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Published: Saturday, 11/27/2010

Acorn forecast proves gospel for deer harvest

Ohio deer biologist Mike Tonkovich's forecast that a bumper crop of acorns this year could result in a slower pace in the early deer harvest has proved spot on, based on the results of the first six weeks of bowhunting.

The state's bowhunters bagged 49,384 deer during the period, which is down 8 percent from last year's six-week kill of 53,959 deer.

“A big acorn year has led to varied hunting success throughout the state,” said Tonkovich. He explained an abundant acorn, or mast, crop typically keeps deer dispersed and their patterns more unpredictable. However, he added, “I expect that any deficits we see now will be made up by the close of gun season when the acorns are nearly gone.”

The statewide deer population was estimated to be 750,000 in early October. Pursuing deer with a bow continues to grow in popularity among Ohio hunters, especially with increasing popularity of the crossbow. Bowhunters now number about 345,000.

The bow season started Sept. 25 and will continue through Feb. 6. Bowhunters killed a record 91,546 deer during last year's season. Up to 60 percent or more of those deer are taken in the first six weeks.

Counties reporting the highest numbers of deer brought to check stations were: Tuscarawas 1,897; Licking 1,779; Holmes 1,537; Coshocton 1,352; Harrison 1,274; Ashtabula 1,247; Clermont 1,196; Trumbull 1,074; Guernsey 1,029, and Stark 1,027.

• The bowhunting report comes just ahead of the state's popular deer-gun season, which opens statewide on Monday, offering hunters a full week to harvest a whitetail.

The upcoming season will again include an extra weekend of gun hunting on Dec. 18 and 19.

The classic Pennsylvania two-week rifle season for deer also opens Monday, with about 750,000 hunters expected afield. Details on rules there are available online at pgc.state.pa.us.

In Ohio deer can be hunted with a legal muzzleloader, handgun, or shotgun from one half-hour before sunrise to sunset through Dec. 5 and again Dec. 18 and 19.

The division of wildlife anticipates 115,000 to 125,000 deer will be killed during the nine-day season. Approximately 420,000 hunters are expected to participate, including many out-of-state hunters, no doubt drawn here by loads of publicity about Ohio's monster bucks.

The white-tailed deer is the most popular game animal in Ohio, the state ranking eighth nationally in annual hunting-related sales and 10th in the number of jobs associated with the hunting-related industry. Each year, hunting has a $859 million economic impact in Ohio through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging, and more.

Ohio is divided into three deer hunting zones. Beginning on the opening day of gun season and continuing through Dec. 5 a limit of one deer may be taken in Zone A (20 counties) and two deer in Zone B (30 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. The special $15 antlerless deer permit will be valid for deer-gun week only in Zone C. Deadline for purchasing those is Sunday.

Beginning on Dec. 6, the bag limit drops back to three deer in Zone C and the $15 antlerless deer permits are no longer valid. Any time hunters are allowed to take more than one deer, they must purchase an additional permit. In any case, a hunter is allowed only one antlered deer, or buck, per year, regardless of season or method of taking.

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 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.

As an additional deer management tool, the division is collaborating with Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry to help pay for the processing of donated venison. A $50,000 subsidy grant has been awarded to FHFH by the wildlife division to help pay the processing fee on donated venison, with grant money to be matched with funds generated or collected by FHFH.

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.

Last year, hunters showed they cared by donating nearly 116,750 pounds of venison which equates to 467,000 meals for Ohioans in need.

Additional hunting regulations and maps of the state's deer zones are contained in the 2010-2011 Ohio Hunting & Trapping Regulations. This free publication is available wherever hunting licenses are sold, online at wildohio.com or by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.

Contact Steve Pollick at: spollick@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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