Outdoors: Deer harvest proves interest in bow hunting


By Al Smith - Contributing Columnist



With the just completed deer hunting seasons, the Ohio Division of Wildlife can produce all kinds of numbers.

For instance, the harvest was up not only in Limaland, but statewide, too. And the wildlife agency can tell you how many antlered and antlerless deer were killed, both by archers and those using firearms.

Statewide, hunters harvested 188,329 deer, compared to 175,745 a year ago. Of the total during the 2015-16 seasons, 103,799 deer were taken by firearms, while 84,530 were taken by archers.

A total of 76,689 were antlered deer, while 111,640 were antlerless. Broken down, 39,998 antlered and 44,532 antlerless deer were harvested by archers, while 36,691 antlered deer and 67,108 antlerless deer were harvested by firearms hunters.

In Limaland, six counties showed an increase over a year ago, while three had a decrease. Deer checked in local counties this season with the number from a year ago in parenthesis were: Allen 1,102 (1,027), Auglaize 828 (786), Hancock 1,185 (1,116), Hardin 1,270 (1,149), Logan 2,071 (1,1885), Mercer 603 (583), Putnam 704 (759), Shelby 1,055 (1,118) and Van Wert 492 (576). A total of 9,305 deer were taken during the 2015-16 seasons in Limaland, while 8,999 were harvested in the nine-county area during the 2014-15 seasons.

Broken down locally by antlered, antlerless and weapon used, statistics show 211 antlered, 359 antlerless were taken by bow, while 430 antlered and 672 antlerless were harvested by firearms in Allen County during the 2015-16 seasons.

In Auglaize County, 152 antlered and 221 antlerless were taken by bow, while 310 antlered and 518 antlerless were taken by firearms.

In Hancock County, 291 antlered and 270 antlerless were taken by bow, while 559 antlered and 626 antlerless were taken by firearms.

In Hardin County, 199 antlered and 322 antlerless were taken by bow, while 483 antlered and 787 antlerless were taken by firearms.

In Logan County, 392 antlered and 595 antlerless were taken by bow, while 794 antlered and 1,277 antlerless were taken by firearms.

In Mercer County, 106 antlered and 179 antlerless were taken by bow, while 230 antlered and 373 antlerless were taken by firearms.

In Putnam County, 147 antlered and 175 antlerless were taken by bow, while 294 antlered and 410 antlerless were taken by firearms.

In Shelby County, 198 antlered and 296 antlerless were taken by bow, while 384 antlered and 666 antlerless were taken by firearms.

In Van Wert County, 83 antlered and 98 antlerless were taken by bow, while 222 antlered and 270 antlerless were taken by firearms.

But what do all these numbers mean?

Dr. Mike Tonkovich, deer program manager for the DOW, always has comments and opinions on deer seasons. He also wants to hear opinions from hunters.

He was not surprised by the increased harvest and cited a few reasons for that.

“If we would have had average weather, an average mast crop and a more typical year in terms of crops harvested, the buck harvest would have been up about 7-10 percent, and the antlerless harvest would have been down roughly 5-7 percent, leaving us with a total harvest very similar to last year. However, the weather was nearly perfect for most of the season, farmers had nearly all the crops off well before gun season, and where acorns are an important part of the deer’s annual diet, they (acorns) were few and far between. All of these factors combined and pushed the harvest higher than expected,” Ohio’s deer guru explained.

The high bow hunter harvest is not surprising to Tonkovich.

“I’m not sure where it will stop, but the aging face of our hunting public is a very relevant player in this game,” he said.

“Older hunters like warmer hunting conditions. Archery season offers you a solid six weeks of decent weather,” he said. “Moreover, there are far more bow than gun hunting opportunities close to home. Thus, a hunting trip can be an afternoon as opposed to a 2-day or overnight affair. Lastly, I’m speculating here, but I can’t help but think that part of the growth is being fueled by the growth itself.”

Tonkovich explained, “In other words, if I don’t bow hunt, I’m soon going to be a minority and I’ll be hunting ‘leftovers’ – deer that have been hunted hard for two months before gun season. In fact, I can’t help but think that all of the activity in the woods — checking cameras, filling feeders, changing batteries — in the first month of the season isn’t partly to blame for the increasing number of hunter complaints about lack of deer sightings during the gun season. Add to that the fact that hunters who are gun hunting are likely hunting more like archers (stand hunting), it’s no wonder you see few deer during gun season.”

Since the DOW has moved from a county-by-county attempts to reset its deer population goals, hunters were asked to identify the proposed DMU they hunted most this season. A DMU is a deer management unit. Parts of counties could be in different DMUs. To assist hunters, a statewide map, as well as a detailed map of each of the 26 proposed DMUs was set up on the DOW website at www.wildohio.gov/dmu

Through recent deer seasons, the DOW worked to stabilize deer populations by using antlerless permits and reducing some bag limits. After deer populations in most of Ohio’s counties went above their goal, most counties are now at or near goal, the DOW said.

To make sure it understood the feelings of hunters, farmers and landowners, the wildlife agency came up with its first-ever goal setting survey involving these groups. Hunters and landowners were selected randomly and received surveys from the wildlife agency asking for input on Ohio’s deer management program.

Deer levels are not where Tonkovich would like them, but he said, “Surveys of the state’s farmers indicated that statewide only 28 percent of them felt there were too many deer. Preliminary data from our deer hunter survey revealed that about two-thirds of hunters think there are too few deer. Therefore, we will hold regulations stable this year to promote modest herd growth in most regions of the state.”

Tonkovich would very much like to put the DMUs in place, but said hunters’ opinions matter more than his.

“We need them to let us know that they are anxious to have them. And, if the thought of DMUs makes them anxious, they need to let us know that too so we can address their concerns.” He said

So how soon can we expect DMUs?

“As soon as hunters let us know they are ready for them,” Tonkovich said.

The 2016-2017 deer season proposals were presented to the Ohio Wildlife Council on Wednesday, with the most noteworthy being moving the two-day deer-gun season to Dec. 28-29, which is a Wednesday-Thursday.

County bag limits were proposed to remain the same. Proposals call for the bow season to begin on Sept. 24 and end on Feb. 5, 2017. The youth deer-gun hunt is proposed for Nov. 19-20 and the deer muzzleloader season is proposed for Jan. 14-17, 2017.

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By Al Smith

Contributing Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. He may be contacted at flyfishman7@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. He may be contacted at flyfishman7@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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