COLUMBUS — The number of deer darting their way over area highways was significantly diminished Monday with the start of deer-gun hunting season.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 22,620 white-tailed deer were checked by hunters on Monday, with a total deer harvest of 109,932 so far this season. While this number may seem large, it is actually 3 percent less than the 113,107 deer harvested at this time last year. Almost 219,000 deer were harvested over all of last year, highlighting just how popular hunting is in Ohio.
The ODNR is supportive of deer hunting season, as it helps to maintain a healthy deer population in the state. Also, hunting is a big industry in Ohio, with the state ranking fifth nationally in the number of resident hunters and 11th in the state in the number of hunting-related jobs. Through the sales of food, fuel, lodging and more, more than $853 million in revenue has poured into the state through hunting.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife is also working to manage the state’s deer population through other regulatory and programmatic changes, and many counties that have higher than desired deer populations have already seen strides in reducing deer numbers closer to acceptable levels, according to the department.
While some hunt deer simply for sport, there are many who hunt for food, as well, and the ODNR is encouraging hunters to harvest more antlerless deer in some regions to help the needy in that area have greater access to food. The Division of Wildlife is working with Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry to help pay for the processing of donated venison for needy families. Hunters who donate a deer to a food bank are not required to pay for processing as long as funding is available. Anyone desiring information can visit fhfh.org.
Venision donations can also be made through Safari Club International’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program, and Whitetails Unlimited accepts donations to fund venison donation programs. Information about these organizations can be found at safariclubfoundation.org and whitetailsunlimited.com.
Deer-gun hunting season will remain open through Sunday.