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

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