Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ohio's to-date deer kill number slows but still ahead of last year's comparable figure

Going through the Christmas holiday season and as of December 26th, Ohio’s to-date deer kill remains 6,000 animals above its like-2016 figure; 6,281 more deer to be exact.

As of December 26th 2017, the to-date deer kill stood at 163,638 animals. Its December 27th 2016 to-date figure was 157,357 animals.

Interestingly, however, is that though the 2017 to-date total deer kill figure is larger than its 2016 counterpart, the number of antlered deer taken to-date is actually slightly down: 68,887 antlered animals compared to the 2016 to-date tally of 69,459 antlered animals. That’s only a 572 antlered deer difference, though.

Still, the only current member of the Five Thousand-Plus Deer Kill Club is Coshocton County whose to-date deer taken number is 5,756 animals. The comparable 2016 to-date figure for Coshocton County was 5,063 animals.

Also, the December 19th to-date deer kill for Coshocton County was 5,731 animals. Another way of putting it is that during the one-week period between the December 19th and December 26th reporting dates only 25 more deer were recorded as being shot in Coshocton County.

Here are the leading to-date counties in alphabetical order with kills of at least three thousand animals each (with their respective 2016 to-date numbers in parentheses): Ashtabula – 4,532 (4,346); Athens – 3,240 (3,060); Carrroll – 3,418 (3,011); Coshocton – 5,756 (5,063); Guernsey – 4,040 (3,915); Harrison – 3,187 (3,134); Holmes – 3,663 (3,272); Knox – 4,121 (3,978); Licking – 4,319 (4,204); Muskingum – 4,602 (4,315); Richland – 3,129 (2,861); Trumbull – 3,209 (3,239); and Tuscarawas – 4,988 (4,287).

The Bottom Bunch has not changed, however. Those counties with to-date deer kills of no more than 500 animals each in alphabetical order (with their respective 2016 to-date numbers in parentheses) are: Fayette – 318 (284); Madison – 469 (428); Ottawa – 410 (395); Van Wert – 469 (429).

Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 19 have declines in their respective 2017 to-date deer kill numbers when placed alongside their respective 2016 to-date deer kill figures.

Perhaps one of the biggest questions heading into the next to-date reporting period of January 2nd is what impact the on-going bitterly cold weather will have on the figures. Equally of interest will be if the merciless snow squalls that continues to strike Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties will reduce the deer taken figures in those counties.

For example and using Ashtabula County as one point, the December 19th to-date report listed 4,514 deer as having been taken there. Meanwhile, the current (December 26th) to-date deer kill figure for Ashtabula County is 5,532 animals – that means just 18 more deer were reportedly shot in Ashtabula County between the December 19th and December 26th reporting dates.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Historic" agreement reached to better protect Lake Erie yellow perch stocks off Lake County

In a protracted and hard-fought campaign that spanned years, yellow perch anglers achieved an historic agreement that will effectively close the placing of commercial trap net gear over a 130-square mile swath of Lake Erie off Lake County.

This agreement – voluntary but still embedded in strong intent – was inked between Lake County sport anglers, the two commercial trap net fishermen who are the most inclined to commercially fish the region, and the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Under the three-year agreement - retro-active to the 2017 commercial fishing season - the trap netters will be prohibited to set gear using these officially accepted dimensions: “The eastern border of this closed zoned (sic) is four nautical miles east of the Fairport Harbor (West Breakwater) lighthouse running due north and south the northern border is eight miles from (the) Fairport Harbor (West Breakwater) lighthouse and runs due east and west, the southern border is the shoreline combined with grids 913’s northern boundary, and the western border is defined by the western boundaries of the commercial grids 713 and 813.”

In practical effect, the new off-limits trap net unit will begin just west of the Chagrin River near Willowick, east to the now defunct Rayon production plant in Perry Township and importantly, north of the prized sport and commercial fishing grounds known locally as the “Hump.”

Previously, the trap netting exclusionary zone was a four-mile arc pivoting from the mouth of the Grand River at Fairport Harbor.

Though the Wildlife Division preferred that the delineation be an arc, backers of the movement said a square is much easier for anglers to understand when using their GPS nits.

Conflicts over use of the Hump – which was roughly divided in half by two of the Wildlife Division’s Lake Erie fisheries management units – arose between commercial and recreational interests. These included access to the area’s stock of adult fish as well as any potential harm that the setting of nets might do on spawning or breeding-staging adult yellow perch.

