Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ohio's total deer kill may hit 188,000 but to-date archery numbers are actually down

With just one abbreviated five-day reporting period left, the numbers may be suggesting that Ohio’s deer hunters are closing in on a total all-seasons’ kill approaching 188,000 animals.

However, the to-date archery deer kill numbers are actually off when laid next to their comparable 2016-2017 figures.

The current weekly deer kill – as of January 30 – stands at 184,951 animals. That figure is 5,072 more deer than were taken for last year’s comparable weekly reporting period (179,879 animals).

If the 2016-2017’s last (and also shortened) reporting period is any indication where an additional 2,290 deer were recorded, than an all-seasons’ deer kill for 2017-2018 may approach that previously mentioned 188,000 number. Such a figure would run to the high end of what Ohio Division of Wildlife biologists were guessing for the final deer harvest, to use the agency’s official terminology.

Likewise, should the 188,000 figure come about it will fall into forth place in total kill over the past six deer-hunting seasons. The total deer kills are: 2012-2013 – 218,910; 2013-2014 – 191,503; 2014-2015 – 175,801; 2015-2016 -188,335; 2016-2017 – 182,169.

Interestingly enough, however, is that while the current total deer kill figures for all implements used show increases, the to-date numbers for deer taken with archery tackle are actually revealing declines. To date for this current season, archers have taken 37,949 antlered deer and 40,609 antlerless deer. Yet the comparable 2016-2017 to-date archery-associated kill numbers were 40,109 antlered deer and 40,924 antlerless deer.

As for why the archery kills are down – if they hold up through to the final numbers – likely those details will become fodder for further discussion by both hunters as well as biologists. One possibility that I’ve mentioned before is that in many of the urban counties their respective deer kills are down. This may be suggesting that efforts to reduce deer numbers through controlled hunts by cities and villages are working as intended.

In any event, here are the counties with to-date deer kills exceeding four thousand animals each with their respective 2016-2017 to-date numbers in parentheses: Ashtabula – 5,040 (4,969); Coshocton – 6,505 (5,885); Guernsey – 4,717 (4,517); Holmes – 4,076 (3,682); Knox – 4,637 (4,455); Licking – 4,961 (4,883); Mukingum – 5,259 (5,063); and Tuscarawas – 5,669 (4,966).

Only three counties remain with to-date deer kills of fewer than 500 animals each: Fayette – 355 (310); Ottawa – 478 (443); Van Wert – 499 (457).

And three counties saw no additional deer taken between the previous to-date reporting period of January 23rd and the current reporting period of January 30th: Clinton – 808; Fayette – 355; Putnum – 781. One other Ohio county – Madison County – saw a weekly reporting gain of just one animal to 506 deer.

Also, 65 of Ohio’s 88 counties have recorded to-date deer kill increases when compared to their respective and comparable 2016-2017 to-date numbers.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Ohio Division of Wildlife's bottom line needs a new floor if it's to stay solvent

The bottom line for any enterprise is always marked with the dollar sign, whether the entity is a business or a governmental agency.

And for the Ohio Division of Wildlife that keynote is valued at a price that places it in the ballpark of mid-size companies.

Found on the Wildlife Division’s 2018 “Wild Ohio” calendar is a one-page overview of the agency’s 2017 fiscal year revenue and expenditures. This sheet has a couple of cool, colored pie charts that illustrate the agency’s cash flow. (I love pie charts as they really do help simplify and explain things. But I digress).

The affair includes the notation that the Wildlife Division’s revenue stream included a tad more than $64 million in and some $73.6 million out. Not to panic, however, the Wildlife Division’s engine is not (mercifully not yet, anyway) operating on just five of its six fiscal cylinders. There is always a fudge-factored carryover that helps smooth out year-to-year budgetary wrinkles, as we shall learn.

The difference in the two pie charts in the fiscal year 2017 financial report reflecting a negative balance is simple to explain,” says Wildlife Division assistant chief Mike Luers. “It’s just a matter of timing, with the fiscal year ending before all of the federal reimbursements were completed. No funds have lapsed and the division of wildlife is in good financial standing.”

As for being equal to a mid-size company, I say that because an actual definition exists for such nomenclature. More precisely, a bunch of interpretations exist for defining a mid-size company along the lines of L.L. Bean and Lands End clothing and they all pretty much dovetail.

