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Published: Sunday, 11/21/2004

Ohio bowhunters flirting with 2003 deer record

Ohio bowhunters, who are on the way to a record season, are setting the table for the state's gun hunters, whose week-long season opens a week from

tomorrow.

Hunters armed with longbows and crossbows took 40,319 deer during the first six weeks of the season, 13 per cent higher than the record 2003 season's first six weeks.

Mike Tonkovich, a state deer biologist, said that 74 to 78 percent of archery deer are taken in the first six weeks, and that works out to a total archery bag of 54,000-plus this year, a record. The archery season runs through Jan. 31. The 2003 record season bag for archers was 50,564.

At the same time the biologist forecasts that the 400,000 gun hunters who will be afield Nov. 29 through Dec. 5 will take a one-week record 140,000 to 145,000 deer, easily surpassing the 133,000 taken in 2002.

Tonkovich also expects about 32,000 deer to be taken during the statewide muzzloader or black powder season, Dec. 27 through 30, to contribute to a projected record all-seasons take of 215,000 to 225,000 deer, well above the current record of 204,000 in 2002.

Such numbers are amazing, given that it has not been that long ago that Ohio did not have even 200,000 deer on the hoof.

This fall's pre-seasons herd was estimated at a record 700,000 animals, up from 681,000 a year ago, even though almost 198,000 deer were taken in 2003. It is little wonder, then, given such deer production, that liberal seasons have been set for 2004.

Deer Zone A, which covers 28 northwest and western counties, has a limit of one deer of either sex.

Deer Zone B, which includes 34 mainly central and southwest counties, has a two-deer limit, including no more than one antlered deer, or buck. Notably, Williams and Defiance counties in the extreme northwest corner of Ohio, and five northeast counties that border Pennsylvania are included in this two-deer zone.

Other northwest Ohio counties that also were transferred into the two-deer Zone B include Seneca, Wyandot, Hardin, and Marion. Huron County remains in the two-deer zone as well, but the rest of the region's counties are in the one-deer Zone A.

Deer Zone C, including 26 southeast counties, has a three-deer limit, with only one buck allowed in the bag.

Overall the deer management plans calls for more counties in multiple deer zones than ever, 62. In 2002, three deer could be taken in a 24-county Zone C, and two deer in a 29-county Zone B. In 2003, 54 counties were in a two-deer Zone B.

Be sure to consult the section on deer seasons in the free booklets, "2004-2005 Ohio Hunting Regulations" for further details, or visit the state Web site, www.ohiodnr.com, or call 1-800-WILDLIFE. The wildlife hotline, incidentally, will be open longer hours during the gun season, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 26, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 27 and 28, all prior to the season, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 29 through Dec. 3, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 4 and 5.

Also, report any suspected violations anonymously to the toll-free, turn-in-a-poacher hotline, 1-800-POACHER.

Be sure to note changes in deer-check stations in various counties. Also, the deer harvest form is new this year, and will allow for electronic scanning of harvest forms and less paperwork for hunters checking deer. Take note to completely darken the circles corresponding to the correct preprinted answers for such items as "county of harvest" and "hunting device used." Be sure to clearly print all other letters and numbers, including name, address, and date of birth.

While a big aim of the deer-gun season and its liberal limits is to take a good share of antlerless deer to control the growing population, most hunters in their hearts still hope for a shot at a "Bullwinkle." Ohio is the state for it - big bucks, that is.

A survey of records by the Ohio Division of Wildlife shows that the state ranks fourth nationally in combined Boone & Crockett (gun) and Pope & Young (archery) record entries, with 179 typical racks and 91 nontypical racks listed in 2003 for B&C, and 1,634 typicals and 126 nontypicals for P&Y for 2003.

Ohio easily surpasses all neighboring states, including Michigan, for its total of big B&C and P&Y bucks.

The number of bucks recognized by Ohio's Buckeye Big Buck Club that meet B&C recognition minimums include 347 nontypicals, 1,180 typicals, and 11 that scored 200 or more in the period 1958 through 2002.

In the 2002-2003 season, 11 Ohio bucks scored more than 200, B&C, compared to just 5 in Pennsylvania for all time. The largest buck in North America in 1999 by Bobby Willis in Jackson County scored 252. The largest and third-largest bucks in North America in 2000 were from Ohio, including Mike Beatty's 304-6/8 monster from Greene County, the largest buck ever taken by archery, and Kurt Gott's buck of 251-2/8 in Lorain County.

Speaking of big bucks, know that deer hunting is a booster shot to Ohio's economic arm to the tune of some $266 million, according to a deer-hunter survey. The cash flows for food, transportation, gear, lodging, processing, taxidermy, leasing fees, and more, all spread across thousands of small businesses.

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Pennsylvania's two-week rifle deer hunting season also opens Nov. 29, and continues until Dec. 11.

Up to 900,000 hunters may be afield at some time in search of both antlered and antlerless deer.

Over the last several years the Pennsylvania Game Commission has reorganized its deer hunting seasons by increasing hunter pressure on excessive local populations of antlerless deer through new and concurrent seasons and sizable allocation of antlerless deer licenses.

The PGC also has provided young bucks protection through antler restrictions, which prohibit hunters from taking bucks that have fewer than three or four points on at least 1 antler.

The pre-seasons herd in Pennsylvania was estimated at 1.6 million deer. In 2003 hunters took 464,890 deer, including 322,620 antlerless deer in all seasons. A total of 110,140 bucks of 142,270 overall were taken in the rifle season.

For details on the Pennsylvania season and regulations visit the state Web site, www.pgc.state.pa.us.



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