Severe weather during Ohio’s just concluded four-day muzzle-loading season put a dent in the to-date deer kill, causing a slight erosion in where the state’s total harvest was projected as being headed.
But not enough so that the year-end total will fall outside of the biologists’ best guess.
The muzzle-loading season was plagued with numbing sub-freezing and even sub-zero temperatures, biting winds and bitterly deep snows, particularly in much of Northeast Ohio. Not surprisingly the kill was off in counties such as Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull when stacked up against their 2017 muzzle-loading season numbers.
In all, the state’s four-day muzzle-loading season – which ran January 6th through 9th – saw a take of 13,268 animals. The 2017 muzzle-loading season saw a kill of 15,843 animals. Thus, a decline of 2,575 animals was noted.
Still, the 13,268 figure is greater than the 2016 muzzle-loading season take of 12,503 animals. Also, this year’s muzzle-loading season deer kill was almost identical to the 2015 muzzle-loading deer season kill of 13,724 animals.
As for the to-date tally, as of January 9th, the kill stood at 179,943 animals; of which 73,364 were antlered deer. The comparable January 10th, 2017 to-date kill was 175,832 deer, of which 74,063 were antlered deer.
In looking at the numbers from a different angle, for the 2017-2018 combined deer-hunting seasons, hunters have killed 4,111 more animals to-date this year than for the same time frame during the 2016-2017 combined to-date deer-hunting seasons.
And while the 4,111 animal figure sounds impressive, had the muzzle-loading season produced a deer harvest more in line with that experienced in 2017, Ohio likely would have been looking at a to-date kill approaching 183,000 animals.
Buoyed by a slow and steady climb in the to-date deer kill, wildlife biologists with the Ohio Division of Wildlife at one point a few weeks ago were talking that the all-seasons’ deer kill might range from 187,000 to 190,000 animals. Let’s see if they’re still on the money.
Historically, from following the conclusion of the statewide muzzle-loading season to the end of the archery-hunting season in early February, Ohio sees only a few thousand to several thousand additional animals being taken. For example, last year between the-then to-date/post muzzle-loading season deer kill and the final all-seasons’ tally as of February 5th, 2017 only 6,337 additional deer were checked in (182,169 verses 175,832, respectively).
So tack on something along the lines of 6,300 additional deer to the current to-date figure and a rough guess of around 186,000 animals may appear as the 2017-2018 all-seasons’ total. Consequently, the total number is going to come pretty darn close to the biologists’ original estimate.
“Certainly if we continue to see snow that makes deer more visible along with the bitterly cold temperatures that helps drive deer to feeders we could see a very good harvest by the end of the archery season,” said Allen Lee, wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) Office in Akron. “Snow almost always helps, and the guy who baits is in a better position during the latter part of the archery season.”
Those counties with to-date (as of January 9th, 2018) deer kills totaling at least four thousand deer each (with their respective 2017 to-date numbers in parentheses) in alphabetical are: Ashtabula – 4,922 (4,880); Coshocton – 6,342 (5,729); Guernsey – 4,593 (4,454); Knox – 4,510 (4,370); Licking – 4,796 (4,739); Muskingum – 5,148 (4,982); Tuscarawas – 5,494 (4,865). The state also has 12 counties with to-date deer kills of three thousand-plus animals. In 2017 that figure was also 12.
Only four of Ohio’s 88 counties have to-date deer kills of fewer than 500 animals each (with their respective 2017 to-date numbers in parentheses): Fayette – 349 (306); Madison – 495 (470); Ottawa – 456 (429); and Van Wert – 495 (457). Last year each of these four counties failed to note respective deer kills exceeding 500 animals.
In terms of being ahead in the to-date deer kill totals, fully 61 of Ohio’s 88 counties have documented increases when compared to the respective and comparable 2017 to-date numbers. Some counties – such as Coshocton and Tuscarawas – have measured significant gains while others – such as Ottawa and Licking – the increases are more modest.
Of on-going concern to some is that a large number of urban counties have continued to show throughout the 2017-2018 deer-hunting season declines in their respective to-date deer kills when compared to their 2016-2017 numbers. This detail may be suggesting that efforts to reign in their deer herds via liberal bag limits and locally established controlled urban archery deer hunts are having an impact.