The Ohio State University’s National Center for the Middle Market (you can’t make this sort of title up) says a mid-size company is defined as having annual revenue of between $10 million and $1 billion, while the European Union uses an even more refined international standard. It says such a firm as between 50 and 250 employees along with an annual income of less than $66 million.

Ohio’s Wildlife Division has between 420 and 440 employees. So it’s close enough to meet the qualification; not an unimportant item as it demonstrates the challenges of running an entity, whether that unit is a business or a governmental agency beholden to the public.

In any event, we see that for Fiscal 2017, the Wildlife Division collected $14.9 million in fishing license fees, another $10.6 million in hunting license fees, and $21 million in federal aid-to-restoration money.

And before the people who bought the 885,641 fishing licenses start yapping that they paid a bigger slice of the pie than did the people who acquired the 388,036 hunting licenses, let it be understood that deer tag sales contributed another $8.8 million, turkey tags chipped in $1.4 million and wetland stamps forked over $371,000.

What may come as something of a surprise to many people is that the Wildlife Division does collect a small portion of the state’s tax on the sale of gasoline. That’s because hunters and anglers buy fuel for their ATVs, boats and what-not and consequently pay taxes on that gasoline and diesel. It’s only correct that the Wildlife Division gets its fair share, as does the Watercraft arm of the Parks Division. This largess totaled something on the order of $2.3 million.

Oh, and the Wildlife Division’s Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species Fund was fueled by nearly $639,000 while fines netted $380,000. That figure is good news for eagles, sandhill cranes, bats and a host of creatures that may never have to dodge a wad of lead shot or learn to avoid a lure’s treble hooks.

Sliding over the expenditure side of things we see that the Wildlife Division has segmented the pie chart into eight slices.

Not unexpectedly this pie chart appears with separate categories for “fish management” and “wildlife management,” each of which enjoys the largest wedges: $11.9 million (16 percent) for fish management, and $17.4 million (24 percent) for wildlife management.

Among the smaller expenditure slabs are things like Wildlife officers at $9.8 million (13 percent), capital improvements at $5.9 million (8 percent), law enforcement at $5.3 million (7 percent), Information and education at $5 million (also 7 percent), and $2.5 million (3 percent) for administration.

An interesting side-bar on the wildlife officer ledger item, however. The Wildlife Division’s fiscal report states that “Wildlife officers are assigned to each of Ohio’s 88 counties and Lake Erie” a claim that simply is no longer accurate as critics of the Wildlife Division’s administrative management continue to maintain. But, again, I digress.

Oh, for the Wildlife Division’s five district offices and statewide operations the pie chart shows another $15.8 million (22 percent). This catch-all/what-not drawer is described as including “fiscal and business management, licensing and permits, property management, computer services, environmental research and review, and wetlands habitat restoration.”

Now we begin to understand the dynamics of what it takes the Wildlife Division’s executives to manage not only the physical resources entrusted to them but also the financial ones.

Yet that work is being complicated by an Ohio Department of Natural Resources which believes it can continue to whistle past the graveyard, believing that cost-cutting here, there and everywhere along with squeezing a few pennies will result in many years’ worth of fiscal status quo.

Let’s face it, whether managing fisheries resources or land critters the cost is going to require more than just the spare change offered through increases to non-resident participatory fees, as was approved last year.

Sooner rather than latter, too. No question, the CEOs and CFOs sitting in their offices at the Natural Resources Department’s Fountain Square complex will need to accept the fact that for the solvency of the Wildlife Division and the continued forward motion of fish and wildlife management, resident license fee increases are now a necessity.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Whitetails Unlimited/Fin, Feather, Fur team up to survey Ohio's deer hunters

Taking the buck by the antlers, the owner of a five-store Northeast Ohio outdoors supply company and a Whitetails Unlimited field representative are seeking on-line deer management input from the state’s white-tailed deer hunters.

Mike Goshinski – owner of Ashland-based Fin Feather Fur Outfitters – and Whitetails Unlimited field representative Denny Malloy have constructed an on-line 26-question interrogative that seeks survey participant’s thoughts on a variety of Ohio deer-management matters.

The strictly voluntary survey continues through February 24th with the results being ready for presentation March 3rd at the annual Proposed Ohio Game Law hearings in each of the state’s five wildlife districts.

