Things could get interesting during the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) district open houses March 3.
It likely depends upon what Whitetails Unlimited (WTU) presents from a survey it is taking among Ohio’s deer hunters. Dennis Malloy, WTU field director in northeast Ohio, hopes to have 25,000 responses to the survey to present at the open houses, which receive public comments about hunting, trapping, and fishing regulations and other wildlife issues. These open houses, which run from noon-3 p.m., will be held at the Wildlife District One, District Two, District Three and District Four offices, as well as the Greene County Fish and Game Association clubhouse in Xenia. WTU plans to have reps at all five open houses.
Open houses give the public an opportunity to view and discuss proposed fishing, hunting and trapping regulations with DOW officials. For Ohioans who are unable to attend an open house, comments will be accepted online at wildohio.gov beginning Feb. 12. Directions to the open houses can be found at wildohio.gov or by calling 800-945-3543.
Malloy, who is a wildlife biologist and has a BS degree from West Virginia University and was a wildlife officer in Ohio for 19 years, said WTU is concerned about the decrease of more than 30,000 deer hunters in Ohio. He and Fin Feather and Fur Outfitters Mike Goshchinski discussed this and other concerns before coming up with the survey. They hope the survey answers questions about changes in game laws and regulations and what they term as a movement away from tradition could negatively affect hunters participation in the sport.
“After 25 years of personal experience with these and the special deer meetings which were packed the last few years, again I know these are basically showpieces where the division tries to sell their changes rather than absorb input. I have been told personally by current staff that a few hundred attendees’ opinions are not reflective of the views of 450,000 license buyers. That is precisely why we are doing a survey to get a bigger sampling to give the division chief in hopes that will paint a bigger picture,” Mallory said.
I have seen the WTU survey and many of the questions on it were broached during special “deer” meetings a couple of years ago in each of the five wildlife districts. Dr. Mike Tonkovich, deer program administrator, helped Mallory with the wording on a couple of questions.
The survey is free, but a person must have hunted deer in Ohio to participate in it. One can find the survey at www.whitetailsunlimited.com and click on the scrolling survey box. The deadline to participate is Feb. 24.
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Mallory cited hearing about issues from attendees at WTU banquets like “loss of check stations leading to illegal acts and fraud, discontent with the number of deer seen by gun hunters, and the fear that we are losing the battle for recruitment and retention of our hunting fraternity.”
He added, “We hope that by polling deer hunters – the men and women who are buying the licenses and spending time in the woods – we can see a clearer picture of what hunters want, what they like, and what will keep them buying licenses and gear and participating in hunting into the future. The worry is that if wildlife managers deal only with the biology of deer management, they may not be taking into account how these changes affect the social, economic, and traditional activities of the hunters themselves, which can lead to other, unforeseen problems.”
It’s interesting to take a look at the relevance of human conflict in deer management about 10 years after deer were re-introduced during the 1920s and then again in 1962, which Tonkovich said is perhaps the birth year of Ohio’s modern deer management program.
Floyd Chapman wrote about deer crop damage in 1938, “The present system of damage claim payments is so complicated that most hill farmers do not bother to submit their claims. This system in which the farmer is obliged to make representation through his state senator or Congressman for deer damages is responsible in part for the extensive poaching in Scioto and Adams counties. The farmers attempt to get rid of the deer, either by shooting them or by putting dogs on their trail.”
Charles Nixon wrote in a publication called “The White-tailed Deer in Ohio,” in 1962, “… Men concerned with the policy making and deer management affairs of the Conservation & Natural Resources Commission were primarily interested in controlling the deer herd to a point where it would not be in conflict with human activities. These men, no doubt, were afraid that if the herd was allowed to expand without control, it would reach proportions such as those experienced in Michigan and Pennsylvania.”
Tonkovich, whose expertise often is sought nationally, said, “Ohio’s farmers, hunters, and general citizenry have always, and will continue to have the final say when it comes to deer management. As a scientist, I can tell you first hand that understanding how deer populations function is necessary to do this job. But it does not guarantee success. Only by listening to all of the people that you work for, not just the hunters and effectively selling the notion of compromise among competing interests, will you be successful.”
WTU was among organizations that participated in the DOW’s Deer Stakeholder Process, which produced three workshops with summaries on each available. Malloy was WTU’s representative. One can learn more about the process at http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/fish-and-wildlife-research/deer-stakeholder-process. It helps define deer management for the next decade.
“We are part of the deer stakeholder meetings and have had a rep there for all three meetings although I was only at second meeting. I will be there next week for meeting 4. I am not exactly pleased with the meetings as I have some doubts that the agenda is skewed a bit to come to a pre-determined result, but I will see it out to the end,” Mallory said.
During its meeting Wednesday, the Ohio Wildlife Council heard proposals for Ohio’s 2018-2019 white-tailed deer hunting season dates and bag limits. Deer bag limits were proposed to remain the same for all but one county. A reduction in the bag limit from three deer to two deer was proposed for Jefferson County. All other county bag limits would remain the same. The DOW also proposed modifications for hunting on public land that would permit hunters to harvest only one antlerless deer from public hunting areas per license year and require that only antlered deer be harvested on public land after Dec. 2. This proposal would allow for some herd growth on public land. The statewide bag limit was proposed to remain at six deer, only one of which may be antlered, and a hunter cannot exceed a county bag limit.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL