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

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