Tuesday, November 7, 2017

UPDATED: Ohio deer hunters picking up pace but EDH mortality thwarts kill in some counties

(Note: Corrected to reflect "EHD," and not "EDH."

With the rut in Ohio now underway the state’s archery deer hunters are beginning to pick up for lost time in the woods.

However, the pace dramatically lags behind in a couple of Ohio’s 88 counties as the midge-transmitted viral malady epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has taken a deadly and serious toll on the localized deer herds. This reduction in deer numbers is consequently being reflected in the to-date deer kills and almost certainly will carry over into the up-coming firearms deer-hunting season.

The October 31st to-date deer kill total stands at 27,677 animals, including 11,040 antlered deer. Those numbers translate into more than a 30-percent jump in the total deer kill during the one-week reporting period. Along with that jump is a nearly 50-percent gain in the number of antlered deer being shot by archers during the same seven-day period.

For a little review the previous to-date (as of October 24th) deer kill stood at 18,123 animals, including 5,821 antlered deer.

Importantly, though, when placed alongside the comparable 2016 to-date figures we see that the current similar statistics still demonstrate some lag. For the period ending November 1st, 2016, the-then total deer kill was 28,402 animals that included an antlered deer take of 10,761 deer.

However, such differences can only and best be described as minuscule and inconsequential. For now, anyway.

In reviewing the current to-date (again, as of October 31st) numbers we see that several of Ohio’s 88 counties are approaching the four-digit mark. The current Top 10 crop of counties (with their respective to-date 2016 numbers in parentheses) are: Coshocton – 912 (also 912); Ashtabula – 892 (853); Licking – 814 (881); Trumbull (also 814) & (852); Tuscarawas – 737 (648); Holmes – 714 (677); Knox – 618 (688); Muskingum – 600 (566); Richland – 582 (583); Hamilton – 528 (516).

As can be seen, five of the aforementioned Top 10 counties saw increases in their respective 2017 to-date deer kill when compared to their respective 2016 to-date numbers. And one county saw identical figures while a seventh was short by just one deer.

Taken as a whole, 40 of Ohio’s 88 counties posted gains or identical numbers in their 2017 respective deer kills from the previous to-day reporting week, ending October 24th. That 40 figure is substantial, too, given that last week only seven counties had recorded gains from their previous 2017 to-date numbers as of October 17th.

However, the EHD anomaly is impacting to a large extent the deer herd and kill numbers in Jefferson County, located in Northeast Ohio and along the Ohio River. And to a lesser – though still serious - degree, Jefferson’s next-door neighbor, Columbiana County.

To date as of October 31st, Jefferson County recorded a deer kill of just 163 animals. That is a huge drop from its respective 2016 to-date (as of November 1st, 2016) kill of 308 animals; or drop of 145 deer – close to being a 50-percent decline.

In Columbiana County the 2017 to-date deer kill ledger stands at 386 animals. Its comparable 2016 to-date deer kill was 509 animals, though; representing a smaller drop though still a significant decline at around 22 percent.

Scott Peters, wildlife biologist for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron said that Ohio was not alone in seeing EHD attack a state’s deer herd. Across the Ohio from Jefferson and Columbiana counties, Pennsylvania's sister counties also saw severe EHD -related deer mortality this past summer and autumn, Peters said.

Such depressions in the deer herds in Jefferson and Columbiana counties could prove worrisome for hunters who spent time in their respective woods. Each county is home to multiple numbers of areas open to public hunting. Among them are the 4,167-acre Brush Creek Wildlife Area and the 3,023-acre Fernwood State Forest, both in Jefferson County; and the 2,266-acre Highlandtown Wildlife Area and the 3,848-acre combined Beaver Creek State Park and State Forest – all three in Columbiana County.

For the Bottom Bunch, the current to-date figures are (with their respective 2016 to-date numbers in parentheses) are: Henry County – 97 (103); Pickaway County – 93 (101); Ottawa County – 84 (83); Van Wert County – also 83 (84); Madison County – 72 (89); and Fayette County – 41 (45).

In Northeast Ohio, the current to-date numbers with their respective 2016 to-date numbers in parentheses are: Lake County – 237; Cuyahoga County – 345 (362); Erie County – 194 (167); Geauga County – 374 (415); Lorain County – 448 (562); Media County – 382 (421); Summit County – 397 (433); Portage County – 461 (487).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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