Despite unseasonably warm weather, Ohio deer hunters turned in an on-target bag of 39,629 deer on opening day of the gun season Monday.
The total is up slightly from the 2005 opening day total of 38,695, but just about what state deer managers forecast.
A season bag of 115,000 to 120,000 animals is predicted, this from a preseason statewide herd of some 600,000 animals. But unseasonably warm weather through yesterday, followed by drastic weather changes forecast today left some doubt about reaching the forecast harvest.
Typically about a third of the gun-season bag is taken on opening day. The Ohio Division of Wildlife is expected to make available a weeklong total early next week.
The season continues through Sunday and resumes the weekend of Dec. 16-17. The bowhunting season runs continuously through Feb. 4, a week longer than previously, and a statewide muzzleloader season is set for Dec. 27 through 30.
The week's hunting has seen six hunt-related shootings, including a fatality Monday in which a man shot his 20-year-old nephew in Richland County. The total is about average.
Two other shootings occurred Monday and three more Tuesday, but no further incidents were reported through yesterday afternoon, according to the wildlife division. Two of the five nonfatal shootings were self-inflicted.
The nonfatals occurred in Knox, Morrow, Henry, and Medina counties. Another hunter died after falling from his treestand in Hocking County. Up to 400,000 hunters are afield this week, an indication that the accident volume is very low and the hunt is proceeding with relative safety.
"Without a doubt this is Ohio's most popular hunting season," said Steve Gray, chief of the wildlife division. "Each year more and more hunters come to Ohio from out of state to enjoy our good deer hunting.
"We think Ohio's deer herd is in great shape. However, it takes constant management to control the deer population through hunting. Key to the management concept is taking an adequate number of does each season."
Evidence of that approach is the division's offering of up to three deer in 38 southeast and central counties and two deer in 30 northeast-central and southwest counties. Hunters may take only one buck per year, regardless of season.
Overall deer hunting is off to a very good start with both archery and youth deer-gun tallies up from 2005. When combining Monday's opening gun-deer bag, the first six weeks of bowhunting, the early special muzzleloader season, and the youth gun season, a total of 94,491 deer have been taken so far this fall. That is up from 89,276 for the same accounting a year ago. In all of 2005, hunters killed 209,513 deer.
The top five counties in the opening day statewide deer take, with 2005 numbers in parentheses, include: Tuscarawas 1,858 (1,565); Guernsey 1,615 (1,604); Coshocton 1,503 (1,500); Washington 1,451 (1,265), and Holmes 1,304 (1,170).
In 18 counties of northwest Ohio tallies were up in nine counties over 2005 and down in nine counties.
The top five counties in the region included Huron 443 (469); Williams 353 (395); Seneca 349 (364); Defiance 306 (239), and Wyandot 248 (297). Lucas County's bag was 103, up from 80 in 2005, and Wood County counted 154 deer taken, up from 113.
More than half the opening-day deer counted in Wood County, 80, were checked at Mike's Party Mart in Bowling Green, according to Tina King, check-station manager. She said that the total included 51 bucks, 24 does, and four button bucks. Through yesterday the station's tally was 150 deer, up slightly from 2005.
The station's opening total also was up from 71 in 2005. The leader in the Party Mart deer contest was a 10-point buck with a 23-inch antler spread taken by Ryan Mazey hunting in Highland County. In second place was Don Amos with an 11-point buck with a 20 1/2-inch spread taken in Wood County.
Mike Schena, the first-time deer hunter from Dayton whose opening day in the woods on Monday was recounted in this space took his first deer, a large doe, on the season's, and his, second day in Hocking County.
Assigned alone on a stand, he must have been listening to Chief Gray's advice about the need to control the number of does to properly manage deer population growth.
Schena said that he was glad the older guys were around to help him with the necessary and somewhat messy chore of field-dressing, not to mention the challenge of dragging his deer to the truck. Lesson: The hunt's over and the hard work starts when the deer drops.