An expansion of the three-deer bag limit to 38 counties leads the changes in deer hunting regulations for the 2005-2006 season proposed by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
The expanded bag comes on the heels of the most successful deer season on record in 2004-2005 with an all-seasons take of 217,301 deer.
"It's an indication of trying to stabilize the deer population and put numbers closer to our target levels," said Dave Risley, the state's executive administrator for wildlife management. The goal is no herd-growth, or perhaps even a slight reduction in population.
"The problem is always distribution," Risley said, noting that such vagaries as inclement weather in one region of the state at the wrong time can impact harvest in certain counties or regions.
He added the state herd is at a point where it annually should be trimmed by 200,000 to 225,000 animals via hunting. The pre-season herd last fall was estimated at about 700,000 deer. The strategy behind the new proposals is stability - to head off big swings from very liberal to very conservative seasons.
As proposed Deer Zone C, with a three-deer bag limit, would cover 38 southeastern, southern, and southwestern counties, up from 26 a year ago. New counties would include Adams, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Columbiana, Delaware, Franklin, Hamilton, Highland, Morrow, Pickaway, and Richland.
Deer Zone B would include 30 counties and have a two-deer bag, new entries being Cuyahoga, Geauga, Hancock, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, and Wayne.
Deer Zone A would include 20 essentially northwestern counties and have a one-deer limit. New entries, indicating counties with a reduced bag from 2004, include Williams and Defiance counties, where 1,801 and 1,116 deer were taken in 2004, respectively.
In the record season just passed, Tuscarawas led all counties with 8,293 deer taken, followed by Coshocton, 7,055, Licking, 6,610, Washington, 6,110, and Guernsey, 6,028.
Young hunters took a record 6,673 deer in the second youth-only weekend season, held ahead of the week-long shotgun season. Shotgun hunters took 125,681 deer, and black powder or muzzleloading rifle hunters took a record 27,749 deer in their four-day season, despite an ice storm that froze up much of southwest and central Ohio. Bowhunters also took a record 57,198 deer in their October-through-January season.
A record trophy buck was recognized, one with typical or symmetrical antlers scoring 2011/8 in the Buckeye Big Buck Club. It was taken by bowhunter Brad Jerman in Warren County. Its score ties that of a buck taken in 1986 by William Kontras in Clark County.
Public comment on the deer hunting proposals and other previously announced hunting and trapping proposals for 2005-2006 can be made at regional open houses set for March 6 from noon to 3 p.m.
The open house in northwest Ohio is set for Wildlife District 2 headquarters, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay. Call for other details, 419-424-5000.
In regard to deer regulations, the most often heard concerns funneled through the outdoors desk here revolved around the statewide muzzleloader season.
Comments showed that hunters appear to want more opportunity, that is, perhaps a week-long rather than just a four-day black powder season, so that the season invariably will include a weekend and allow hunters to pick their days in concert with remaining vacation time or days off work.
Some hunters also apparently think daily legal hours should be adjusted, contending that legal shooting time in the morning is so early that it is hard to see gunsights in many cases, and shooting hours close at day's end with plenty of hunting daylight remaining.
Risley noted that wildlife managers encourage comments at the open houses on such points. "That's what they are for." He added that at this year's open houses the division also will be proposing some waterfowl hunting season dates in hopes of gaining more input from duck and goose hunters on their preferences.
In other wildlife news, Ohio wildlife managers reported an increase in black bear and bobcat sightings in 2004 over 2003.
Ninety-one bear sightings were reported in the state in 2004 in 21 counties, and of those, 46 in 16 counties were confirmed by wildlife personnel. It is thought that these sightings could be attributed to 16 different bears. Most occurred in May through July, the peak season for breeding and dispersal of younger male bears.
Most of the 21 counties with sightings were in northeast and southeast Ohio, with Trumbull County accounting for the most sightings at 17. Ashtabula and Geauga counties had 12 and 10 sightings, respectively.
A record 165 sightings were recorded in 2002 statewide. The wildlife division began keeping records in 1993 and since then bears have been confirmed in 41 of the 88 counties. Bears are totally protected by state law.
Evidence of bobcats in eastern and southeastern counties continued in 2004, with 14 verified sightings, up from 10 in 2003.
In all, 52 sightings were reported. Bobcats were known in early Ohio, but disappeared by 1850 with conversion of forests to cropland and communities. But observations of the wild cats returned by the 1960s and since 1970 state biologists have confirmed 74 sightings in 32 counties.
Verification includes photographs of the animal and its tracks; encounters through incidental trapping, from which animals are later released; recovery of roadkills and sighting by wildlife personnel. The 2004 sightings occurred in Washington, Harrison, Athens, Noble, Vinton, Guernsey, Lake, Meigs, Morgan, and Jackson counties.
Just to the north, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has begun a survey, through March 4, to detect the presence of gray wolves in the northern Lower Peninsula.
Wolves began returning to Michigan's Upper Peninsula from Ontario and Wisconsin in the early 1990s and now the U.P. is home to at least 360 wolves.
A wolf accidentally was killed, mistaken for a coyote, last fall in lower Michigan's Presque Isle County. Since then MDNR biologists confirmed that at least three other gray wolves have moved from the U.P. to lower Michigan. The Presque Isle wolf was the first confirmed in the Lower Peninsula since 1910.
Residents north of M-32 should report any sightings or suspected tracks to the MDNR office at Gaylord by calling 989-732-3541 extension 5901.
Ohio fishing and hunting licenses for the 2005-2006 license-year, which begins March 1 and runs through Feb. 28, 2006, now are on sale at vendor outlets statewide or on-line at www.ohiodnr.com.
A complete list of prices is contained in the free digests, Ohio Hunting Regulations or Ohio Fishing Regulations, which are widely available, or at the above Web site.
Hunters are reminded that licenses purchased now in anticipation of the spring wild turkey season also will be valid for fall hunting seasons.
Resident hunting and fishing licenses are $19 each and deer and wild turkey permits are $24 each. Youths age 15-and-under and certain Ohio senior citizens are eligible for discounted licenses.
A one-day Ohio fishing license is $11, with the fee applicable later toward the cost of an annual license.
In Michigan, the MDNR recently approved a new, slightly higher fee structure for hunting and fishing licenses, to take effect next month.
Most resident licenses for the 2005 license-year will increase a dollar when they go on sale March 1. Prices for nonresident licenses will increase between $4 and $10.
The additional fees are being imposed to offset a structural deficit in the game and fish protection fund, the MDNR said.
For details visit the MDNR Web site, www.michigan.gov/dnr.
The 15th annual fund-raising dinner for Wood/Lucas Chapter of Pheasants Forever, is set for Saturday at Glass City Boardwalk, 27820 East Broadway, Moline. Call John Holt for tickets and details, 419-354-4499.