Ensuring recreational angling access only would exist for the Hump was a primary focus of a local ad hoc committee that worked the political spectrum, lobbied the Wildlife Division and engaged area fishing clubs and individual anglers.

“Everyone will benefit from the commercial fishermen to the sport fishermen to the yellow perch,” said Don Schonauer. “Hopefully the little perch will grow and the bigger ones will spawn.”

Schonauer is widely regarded as the spear point of the angler-driven campaign committee that consisted on-and-off of about 50 individuals. He unveiled the project and the group’s achievement at a December 21st meeting held at River Bend Marina in Fairport Harbor and attended by about 75 to 100 people.

Schonauer said as well that anglers may seen positive results as quickly as next year. However, the document’s full impact very well may take several years to bear fully mature fruit, Schonauer said.

“I want everyone to remember, it was not the netters’ fault; they were doing only what the law allowed,” Schonauer said as well. “But when yellow perch fishing is good that helps everyone in the business. If you don’t have perch than you’re hurting and I should know; I ran a bait store.”

Though while Schonauer may be a gifted Lake Erie angler himself, a small businessman and a presidential-award-winning retired school administrator, he readily admits he’s neither a politician nor a lobbyist. But he is a quick learner and that included tapping into those elected officials who know their way around the hallways and offices of state government.

“As a businessman I do not want to see anyone lose their job but things must be fair and balanced,” said Ohio State Representative Ronald Young. “Clearly that had not been the case here.”

Young, said Schonauer at the public forum, was instrumental in successfully navigating the agreement package through the labyrinth of state government bureaucracy, political indifference, and general government foot-dragging.

“I believe that this agreement is historic; it’s simply never been done before,” Young said.

Then again, Young still carried a big stick as he talked softy to the Kasich Administration and officials with the Wildlife Division. That axe handle comes in the form of his House Bill 356 which would impose some serious and new restrictions on commercial fishing off both Fairport Harbor as well as Sandusky – the bread and butter region for the state’s small commercial fishing fleet.

Should the agreement collapse, said Young, it would take almost nothing to revive his legislative proposal.

“This cycle of closing or restricting one management unit and opening another and then reversing that has to stop,” Young said. “Something ought to be done on a lakewide basis, too.”

Heavily assisting also in the project was local businessman and Lake County Board of County Commissioners President Jerry Cirino who more than one year ago pledged his support to Schonauer.

A hard-nosed negotiator himself, Cirino tramped the halls of state government in Columbus and then stalked the offices of leaders with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources at the agency’s Columbus campus.

Cirino cautioned that as a voluntary agreement its points are “fragile” but that officials with the Wildlife Division and the commercial fishing community came around to a package “that is as good as it can possibly be” for yellow perch anglers.

“Sport anglers were at a terrible and serious disadvantage, and it took a while for the Wildlife Division to recognize this, but it is now aboard with the idea,” said Cirino.

Cirino then added with a wink a moment latter: “We can make yellow perch fishing in Lake County great again.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ohio's bonus deer gun season bolsters to-date kill; final harvest estimate revised up

Bolstered by the stunning success of the statewide two-day “bonus” firearms deer-hunting season, Ohio’s to-date deer kill has taken a 6,616 animal leap over its 2016 to-date counterpart.

What’s more, only 20 of Ohio’s 88 counties have recorded to-date (as of December 19th) declines. A few have shown remarkable increases, too. Among them are Ashtabula County which – as of December 19th – had recorded a 208 animal increase over its 2016 to-date numbers. Meanwhile, Carroll County had registered a 408 animal increase, and Holmes County, a 393 animal increase.

Regardless, this year’s two-day bonus season numbers were spell-binding to the point of being awesome, says game biologists with the Ohio Division of Wildlife. These scientists were not expecting an avalanche of counties to exceeded their respective 2016 two-day season numbers.

“Staggering is a good term,” said a stunned Mike Tonkovich, the Wildlife Divisions deer management program administrator. “To the best of my knowledge we’ve never seen anything like it before here in Ohio.”

Thus the unexpected stellar success of the bonus season has solidified the to-date deer kill standing, as of December 19th. In examining the statistics, the details show that one county has a to-date deer kill greater than 5,000 animals – Coshocton with 5,731. Last year Coshocton’s comparable to-date deer kill was 5,042 animals; the only county also to have a then-to-date deer kill exceeding 5,000 animals..

Further, there are six counties with respective kills of 4,000 to 4,999 animals each. These counties (with their 2016 comparable to-date numbers in parentheses) are: Ashtabula 4,514 (4,306); Guernsey – 4,024 (3,892); Knox – 4,108 (3,958); Licking – 4,292 (4,165); Muskingum – 4,584 (4,293); and Tuscarawas – 4,963 (4,260). At this same juncture last year there were four counties with reported to-date deer kills of 4,000 to 4,999 animals.

A notch lower for the 3,000 to 3,999 to-date deer kill, Ohio has six counties also. These counties (with their respective and comparable 2016 to-date numbers) are: Athens – 3,225 (3,038); Carroll – 3,400 (2,992); Harrison – 3,166 (3,121); Holmes – 3,651 (3,258); Richland – 3,119 (2,831); and Trumbull – 3,185 (3,201).

Ohio still has 29 counties with fewer than 1,000 animals killed each to-date. Among these counties are five counties which have yet to top 500 deer killed each. These Bottom Bunch Member counties (with their respective to-date 2016 numbers in parentheses) are: Fayette – 315 (283); Madison – 466 (424); Ottawa – 402 (385); and Van Wert – 466 (426). Note then that like the hunters in the Four Thousand-Plus Club Member counties, the all of the hunters in the Bottom Bunch Club Member counties have enjoyed higher success as well.

It is perhaps telling that though Ohio still has its January 6th through 9th muzzle-loading deer-hunting season and while the archery deer-hunting season extends until February 4th, last year fully 83 percent of the state’s deer had been taken by this point on the calendar.

Projecting out then, Tonkovich says he now believes that Ohio’s deer hunters may end up killing between 187,000 and 190,000 animals when the final arrow is launched February 4th.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, December 18, 2017

Ohio's 2017 bonus two-day gun deer-hunting season posts signifcant gains

Ohio’s just-concluded two-day so-called “bonus” firearms deer-hunting season not only bested its 2016 counterpart it left last year’s total in the dust.

And this year’s Saturday-Sunday bonus gun deer season’s kill of 14,115 animals also easily eclipsed the 2015 figure of 9,447 animals. Likewise, that statistic is a couple hundred animals better than the 2016 two-day bonus season take of 9,228 deer.

So impressive are the figures for the 2017 two-day gun deer season held December 16th and 17th, that fully 84 of Ohio’s 88 counties recorded gains in their respective deer kills. Even a county such as Jefferson which has struggled all year with a decline in its reported deer kill posted a modest increase of 29 animals (197 deer this season verses 168 deer during the 2016 two-day bonus gun season).

Looking at some of the other counties and one begins to see just how impressive this past Saturday and Sunday two-day gun deer-hunting season went, too. In Ashland County, hunters killed 342 deer – or 204 more deer than Ashland County hunters shot during the 2016 two-day bonus season.

Meanwhile, Logan County’s two-bonus gun deer season numbers rose from 60 animals in 2016 to 169 animals for the just-concluded season. And that 169 figure is also nearly twice as many animals killed in Logan County during the 2015 two-day bonus gun deer-hunting season (86 deer).

Take a gander at Carroll County, too. Here, the 2017 bonus season saw a kill of 412 animals while in 2016 that figure was less than one-half that figure: 184 animals. And it was still way better than was Carroll County’s 2015 two-day bonus deer kill figure of 211 deer.

Among the most impressive leaps was seen in Ohio’s perennial deer-take leading county of Coshocton which recorded a whopping kill of 512 deer. For the 2016 bonus two-day season that number was just 210 animals. And the 512 deer still readily topped Coshocton’s 2015 bonus season respectable take of 349 deer.

Even the cellar -dwelling counties fared well. In Fayette County, for instance, hunters there took 22 deer this past weekend compared to the 17 animals Fayette County hunters shot during the 2016 two-day bonus gun season.

The three counties which saw declines (with their 2016 figures in parentheses) were Lawrence – 91 (113); Lucas – 12 (27); and Putnam – 34 (45). Summit County recorded identical 2016 and 2017 bonus two-day gun season kills of 41 animals each.

