The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Ohio’s statewide firearms season for white-tailed deer, which opens next week, has a history of bringing out the best, and unfortunately, the worst, of hunters.
The poachers, trespassers, spot-lighters, over-baggers, and those with a general disregard for the rules and basic courtesies of the woods are a tiny minority. Their actions claim an inordinate amount of headlines, and overshadow the fact that most hunters conduct themselves safely and ethically.
Deer hunting in Ohio remains big: big numbers of hunters, big bucks, and a big economic impact.
The North American Whitetail organization compiled a list of the 20 best deer hunting states for whitetails, and Ohio ranks ninth. The judging was based on how much available public hunting land in each state, how many trophy deer a state has produced, and what the harvest numbers and hunter density figures are per state.
Ohio was cited as “a big time trophy-producing whitetail state”, with strong harvest numbers and a more than ample supply of public lands accessible to hunters.
In that North American Whitetail survey, Oklahoma finished first, with Wisconsin second, Missouri third, Kentucky fourth and Arkansas fifth. Idaho ranked sixth, Texas seventh, Indiana eighth, and Illinois was right after Ohio, at 10th. Pennsylvania ranked 18th, and Michigan missed the top 20.
The Buckeye State has a healthy whitetail population of about 750,000, and about 420,000 licensed firearms hunters. Over the last decade, the state has produced 450 entries in the Boone & Crockett record book.
Through the permitting process, Ohio hunters are allowed to take multiple deer. The only significant negative that North American Whitetail cited was Ohio’s hunter density, which the survey said is the fifth-highest in the nation at 12.3 hunters per square mile.
“Ohio’s deer population remains healthy,” said John Windau of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. “And continued work toward county population goals will help to ensure that Ohio’s deer program remains a model for others.”
Ohio will set bag limits by county this year, with Lucas, Fulton, Williams, Defiance, Putnam, Seneca, Wyandot, Hardin, Crawford and Huron with four-deer limits. Wood, Ottawa, Sandusky, Hancock and Erie counties have a two-deer limit, while Henry County has a three-deer limit.
Hunters are permitted to harvest only one antlered deer, regardless of hunting method or season. Specific regulations on the harvest of antlerless deer and other bag limit restrictions are outlined in the rules handbook that is distributed at licensing agencies.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife said it expects some 80,000-90,000 deer will be harvested and checked in during the upcoming week-long firearms season. In 2012, Ohio hunters took more than 87,000 deer during the gun season. Nearly 219,000 deer overall were taken throughout the 2012-2013 deer hunting seasons, which includes the archery season, muzzleloader season, firearm season, and numerous special hunts throughout the state.
According to a deer hunter survey, license-buying deer hunters in Ohio annually spend over $266 million on food, transportation, gear, lodging, processing, taxidermy, property leasing fees, and other related expenditures. This figure does not include the money spent on the purchase of hunting licenses and deer permits, or the hunting-related by about 125,000 landowners who hunt their own ground.
Hunting in Ohio has an $853 million overall economic impact each year, through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging and associated purchases.
Ohio’s first modern-day deer hunting season occurred over a 13-day period in December, 1943, but only in Adams, Pike, and Scioto counties. The reported legal deer harvest that year was 168 bucks, but the number was likely closer to 200 or more deer, because deer harvested on private lands did not have to be reported.
FISHING REPORT: Oregon mega angler Bryan Johnson reports that numerous recent trips out of Huron have been producing worth-bragging-about walleyes. Johnson and a buddy cleaned up on walleyes in the three-to-nine-pound class last week, with lots of four and five-pounders in several limit catches. They were fishing in 30-35 feet of water and trolling Reef Runners in a variety of patterns.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6068.