Fewer hunters are harvesting more deer and there has been a steady increase in hunter satisfaction over the past three years.
Those factors can be seen following the 2019-20 deer hunting season, according to Dr. Michael Tonkovich, deer program administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW).
While deer harvest numbers were up nearly 7 percent, license sales numbers were off 3 percent and deer permit sales were down 8 percent in early January. That all indicates fewer hunters are taking more deer.
The harvest statewide this year was 184,465 compared to last year’s harvest of 172,670. Of the total harvest, 77,025 were antlered deer while 107,440 were antlerless deer.
That data reaffirms what Tonkovich has jokingly told someone recently: “You would have to try hard to not harvest a deer this year.”
Those factors, “change our interpretation of the population a bit. It is likely that the herd is stronger than what the harvest would suggest, considering that fewer hunters are harvesting more deer,” Tonkovich said. “Moreover, we have seen a steady increase in hunter satisfaction over the past three seasons.”
He added, “While we haven’t had a chance to look at this year’s numbers yet, I would expect that trend to continue. In short, hunters seem to be seeing plenty of deer and among those who want to harvest a deer, the majority have the opportunity to do so.”
Another key element in the harvest was the weather. It has been a very long time since Ohio hunters have enjoyed such great weather. The weather seemed to cooperate on key days during the entire season.
Locally, the harvest jumped 19 percent compared to last year. Lima area hunters harvested 10,403 deer this season compared to 8,730 a year ago. The harvest was up in each of the nine area counties. More than 1,000 deer were harvested in five area counties while more than 1,000 were harvested in three local counties last season. Logan led the area with 2,163 harvested.
Harvest numbers locally with those from the 2018-19 season in parenthesis were: Allen 1,118 (878), Auglaize 960 (826), Hancock 1,387 (1,145), Hardin 1,459 (1,163), Logan 2,163 (1,949), Mercer 814 (674), Putnam 849 (699), Shelby 1,100 (901), Van Wert 553 (495).
Ohio’s youth hunters harvested 6,234 on Nov. 23-24, 2019. During the 2019 weeklong and two-day deer-gun seasons, hunters checked in 77,187 deer. Muzzleloader hunters added an additional 10,615 deer from Jan. 4-7, 2020. On Feb. 2, archery hunters concluded their season with 88,860 deer taken. Archery hunters accounted for 48 percent of deer checked in 2019-2020. Among the archery numbers, 44,754 were antlered deer while 44,106 were antlerless. Ohio’s record deer harvest was in 2009-2010, when 261,260 were checked.
Ohio is a popular hunting destination for many out-of-state hunters. During the 2019-2020 hunting seasons, more than 34,000 nonresident Ohio hunting licenses were sold. The top five states for purchasing a nonresident hunting license in Ohio include: Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina and New York.
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Ohio residents have an opportunity to help out DOW biologists by reporting sightings of bald eagles they see in the state.
The wildlife agency is attempting to find every bald eagle nest in the state for the first time since 2012. That’s the year when the bird was delisted in Ohio. It was taken off the national endangered list in 2007.
For the first time in eight years, the DOW is attempting to find every bald eagle nest in the Buckeye State and is asking citizen scientists to report their sightings of the national bird.
Since then, DOW biologists estimated the number of eagle nests by flying select areas of the state and verifying sightings. DOW staff, including wildlife officers, will verify nest locations. This will help update the agency’s historical databases and confirm the results of estimated counts. There were an estimated more than 350 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the state in 2019.
People can submit sightings at wildohio.gov/reportwildlife through March 31. People can check for updates of verified nests throughout the coming months at wildohio.gov.
The bald eagle was once an endangered species and has made a remarkable comeback not only in Ohio, but throughout the contiguous 48 states.
There were four nesting pairs in Ohio in 1979. Because of loss of habitat, shooting, and DDT poisoning among other things, the number of nesting pairs in the U.S. during 1963 was only 487. As of 2015, it was estimated there 14,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles.
According to the USFWS, the contiguous state with the largest number of breeding pairs of eagles is Minnesota with an estimated 1,312 pairs, surpassing Florida’s most recent count of 1,166 pairs. 23, or nearly half, of the 48 contiguous states now have at least 100 breeding pairs of bald eagles.
When America adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol in 1782, the country may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles. The first major decline of the species probably began in the mid to late 1800s, coinciding with the decline of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other prey.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL