LOGAN, Ohio - Expect to see an above-average number of hunters afield in Ohio this weekend for the closing days of the 2005 gun-deer season, this after a weather-dampened start Monday and Tuesday.
High winds and bouts of heavy rain, along with unseasonable temperatures combined to discourage deer - and hunter activity - during the first two days, when the largest contingent of hunters normally are afield.
The hunter census typically plummets through mid-week and generally picks up on the final days. But empty-handed hunters from the opener should boost the normal numbers for tomorrow and Sunday. Up to 400,000 hunters were expected to participate in this, the most popular of all annual game seasons. The "gun week'' closes at sunset Sunday.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife is forecasting a season bag of between 120,000 and 130,000 deer. That would be similar to 2002 to 2004 seasons, which produced kills of between 116,000 to 133,000.
Monday's opener saw 38,695 deer taken, despite the less-than-ideal conditions, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The tally is about four percent lower than a year ago, but within the forecast for the opener.
An informal survey during the week of major check stations in northwest Ohio indicated that the harvest pace was slower than expected.
On the plus side a goodly number of high-quality bucks still were being seen shadowing does, an indication that the rut, or breeding season, still is on in some areas. Veterans hunters such as Mike Budzik, former state wildlife chief, and Tim Riley, of Bettsville, agreed with that assessment after they hunted together here in Hocking County during mid-week.
On the downside, this year's hunt through mid-day yesterday had recorded three shooting incidents, including a fatality, according to Vickie Ervin, a state wildlife spokesman.
The fatality occurred late Monday in Vinton County when a 16-year-old shot his 12-year-old brother after apparently mistaking him for a deer. The case remains under investigation.
The other shooting incidents, both nonfatal, occurred Tuesday in Athens and Preble County, Ervin said. In one a hunter shot another member of his hunting party. The other was self-inflicted.
On opening day, Guernsey County led the 88 counties with 1,604 deer taken. Other top counties included Tuscarawas 1,565; Coshocton, 1,500; Harrison, 1,224, and Holmes, 1,170.
The top county among the 20 in Wildlife District which covers northwest Ohio and part of north-central Ohio, was Richland, with 563 deer. It was followed by Huron, 469; Williams, 395; Seneca, 354, and Wyandot, 297.
Following are totals for other District 2 counties: Lucas, 80; Wood, 113; Ottawa, 25; Sandusky, 80; Fulton, 124; Henry, 99; Defiance, 239; Paulding, 157; Putnam, 174; Allen, 158; Hancock, 134; Hardin, 199; Erie, 93; Crawford, 288, and Van Wert, 49.
Ervin said that the kill (4,100) in the northwest district was up 12 percent from 2004. Northeast Ohio's tally was up seven percent. But the central and southern districts were below a year ago.