And when looking at the comparisons between the 2017 and 2015 respective two-day bonus gun deer-hunting seasons, it is seen that only five counties were unable to post gains this time around while three counties reflected identical kills.

Just how this all will pan out for the rest of Ohio’s long deer-hunting profile remains to be seen, driven in large measure by the weather but also by how many deer all ready have been taken and thus are no longer part of the pool of available animals.

The state’s archery season runs until February 4th. Meanwhile, the state’s muzzle-loading deer-hunting season is set for January 6th to January 9th. Last year’s muzzle-loading season (which really was held in January of this year. Long story), Ohio’s primitive weapons hunters killed 15,843 deer. The three previous muzzle-loading seasons’ respective deer kills were 12,503 animals, 13,724 animals, and 16, 464 animals.

In any event, here are the county-by-county deer kills for the just concluded two-day bonus firearms deer-hunting season with their respective 2016 figures in parentheses:

Adams: 203 (138); Allen: 61 (60); Ashland: 342 (138); Ashtabula: 483 (422); Athens: 246 (174); Auglaize: 55 (35); Belmont: 264 (226); Brown: 172 (124); Butler: 66 (29); Carroll: 412 (184); Champaign: 75 (39); Clark: 48 (24); Clermont: 152 (85); Clinton: 58 (36); Columbiana: 367 (194); Coshocton: 512 (210); Crawford: 103 (57); Cuyahoga: 4 (3); Darke: 48 (19); Defiance: 152 (118); Delaware: 78 (52); Erie: 53 (44); Fairfield: 132 (89); Fayette: 22 (17); Franklin: 35 (23); Fulton: 60 (56); Gallia: 169 (139); Geauga: 111 (105); Greene: 51 (35); Guernsey: 307 (302); Hamilton: 55 (29); Hancock: 74 (58); Hardin: 110 (53); Harrison: 336 (193); Henry: 55 (41); Highland: 191 (121); Hocking: 199 (153); Holmes: 343 (118); Huron: 236 (162); Jackson: 191 (149); Jefferson: 197 (168); Knox: 382 (146); Lake: 40 (32); Lawrence: 91 (113); Licking: 340 (195); Logan: 169 (60); Lorain: 200 (169); Lucas: 13 (27); Madison: 52 (18); Mahoning: 194 (131); Marion: 79 (43); Medina: 188 (147); Meigs: 200 (188); Mercer: 47 (32); Miami: 54 (26); Monroe: 207 (156); Montgomery: 35 (16); Morgan: 214 (146); Morrow: 124 (70); Muskingum: 368 (256); Noble: 211 (138); Ottawa: 38 (31); Paulding: 113 (64); Perry: 213 (173); Pickaway: 62 (42); Pike: 114 (104); Portage: 201 (136); Preble: 82 (50); Putnam: 34 (45); Richland: 306 (164); Ross: 177 (146); Sandusky: 82 (66); Scioto: 184 (137); Seneca: 176 (100); Shelby: 75 (44); Stark: 287 (153); Summit: 41 (41); Trumbull: 321 (266); Tuscarawas: 497 (260); Union: 64 (28); Van Wert: 49 (24); Vinton: 201 (125); Warren: 66 (42); Washington: 213 (140); Wayne: 195 (92); Williams: 132 (127); Wood: 55 (37); Wyandot: 101 (60). Total: 14,115 (9,228).

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First time this season, Ohio's 2017 to-date deer kill creeps ahead of its 2016 counterpart

For the first time in the so-far 10 to-date weekly Ohio Deer kill figures the ones for 2017 have exceeded those for its comparable 2016 to-date numbers.

As of December 5th a total of 145,358 deer have been shot. That number is 1,756 more animals than were taken during the equivalent 2016 to-date (December 6th) figure of 143,602 deer.

In each to-date case, their seven-day firearms deer-hunting season totals are enfolded into the respective figures.

The current to-date tallies include eight of Ohio’s 88 counties with kills of at least three thousand animals, including one with a to-date deer kill of more than five thousand animals. Thee members of the Three Thousand-Plus Club (with their respective 2016 to-date numbers in parentheses) in alphabetical order are: Ashtabula – 3,952 (3,796); Coschocton – 5,130 (4,749); Guernsey – 3,651 (3,535); Holmes – 3,260 (3,095); Knox 3,673 (3,749); Licking – 3,874 (3,875); Muskingum 4,153 (3,978); Tuscarawas – 4,369 (3,914).

Even so, while the total 2017 to-date number is higher than it comparative 2016 to-date rival, 31 of the state’s 88 counties have posted current to-date declines when stacked up against their 2016 counterparts. Another three counties have identical 2016 and 2017 to-date numbers.

The big flashing red light continues to shine above Jefferson County. Its current to-date deer kill is given at 1,427 animals while its 2016 to-date number was 2,114 animals. It is widely believed that Jefferson County’s deer herd suffered extensively from epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, a fatal viral disease transmitted by the bite of a midge.

Also, a number of Ohio’s urban counties – where generous bag limits allowing for the multiple taking of antlerless animals exist – are showing to-date deer kill declines. This may suggest that such liberal allowances are having an impact on reducing the deer herds in these counties, a long-sought management objective. Among the urban counties that are seeing continued to-date deer kill declines are Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Franklin, Lucas and Summit.

Some urban counties are still seeing to-date deer kill increases, however. Among them are Hamilton, Montgomery, Geauga, and Portage.

Only four counties have current to-date deer kills of fewer than 500 animals each. In alphabetical order (with their respective 2016 to-date numbers in parentheses) are: Fayette County – 289 (257); Madison County – 410 (399); Ottawa County – 335 (328); Van Wert County – 411 (399).

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Jefferson County's deer kill numbers in free fall while Ohio's to-date figures up slightly

In trolling the 2017 to-date Ohio deer kill figures as of November 28th the tally is ever-so-slightly ahead of where the comparable 2016 to-date figures were back then on November 29th.

In each case the end-of-the-week running numbers included the first two days of their respective firearms deer-hunting season.

So what we have is that as of November 28th this year the Ohio Division of Wildlife has tabulated a kill of 107,113 deer. For the comparative period in 2016 the total stood at 106,969. Thus we see an almost imperceptible increase of only 144 animals. That ain’t much, for sure.

And one county – Jefferson – is in a world of hurt, too, both in terms of its deer population as well as its to-date deer kill.

The current data includes that as of November 28th to-date this season, 46 of Ohio’s 88 counties have deer kills exceeding a minimum of 1,000 animals each. And among this 1,000-plus number, 13 have kills exceeding 2,000 animals each, of which four have kills greater than 3,000 animals each.

These Magnificent Four (with their respective 2015 to-date numbers in parentheses) and in alphabetical order are: Ashtabula County – 3,032 (2,901); Coshocton County – 3,963 (3,557); Muskingum County – 3,081 (2,895); and Tuscarawas County – 3,144 (2,817).

In all – and this may be interesting because the raw to-date overall kill for 2017 is higher than is its comparable 2016 to-date kill maternal twin – is that 49 counties are recording decreases when the two to-date numbers are laid side by side.

Among the most disturbing of these is Jefferson County. Here, the 2017 to-date kill stands at 957 animals. And its comparable 2016 to-date number? Try 1,537 animals, for a huge to-date decline of 580 deer.

This issue is so disconcerting that Ohio Division of Wildlife deer management biologist Clint McCoy says that his agency “will take a long, hard look” at Jefferson County’s deer kill numbers “when we discuss deer-hunting regulations for the 2018-2019 season to see if any adjustments are necessary.”

McCoy says the most obvious issue that impacted Jefferson County’s shrunken deer kill was almost certainly the result of an epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) outbreak that ran rampant throughout much of the county this past summer.

While other Ohio counties saw outbreaks of EHD, McCoy said they were confined to localized areas. That situation was unlike Jefferson County which saw the viral disease spread throughout the county’s 411 square miles, says McCoy.

EHD is a viral disease that infects deer and a number of other ungulates, which contracts it through the “bite” of an infected midge. A deer can begin showing symptoms in as few as seven days. Portions of eastern Kentucky also experienced severe outbreaks of EHD this past summer.

In other matters associated with the to-date figures, four of Ohio’s 88 counties still have not seen to-date deer kills exceeding 300 animals each: Fayette – 192; Madison – 295; Ottawa – 268; and Van Wert – 268.

Perhaps not surprisingly these are the same four counties that also had not topped their respective comparable 2016 to-date three-hundred deer kill figures. Back then the to-date numbers were: Fayette County – 203; Madison County – 296; Ottawa County – 245; Van Wert County – 260.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn