What annual outdoors event attracts a crowd about five times the size of the one that will pack Ohio Stadium for Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game?
It’s deer hunting in the Buckeye State, with about 500,000 participants, only a lot more spread out than the football fans will be. And more quiet. And dressed in bland garb, with just a prominent splash of orange.
And when Ohio’s first segment of the deer gun season opens on Monday, those hunters will be scattered across all 88 counties
They will be the thickest in Ohio’s hill country in the central southeast portion of the state, where high concentrations of white-tailed deer and a significant amount of public land provide an attractive combination for many hunters.
There will be fewer hunters in the agriculture-rich northwest corner of the state, where the deer tend to be scattered in woodlots, creek bottoms and bands of limited cover, and mostly on private land.
John Windau of the Division of Wildlife’s office in Findlay said hunters should be reminded that they must obtain permission from the landowner before hunting on any private property.
ODNR director James Zehringer used the upcoming start of the gun season as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of hunting safety in the field. “I encourage everyone to take proper safety precautions,” Zehringer said, “such as using a safety harness while in a tree stand, wearing hunter orange, and being aware of their surroundings.”
One rule change for this season that any successful deer hunter will need to take note of gives hunters until noon the day after they harvest a deer to check it in with the state. Ohio no longer requires hunters to transport their deer to an official check station.
Ohio has gone to an automated game check system that allows hunters to check in their deer at ohiogamecheck.com or wildohio.com and receive a receipt. They can also check in their deer at 1-877-824-4864, but this option is not available to landowners hunting their own property. Deer can also be checked in through any license agent.
Hunters can take only one antlered deer in Ohio each year, regardless of the method used. During the gun season, hunters are permitted to use a muzzleloader, handgun or shotgun, but shotguns must be plugged so they are capable of holding only three shells. Hunting during the gun season is from one half-hour before sunrise to sunset.
The first portion of the gun season that opens Monday runs through Dec. 2, with an extra weekend of gun season taking place from Dec. 15-16. Hunters are required to have a deer permit and a valid Ohio hunting license.
The Ohio whitetail herd is estimated at about 750,000 animals, and state wildlife biologists expect about 120,000 deer to be harvested during the nine-day gun season.
Last year, hunters took 108,000 whitetails during the two-part gun season, out of a total of 219,748 deer harvested statewide in all of the hunting seasons (archery, antlerless, gun, youth hunt, muzzleloader). Archery hunters took 82,732 deer in the 2011 season.
Division of Wildlife chief Scott Zody said the length of the hunting seasons, the number of permits issued in each region, and the balance of bucks-to-does are all taken into consideration as the state’s wildlife biologists work towards producing “a high-quality herd.”
“I greatly appreciate the awareness of both our resident and non-resident hunters, recognizing quality deer management means harvesting does and not just bucks,” Zody said. “As a result, Ohio is a top 10 whitetail hunting destination.”
Hunting is big business in the Buckeye State, with Ohio ranking eighth nationally in hunting-related sales, and 10th in the number of jobs associated with hunting-based businesses. Overall, hunting in all forms has as estimated economic impact in Ohio each year of about $860 million, according to a study by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
DEER QUESTIONS: Detailed information about Ohio’s deer hunting rules and seasons will be available and last-minute questions answered via hot lines at the state’s call center during the deer gun seasons. Individuals can also use the 1-800-WILDLIFE number to report state wildlife law violations. The deer season hot line will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today through the close of the first week of the gun season on Dec. 2. The call center will also be staffed for the same time blocks during the second phase of the gun season Dec. 15-16.
The 1-800-POACHER hot line is also available around the clock, 365 days a year, to anonymously report wildlife violations. Tips on wildlife violations can also be submitted on-line at wildohio.com.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.