Ohio hunters braved record-setting cold temperatures and howling winds to harvest 16,464 white-tailed deer during the state’s four-day muzzleloader season, Jan. 4-7, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The extreme cold that moved across the state during the final two days of the season did not deter some hunters as more than 3,800 deer were checked on Monday and Tuesday. Locally, the harvest numbers are way down compared to last year’s harvest. Morrow county hunters checked in 90 this year compared to last year’s 150. Crawford, Richland, and Knox counties showed even more significantly lower numbers than Morrow. I am sure the weather had a lot to do with it, but I am starting to believe that local deer numbers are starting to become a mental deterrent as well.
Muzzleloaders are traditional hunting implements that emphasize accuracy and the value of the first shot. The popularity of muzzleloading rifles for hunting and target shooting continues to grow. Types of muzzleloaders include flintlock, percussion cap, in-line percussion and muzzleloading shotgun. Hunting is the best and most effective management tool for maintaining Ohio’s healthy deer population. Hunters have harvested more than 185,000 deer so far in the 2013-2014 hunting seasons. Ohio’s deer-archery season is open through Sunday, Feb. 2.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife remains committed to properly managing Ohio’s deer populations through a combination of regulatory and programmatic changes. The goal of Ohio’s Deer Management Program is to provide a deer population that maximizes recreational opportunities, while minimizing conflicts with landowners and motorists. This ensures that Ohio’s deer herd is maintained at a level that is both acceptable to most, and biologically sound.
Until recently, the populations in nearly all of Ohio’s counties were well above their target numbers. In the last few years, through increased harvests, dramatic strides have been made in many counties to bring those populations closer toward their goal. Once a county’s deer population is near goal, harvest regulations are adjusted to maintain the population near that goal.
Hunters who received a 2013-2014 Ohio deer hunter effort and harvest survey are encouraged to complete it when the season ends. This survey is an important tool in Ohio’s deer management program, and information provided in the survey is vital for establishing deer hunting regulations. The survey is conducted with a random sampling of hunters to help eliminate bias.
• The Ohio Wildlife Council received proposed changes to several species designations, including bobcats, as well as potential dates for the upcoming fall hunting seasons on Wednesday, Jan. 8, according to the ODNR.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists submitted a proposal to remove the bobcat from Ohio’s threatened species list. The bobcat was one of 71 species on Ohio’s first endangered list in 1974. However, the bobcat population began to rebound in the 1970s, and in recent years the number of verified sightings has continued to increase, prompting the status change from endangered to threatened in 2012. Bobcats are still considered a protected species in Ohio with no hunting or trapping season.
Three other species were proposed to be changed on Ohio’s state-designated species. A fourth was added as a species of concern, and this designation does not require council action. Snowshoe hares, which are now endangered, were proposed to be changed to a species of concern. Translocated hares have not been detected in Ohio since 2010 as the population has declined. The Bewick’s Wren is presently listed as endangered, and it is proposed to move to extirpated. A Bewick’s wren nest was last confirmed in Ohio in 1995. Currently the Smooth Greensnake is a species of concern and it is proposed to move to the endangered list. This rare snake has lost much of its habitat and range in Ohio. The Eastern hog-nosed snake will now be listed as a species of concern in Ohio.
Hunting season date proposals are prepared by the ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists and maintain many traditional opening day dates: Monday, Sept. 1, is the proposed start date for Ohio’s fall squirrel and dove hunting seasons. Hunting seasons for cottontail rabbit, ring-necked pheasant and bobwhite quail are proposed to start Nov. 7, the first Friday in November. Fox, raccoon, skunk, opossum and weasel hunting and trapping are proposed to start Monday, Nov. 10. Proposed 2014 fall wild turkey hunting season dates are Monday, Oct. 13, to Sunday, Nov. 30. Proposed 2015 spring wild turkey dates are Monday, April 20, to Sunday, May 17. The proposed 2015 youth wild turkey weekend dates are April 18-19.
New this year, it is proposed that youth hunters can harvest up to two wild turkeys during the 2015 two-day youth season (one per day). Checking two wild turkeys would fill the youth hunter’s bag limit for the remaining 2015 spring wild turkey season. This proposed change would not take effect until 2015. The bag limit remains one wild turkey for the two-day 2014 youth wild turkey hunting season.
Proposed open counties for quail hunting remain the same as last season: Adams, Athens, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Highland, Jackson, Meigs, Montgomery, Pike, Preble, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Warren.
Youth small game seasons are proposed statewide for two weekends: Oct. 25-26 and Oct. 31-Nov. 1.
Proposals concerning Ohio’s white-tailed deer hunting season will be heard at the next Ohio Wildlife Council meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 5. The Ohio Wildlife Council is an eight-member board that approves all of the ODNR Division of Wildlife proposed rules and regulations. The council will vote on the proposed rules and season dates during its April 9 meeting after considering public input.
Open houses to receive public comments about hunting, trapping and fishing regulations and wildlife issues will be held on Saturday, March 1. Open houses will be held at the ODNR Division of Wildlife District One, District Two, District Three and District Four offices, the Greene County Fish and Game Association clubhouse in Xenia, the Lake Erie Fairport office and the Old Woman Creek Reserve office in Huron.
Open houses give the public an opportunity to view and discuss proposed fishing, hunting and trapping regulations with the ODNR Division of Wildlife officials. For Ohioans who are unable to attend an open house, comments will be accepted online at wildohio.com. The online form will be available until March. Directions to the open houses can be found at wildohio.com or by calling 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543).
A statewide hearing on all of the proposed rules will be held at the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s District One office on Thursday, March 6, at 9 a.m. The office is located at 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, Ohio 43215. Council meetings are open to the public. Individuals who want to provide comments on a topic that is currently being considered by council are asked to preregister at least two days prior to the meeting by calling 614-265-6304. All comments are required to be three minutes or less.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!