Little change expected for next year’s deer season

By Al Smith -

Following a highly successful and just concluded deer hunting season, Ohio hunters will see little changes during the 2021-22 season if proposals presented to the Ohio Wildlife Council are approved.

Just days after the 2020-21 season was over, the council heard proposals for next year from wildlife biologists. If approved, a couple of possible changes should benefit hunters. Both involve antlerless deer.

One proposal will allow antlerless deer to be taken from all public hunting areas from Sept. 25-Feb. 6, 2022, provided that a hunter takes only one antlerless deer from these lands per license year. The other proposal would expand deer management permits to all 88 Ohio counties from Sept. 25-Nov. 28. Hunters can use the deer management permit up to the county bag limit.

A deer management permit (DMP) is a special permit issued to take a deer in a specified wildlife management unit (WMU) in addition to any deer an individual may otherwise legally take. The deer management permit is the successor name of what were antlerless permits. They were available two years ago in a few urban counties and were legal in 24 counties this past season. An antlerless deer in Ohio is defined as any deer without antlers, or a deer with antlers less than 3 inches long.

According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW)’s expanding the antlerless deer dates provides additional opportunities to public land hunters. The wildlife agency also indicated expanding the use of deer management permits statewide on private lands helps keep populations near targeted numbers while also maintaining a healthy and robust deer population on public lands. This proposal also simplifies the use of these permits and allows for more targeted harvest in counties where necessary.

All county bag limits are proposed to remain identical to last season. In the Lima area, that means Hancock, Hardin and Logan will be three-deer counties while Allen, Auglaize, Mercer, Putnam Shelby and Van Wert will remain two-deer counties.

A “bump” this past season as Dr. Michael Tonkovich, deer program administrator for the DOW, called it, helped hunters harvest the largest number of deer in seven years. The harvest was 197,735. Of that total, 80,003 were antlered deer and 117,732 were antlerless. That’s the largest harvest since the 2012-13 season when 218,910 deer were taken. And it easily surpassed the three-year average of 180,921.

“It is quite likely that there will be fewer deer taken next year, as this year’s ‘bump’ was artificial to some extent. In other words, it was driven more by hunting conditions and less by actual numbers of deer.

Harvest numbers were up in all nine Lima area counties. The total taken locally was 10,993. Area hunters harvested 4,352 antlered deer and 6,641 antlerless deer. The numbers broken down, with antlered deer listed first, antlerless second, total third and three-year average in parenthesis, were: Allen 424, 651, 1,075 (992); Auglaize 393, 613, 1,006 (877); Hancock 703, 951, 1,654 (1,252); Hardin 573, 934, 1,507 (1,291); Logan 830, 1,392, 2,222 (2,054); Mercer 331, 549, 880 (721); Putnam 381, 555, 936 (775); Shelby 423, 667, 1,090 (993) and Van Wert 294, 329, 623 (515).

Of that 10,993 total, local bow hunters took 4,982 deer. Broken down, the numbers include antlered deer first, antlerless deer second and the total third in the nine area counties: Allen 224, 281, 505; Auglaize 218, 250, 468; Hancock 365, 398, 763; Hardin 263, 334, 597; Logan 461, 618, 1,079; Mercer 155, 234, 389; Putnam 167, 241, 408; Shelby 232, 283, 515 and Van Wert 125, 133, 258.

Regulations played little role in the increased harvest locally, according to Tonkovich.

“With the exception of Hancock, regulations remained unchanged in this group of counties. At the end of the day, it really comes down to gun season. The gun season harvest was up an average of 28% across these nine counties. Increases ranged from 13% to 41% for Shelby and Hancock counties, respectively. Snow during both gun seasons was quite the surprise,” he said.

Statewide, bow hunters harvested 94,691 deer of which 46,116 were antlered and 48,575 were antlerless. This represents 48% of the total deer harvest and has stabilized. A total of 33% of bow hunters use a crossbow and 15% use a vertical bow.

“Archers still accounted for a sizable portion of the harvest, but thanks to two amazing gun seasons, the archery harvest, expressed as a percent of the total, actually took a slight downward turn,” Tonkovich said.

A total of 86,853 deer were taken with firearms during the weeklong and two-day gun seasons. In addition, 9,708 deer were harvested with muzzleloaders. Young hunters found success during the two-day youth season with 5,795 deer harvested.

According to the DOW, gun harvest attributed to 52% of the total harvest. This includes 22% with shotguns, 21% with straight walled cartridge (SWR) rifles, 8% with muzzleloaders and less than 1% with handguns.

The SWR has become highly popular and was more popular in two of the three gun seasons.

“It is by far the implement of choice during the youth season, accounting for nearly 60% of the entire harvest. During the bonus gun season, the SWR edged out the shotgun this year and is a very close second during the seven-day firearms season,” Tonkovich said. “As for why it’s popular, since I’ve never hunted with a SWR, I can’t say with any certainty, but my guess is recoil, accuracy, and perhaps size/weight.”

The wildlife agency said across all deer seasons, hunters harvested 80,003 bucks, accounting for 40% of the total harvest. Does represented 48% of the harvest with 94,771 taken, while 19,629 button bucks were taken, for 10%. Bucks with shed antlers and bucks with antlers less than 3 inches long accounted for 3,332 deer or 2% of the harvest.

The DOW said an estimated 310,000 hunters participated during Ohio’s deer seasons. It added that more than 409,809 deer permits were purchased or issued.

* * *

Winter is a good time to spot certain birds, especially if they are colorful like cardinals or blue jays.

This may be the best time of year to see bald eagles since their nests are so visible in bare trees.

If you can find open water, you should be able to see a variety of waterfowl. My wife and I saw literally hundreds of Canada geese on a recent day in the open water on the Maumee River below the dam at Independence Dam State Park near Defiance.

Among the numerous ducks we saw were mallards, canvasbacks, redheads and common goldeneyes.

We also spotted a mature bald eagle and two immature eagles. A blue heron definitely seemed out of place, but it flew across the river after being startled.

By Al Smith

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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