Whitetails Unlimited is national non-governmental organization (NGO) with more than 125,000 members and 500 chapters, including more than 12,500 members in 44 chapters in Ohio.

Goshinski was out of the office at press time and consequently was not available for comment.

Among the survey’s inquiring questions are hunters’ perception about Ohio’s electronic-based telecheck game check-in system; whether the number of deer being seen by hunters is growing, stable or shrinking; whether other hunters are lying about their deer-hunting and reporting successes; and if participants believe that the state’s deer herd is being properly manged by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Ohio Division of Wildlife chief Mike Miller said his agency will examine closely the survey results, just as it does the thoughts, impressions, and comments offered by any concerned individual or constituency group – including, and perhaps, especially - Whitetails Unlimited.

The survey was several years in the making after we began seeing how former game-check stations were losing business, and after attending numerous sportsmens’ club meetings with their disgruntled members, and by fielding ‎daily calls from concerned hunters,” Malloy said.  

Malloy says that Whitetails Unlimited is thus concerned that a loss of close to thirty-thousand licenses being sold in recent seasons may be the result of “less successful deer sightings and associated harvest.”

Also, Malloy says he is curious as to what sportsmen think of the state’s eight-year/$10.1 million telecheck game check-in system, and if Ohio’s deer hunters believe it is encouraging fraud and abuse.

After years of speculation and debate, maybe its time we asked the deer hunter his and her opinions and make them part of the ‎process,” Malloy said.

We need to survey sportsmen to understand more of the big picture. It is easier to retain a hunter than to recruit one,” Malloy said as well. “Every hoop a hunter has to jump through thins out our numbers. Changes in tradition also cause hunters to lose interest in protecting our sport.”

Malloy said he does believes that Ohio needs “a balance of science, sociology and economics to preserve our hunting traditions” but that the state may now be experiencing push-back due to the ready availability of multiple tags “for those with access and a nationwide push towards bow-hunting and early season harvest.”

Noting as well that Wisconsin recently formed citizen advisory panels in every one of its counties to help construct individual deer bag limits and population goals, more needs to be done by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to solicit deer hunters here also, Malloy says.

We need to find out what will keep hunters hunting and buying licenses if we are to preserve our traditions for our kids and grandchildren,” Malloy said.

For its part the Wildlife Divisionwelcomes input from our constituents, and we are always looking for new ways to gather insight from the public,” says Wildlife Division chief Miller.

Whitetails Unlimited is an important conservation partner and a valuable part of our Deer Stakeholder Group, which is currently working on the direction of Ohio’s deer management plan. We are excited to see the input their survey provides and will consider the responses,” Miller said.

To participate in the strictly voluntary survey, log on to
Participants who complete the survey are eligible to win one of fifty $20 Fin, Feather, Fur gift cards.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ohio's to-date deer kill all ready exceeds that for the entire 2016-2017 season

Even with two more weekly to-date reporting periods left to go, Ohio’s current take of deer stands at 1,320 more animals than were shot during the entire combined 2016-2017 deer-hunting seasons format.

The present deer kill totals 183,649 animals as of January 23rd, 2018 while the combined total for all deer-hunting seasons last year, 182,329 animals were taken.

And this year’s to-date kill is also 5,532 animals ahead of where the comparable figure stood last year at this time (178,117 deer and as of January 24th, 2017).

Likewise, the 183,649 figure represents an increase of 1,961 more animals when compared to the immediate previous weekly to-date (January 16th, 2018) tally of 181,688 animals.

Thus, tack on another four thousand or so animals to the present to-date number and a projected all-seasons’ deer kill of around 186,000 deer is not out of line. And that figure would fall neatly within the estimate provided by game biologists with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

For more comparisons, the total all-seasons’ deer kill for 2014-2015 was 175,801 animals, and 188,335 animal for the 2015-2016 combined all-seasons’ take.

In looking at other current to-date numbers there are eight counties with total deer exceeding four-thousand animals each. In alphabetical order (with their respective to-date 2016-2017 figures in parentheses) these counties are: Ashtabula – 5,005 (4,941); Coschocton – 6,472 (5,796); Guernsey – 4,689 (4,494); Holmes – 4,047 (3,638); Knox – 4,596 (4,429); Licking 4,910 (4,815); Muskingum – 5,229 (5,031); and Tuscarawas – 5,632 (4,914).

As can be noted, several of these counties have scored remarkable to-date gains when stacked next to their respective 2016-2017 to-date numbers. In Coschocton’s case the increase is 676 animals, and for its next door neighbor, Tuscarawas County, the increase is 718 animals.

In all, 66 of Ohio’s 88 counties have recorded increases in their respective to-date deer kills.

There are also 26 counties which have yet to record deer kills of one-thousand animals each, and of which three have yet to see respective deer kills exceeding five-hundred animals each: Fayette County - 355 animals; Ottawa County - 474 animals; and Van Wert County - 498 animals.

Last season’s comparable to-date numbers were 27 and four, respectively.

Continuing as the county with the greatest decline in to-date deer kill numbers is Jefferson County. Its current to-date deer kill figure stands at 1,882 animals. Last year’s comparable to-date deer kill number there was 2,752 animals, for a decline of 870 deer, or a roughly 32-percent drop.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ohio's community-focused safe boating grants set sail for 10 entities

The Ohio Division of Parks and Recreation is again opening its Waterways Safety Fund wallet to assist local entities in promoting safe boating programs.

This year more than $240,000 from the Fund is being provided to support 10 community boating safety education programs this year, says officials with the Watercraft arm of the division.

Individual grants this year range from $8,875.23 to $30,000. Grant money comes via the fund, which itself is fueled by a share of the state motor fuel tax as it relates to expenditures that boaters use for their vessels.

Other Fund revenue sources include watercraft registration and titling fees, along with additional dollars from the U.S. Coast Guard.

For this year a total of $240,003.36 is being awarded to 10 community boating safety education programs.

The boating safety education grant program was formed in 1982 when the Ohio legislature authorized the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to award funds for boating education.
Grant applications are due on November 1st for the following year. There is also a free grant workshop for interested parties each September. Beginning with the 2017 grant season, grant recipients became eligible for boating safety education grants once every three years.

One of the department’s key ongoing goals is to reduce boating accidents, mishaps and fatalities within the state of Ohio through boater education, also said Mike Bailey, chief of the Division of Parks and Watercraft.

Our natural resources officers and educators regularly help fulfill this mission by conducting safe boating education programs statewide,” Bailey said.

Bailey said that grants are “user-pay” in order to help fund “ “user-benefit programs,” which are specifically funded by Ohio’s recreational boaters.

Grant recipients are great local partners, assisting the Natural Resources Department by teaching safe boating practices to residents all across Ohio,” Bailey said.

The 2018 recipients specialize in teaching safe boating programs in urban areas, to people with special needs, to people from rural areas, to college students and to residents who visit their local metro parks.”

This year’s grant recipients are: The Great Miami Rowing Center in Butler County - $20,425; the Berea Power Squadron in Cuyahoga County - $8,875; the Mayfield Village Parks and Recreation Department in Cuyahoga County - $28,027; the Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition in Delaware County - $29,791; the American Kayaking Association in Franklin County - $22,320; HERO USA in Franklin County - $28,696; Hocking College in Hocking County - $30,000; the U.S. Freshwater Boaters Alliance in Mercer County - $17,889; the Miami Valley Boy Scout Council in Preble County - $24,000; The Barberton Parks and Recreation Department in Summit County - $29,977.

In large measure, much credit to the financial success of the program goes to the Coast Guard.

And the Coast Guard/State cooperative effort in recreational boating safety “is an outstanding example of the ability of government at all levels to work together for the benefit of the public and has directly resulted in safer boating for millions of Americans,” says the service in a highlighted explanation of its grant authorization duties.

This is evidenced by the fact that the number of reported recreational boating fatalities has been reduced from a high of 1,754 in 1973 to about 700 per year. During the same period, the number of boats owned by Americans more than doubled,” the Coast Guard says as well.

In all, during Fiscal 2017, the Coast Guard distributed $105.52 million in various grant monies to the 50 states and various trust territories. Ohio received $3.87 million – the forth largest amount in Fiscal 2017 – and which went to both state use and distribution to approved local entities.

The state which received the greatest amount for in-state use and distribution was Florida with $10.55 million.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn