The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Ohio’s firearm season for white-tailed deer opened Monday to cooperative weather, but the harvest numbers were more than 20 percent lower than those reported for the 2012 opener. Hunters checked 22,620 deer on opening day of the seven-day gun season, down from the 29,297 that were checked on opening day of the previous year.
In the northwest area of the state, the same trend played out overall. The opening day harvest numbers for each county are listed, with last year’s opening day total in parentheses. Lucas: 27 (26), Wood: 59 (67), Fulton: 127 (151), Ottawa: 25 (24), Sandusky: 60 (70), Henry: 112 (123), Williams: 340 (354), Wyandot: 178 (239), Crawford: 140 (164), Defiance: 269 (340), Erie: 43 (61), Seneca: 199 (254), Hancock: 89 (174), Hardin: 142 (148); Huron: 338 (381), Van Wert: 42 (76), Allen: 77 (122), and Paulding: 158 (191).
The opening day totals from the east-central Ohio hill country and from several counties in the extreme eastern portion of the state have been the harvest leaders historically, and that trend was reinforced on the 2013 opener. The statewide leaders for Monday’s first day of deer firearms season and their harvest totals for the day were: Coshocton (940), Ashtabula (880), Tuscarawas (853), Muskingum (831), Guernsey (742), Harrison (738), Carroll (698), Knox (645), Columbiana (584), and Licking (572).
The gun season in Ohio runs through Sunday. Ohio’s archery season opened on Sept. 28 and runs through Feb. 2, while the muzzleloader season will take place Jan. 4-7. Special two-day seasons for an antlerless deer muzzleloader hunt and a two-day youth hunt have already taken place.
The overall numbers for Ohio white-tailed deer hunting for 2013 are down just slightly, when the totals for the bow season and the special permit hunts are included. To date, hunters have harvested 109,932 deer in the Buckeye State in the 2013 season, down just three percent from the same point last year when the total was 113,107.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources expects some 420,000 hunters to participate in the 2013 hunting season, and the ODNR maintains its contention that hunting is the best and most effective management tool to maintain a healthy deer population in the state.
Earlier this year, the white-tailed deer population in Ohio was estimated at about 750,000 animals. Wildlife biologists expect some 80,000-90,000 deer will be harvested and checked in during the current firearms season. In 2012, Ohio hunters took more than 87,000 deer during the gun season.
Nearly 219,000 deer were taken throughout all of the 2012-2013 deer hunting seasons, which includes the archery season, muzzleloader season, firearm season, and numerous special hunts throughout the state.
Ohio has been designated as a trophy-producing state for whitetails, based on its history of strong harvest numbers, a significant amount of public hunting lands, and the fact the state has produced 450 entries in the Boone & Crockett trophy record book during the past decade.
Trophy bucks aside, Ohio deer hunters are being encouraged to harvest more antlerless deer in certain areas of the state where the herd has grown beyond a manageable number. Hunters are urged to help the disadvantaged in their area by donating their harvested deer to a food bank, soup kitchen or similar charitable organization.
The Division of Wildlife is working with Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry to help pay for the processing of donated venison. More information about this program can be found online at the fhfh.org Web site.
Other opportunities for hunters to donate venison can be pursued through Safari Club International’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program. Information about this effort can be found at the safariclubfoundation.org Web site. Whitetails Unlimited chapters throughout the country raise funds to cover venison donation programs. Donations can be made at the whitetailsunlimited.com Web site, or through a local chapter.
MICHIGAN UPDATE: The firearm season in Michigan ended last weekend, and the preliminary reports indicate harvest numbers are down throughout the state when compared to 2012. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the harvest was down 15 to 20 percent in the Upper Peninsula, down about 10 percent in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, and down just slightly in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula. MDNR biologists attributed the reduced harvest in the U.P. to the impact of late and heavy snowfalls last winter, while an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease two summers ago in certain areas of the southern portion of the state hurt the deer numbers there. New antler point restrictions likely were also a factor in 12 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula. The MDNR will have a more specific assessment of the firearm season numbers once the annual hunter mail surveys are returned and processed.
WOLF HUNT: The ongoing wolf hunt in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is proving to be every bit as difficult as many had expected. The season opened Nov. 15 in the three wolf hunting units, which make up a small portion of the U.P., with 1,200 permits sold toward a harvest quota of just 43 wolves. As of Thursday, hunters had taken just 19 wolves overall. In wolf management unit “A” in Gogebic County in the far western Upper Peninsula, five wolves have been taken toward a target harvest of 16. In the “B” unit, which takes in portions of Baraga, Houghton, Ontonagon and Gogebic counties west of Marquette, 11 wolves have been taken toward a target harvest of 19. In wolf management unit “C,” which includes portions of Luce and Mackinac counties in the eastern end of the U.P., three wolves have been taken toward a target harvest of eight. The wolf hunting season is scheduled to run through the end of the month, but it will close in any individual unit once the target harvest total is met.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.