Each year, hunting has an $859 million economic impact in Ohio through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging, and more, and the state's 420,000 deer hunters are responsible for the lion's share of it.
Their positive economic impact will wash across the state from Lake Erie to the Ohio River tomorrow, affecting hundreds if not thousands of small businesses, with the opening of the biggest hunting season in the state, the shotgun season.
Hunters will have through next Sunday to bag a whitetail or two, or more, depending on the zone and bag limits. In addition, a shotgun weekend follows Dec. 19 and 20.
Though known as shotgun week, deer during the gun season can be hunted with a legal muzzleloader, handgun, or shotgun. Daily hours are one half-hour before sunrise to sunset.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife anticipates 115,000 to 125,000 deer will be killed during the combined week and weekend gun season, which is on a par with recent annual forecasts. The pre-seasons herd estimate in October was 650,000 statewide. That was down a bit - as hoped for by deer managers - from 700,000 the prior two years thanks to a record all-seasons bag in 2008 of more than 250,000 deer.
The white-tailed deer is the most popular game animal in Ohio, frequently pursued by generations of hunters. Ohio ranks eighth nationally in annual hunting-related sales and 10th in the number of jobs associated with the hunting-related industry.
The state is divided into three deer hunting zones. Tomorrow through next Sunday, a limit of one deer may be taken in Zone A (20 west-northwest counties) and two deer in Zone B (30 central-northeast counties). A total of six deer may be harvested in eastern and southeastern Ohio's Zone C (38 counties) through the week-long gun season.
Note that the special $15 antlerless deer permit will be valid for deer-gun week only in Zone C and had to be purchased by today. After today only regular $24 deer permits will be available.
Those hunting in urban units and at Division of Wildlife-authorized controlled hunts will have a six-deer bag limit, and those deer will not count against the hunter's zone bag limit. The $15 antlerless deer permits can be used for the entire season in urban deer units or division of wildlife-authorized controlled hunts.
Hunters may take only one antlered deer, or buck, regardless of zone, hunting method or season. A valid Ohio hunting license is required in addition to a deer permit.
Hunters are encouraged to kill more does this season using the reduced-priced antlerless deer permit and donate any extra venison to organizations assisting Ohioans in need. The wildlife division is collaborating with Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry to help pay for the processing of donated venison. Hunters who donate their deer are not required to pay the processing cost as long as the deer are taken to a participating processor. Counties being served by this program can be found online at fhfh.org.
Additional hunting regulations and maps of the state's deer zones are contained in the digest, 2009-2010 Ohio Hunting & Trapping Regulations. This free publication is available wherever hunting licenses are sold, online at wildohio.com or by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.
The 2009-2010 licenses are not printed on weatherproof paper. So protect licenses and permits in a protective pouch or wallet. Note as well that hunters who have downloaded their own deer permits online should be sure to read and follow the tagging procedures outlined step by step on the deer tag.
The wildlife division plans extended call center hours through next Sunday. The 1-800-WILDLIFE (945-3543) general hunting information hotline will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., tomorrow through Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. next Saturday and Sunday .
Individuals also are encouraged to help enforce state wildlife laws by reporting violations to the division's anonymous, toll-free Turn-in-a-Poacher (TIP) hotline at 1-800-POACHER (762-2437). Tipsters may be eligible to receive a cash award and are urged to leave a message during after hours with as much information about the suspected violation as can be provided. Tips can also be submitted online at wildohio.com.
As part of gun-deer week, next Saturday has been designated Chief's Challenge Day.
State wildlife chief Dave Graham urges deer hunters to make this year special for Ohio's hungry. Last year, hunters donated nearly 220,000 meals to Ohioans in need. The day is sponsored by the wildlife division and Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH).
"I personally challenge Ohio's hunters to double that number this year and to help us all to remember to make the donations," said Graham. "I will try to take a doe that day and I'll donate it to the FHFH program."
This is an economical way to provide meals to people in need," added Graham. "By using a processor in the FHFH program, you can donate the deer and not have the cost of processing it. Join me on FHFH Day and throughout the season and take the extra step to help offset hunger felt by Ohioans."
The FHFH Web site also allows people to donate cash that will supplement the funds being raised to help pay for processing the meat.
Over the last year, FHFH has more than doubled the number of chapters from 12 to 27, with the need for more. Anyone interested in becoming a local program coordinator or a participating meat processor should visit the "Local FHFH" page at fhfh.org. The Web page includes a current list of coordinators, program names and the counties that they serve.
A $100,000 subsidy grant has been awarded to FHFH to help pay the processing fee on donated venison. The grant money is to be matched with funds generated or collected by FHFH. The Division is again subsidizing this year's FHFH operation as an additional deer management tool, helping wildlife managers encourage hunters to kill more does.
Contact Steve Pollick at: