 1,111 (1,440; 1,031); Washington – 1,502 (1,738; 1,409); Williams – 655 (823; 831).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pennsylvania's Game Commission believes it - and not the government - has the final word on semi-auto rifle use

Long a sort of backwater state with limiting allowances for the use of semi-automatic firearms, Pennsylvania is all but certain to join the Twentieth Century.

A century late, but who's counting?

That state's legislature has approved - and its governor has signed - a bill that will begin the process of allowing Pennsylvania hunters the opportunity to use semi-automatic rifles for various game animals such as squirrels, bears and deer.

Oh, the legislation also approve the use of air rifles for hunting; a form of hunting implement used during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Pennsylvania appears to want to make sure there's been sufficient time to work out all of the technological bugs, I guess.

Anyway a lot of how and when all of this will come to pass depend upon the Pennsylvania Game Commission, an agency long noted for tortoise-like foot-dragging and slowness in adopting permissible types of hunting gear. Just look how long it took that agency to sign off on allowing such archery tackle as compound bows an crossbows.

In any event, here is the Pennsylvania Game Commission's press release on the subject. Take particular note of the last paragraph. Knowing politics he way I do, it sure sounds like a swipe at both the legislature and the governor, the agency strutting that it has the final word on the subject.

As the statewide firearms deer season approaches, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reminds deer hunters that rifles used during the season must be manually operated.
Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation that will enable the Pennsylvania Game Commission to regulate the use of semiautomatic rifles and air rifles for hunting, and the bill was signed into law this week.
But the Game Commission has not yet made any changes to the lists of lawful arms and ammunition for any hunting season.
For deer hunters in the upcoming firearms deer season, that means all centerfire rifles, handguns and shotguns to be used must be manually operated. The only exception is that semiautomatic shotguns may be used to hunt deer in five counties – Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery – that are defined as Special Regulations Areas.
Semiautomatic rifles generally are not permitted for any type of hunting in any part of the state at this time.
Things could change in the coming months. At its upcoming meetings, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners will be discussing the newly signed legislation and the possibility of adding semiautomatic rifles and air rifles to the lawful arms and ammunition list for various hunting seasons. But any changes must follow the schedule dictated by required procedure.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn