Thursday, January 5, 2017

Don't look to Ohio's upcoming blackpowder deer hunt to improve kill numbers

To use a baseball analogy, Ohio’s deer hunting harvest is rounding third and is headed for home.

Thing is, it appears that the catcher has the ball and is ready to tag the runner out at home plate, especially given the steady decline in the number of deer being checked in during the statewide four-day muzzle-loading deer-hunting season.

On the eve of this black-powder deer-hunting season – set for January 7th through 10th - the total to-date deer kill stands at 158,949 animals, including 89,050 antlerless deer. These statistics are good for the period through January 3rd and with the figures being supplied on a weekly basis by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

For the comparable 2015-2016 to-date period ending January 5th, 2016, the total deer kill was 167,541 animals, among which included 96,332 antlerless deer.

Thus, we see that the current to-date deer kill has fallen by some 8,592 animals while the harvest on does has shrunk by 7,282 animals; both when laid side-by-side to their respective to-date 2016 numbers. The antlerless figures are given because of the intense debate among Ohio’s deer hunters that the Wildlife Division is being too liberal in allowing participants to kill does.

For what it’s worth, too, the gap between the December 27th to-date deer kill and the latest deer kill figure (that 8,592 number) has widen in the past week. For the December 27th reporting period, the total to-date kill number was some 8,004 animals smaller than its 2016 counterpart.

In any event, we are witnessing what may prove a watershed moment in Ohio’s deer harvest make-up. The long-touted reputation of southwest Ohio being the state’s go-to destination for trophy bucks continues to show signs of wear.

In Adams County the gap between the to-date 2016 and the current to-date 2017 numbers are staggering. For 2016 the total to-date deer kill was 3,742 while the current to-date number is 2,858. That’s a drop of 884 animals.

Declines are noted in other heralded go-to Ohio trophy deer counties as well. In Scioto County the to-date separation stands at 558 deer (2,723 animals to-date in 2016 compared to 2,165 animals to-date currently); Brown County – 314 deer (2,418 animals to-date in 2016 compared to 2,104 animals to-date currently);  Clermont County – 423 deer (2,394 animals to-date in 2016 compared to 1,971 animals to-date currently); Highland County – 318 deer (2,613 animals to-date in 2016 compared to 2,295 animals to-date currently);  and Ross County – 343 deer (2,978 animals to-date in 2016 compared to 2,635 animals to-date currently).

Not all is doom and gloom, of course. There is that marked decline in the number of does being shot, which might help quell talk by hunters of applying tar and feathers to the Wildlife Division’s deer management biologists.

There is also any number of counties where the deer kill (or “harvest” in wildlife biologist-speak) has increased. In fact, of Ohio’s 88 counties some 30 have posted to-date gains when placed alongside their respective 2016 to-date counterparts. Modest gains to be sure, but gains just the same.

That being said, the several counties in extreme Northeast Ohio are perhaps faring the best in posting to-date increases. These counties include (with their 2017 to-date numbers first and their respective 2016 to-date numbers in parenthesis): Ashtabula County – 4,394 (4,347, a harvest increase of 47 deer); Lake County – 821 (780, a harvest gain of 41 animals); Geauga County – 1,618 (1,609, a harvest increase of nine deer); Cuyahoga County – 905 (653, a harvest gain of 252 deer with the notation that several communities here saw recent voter-approved allowances of archery-only deer hunting); Trumbull County – 3,270 (3,005, a harvest gain of 265 deer); Lorain County – 2,233 (2,141, a harvest gain of 92 deer); and Medina County – 1,838 (1,636, a harvest gain of 202 deer).

Random to-date tallies in the rest of Ohio (with their respective 2016 to-date numbers in parentheses) are:  Carroll County – 3,028 (3,141); Coshocton County – 5,110 (5,065); Fayette County – 286 (288); Franklin County – 740 (699); Gallia County – 2,331 (2,653); Guernsey County – 3,945 (3,909); Harrison County – 3,160 (3,389); Knox County – 4,007 (4,004); Licking County – 4,264 (4,697); Meigs County – 2,916 (3,133); Muskingum County – 4,355 (4,414); Putnam County – 673 (identical 673); Tuscarawas County 4,326 (4,293); Van Wert County – 431 (467); Vinton County – 2,303 (2,719); Washington County – 2,831 (3,128); Williams County – 1,551 (1,694); and Wyandot County – 1,321 (1,337).

As for the up-coming four-day muzzle-loading season, the weather forecast is anything but inviting anywhere in the state for a stump-sitting morning. Bitterly cold weather with well below average temperatures are in the works along with the likelihood of snow showers pretty much everywhere.

Not until Monday, January 9,th is the weather expected to break with the temperature on Tuesday, January 10,th forecast to rise to comfortable – even above average – levels.

As for how muzzle-loading hunters have fared over the past several years, a general decline in the deer kill has appeared. Last year Ohio’s four-day muzzle-loading deer-hunting season produced a kill of 12,505 animals. Other previous and recent muzzle-loading season deer kills were: 2015 – 13,726 animals; 2014 – 16,464 animals; 2013 – 21,555 animals; 2012 – 19,251 animals; and 2011 – 17,375 animals.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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