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Ohio’s Deer Herd: Is Something Wrong?

February 19, 2015 - Larry Claypool
According to the ODNR’s final whitetail deer kill numbers this past season there were 15,710 less deer harvested than last year. Is that an earth-shattering difference? I don’t think so. Others do, so some have voiced their opinion at five deer hunting summits held by the state last month. If the number of deer kills do not rise each year, hunters say “there’s something wrong”. Of the five summits — yes, hosted by the ODNR — I read news accounts from three of them. I don’t know who the respective reporters/writers were in those accounts but from what I read they posted the negative accounts from frustrated hunters who said they haven’t been seeing deer. That may be the case for some, but if I’m not seeing deer, seeing deer signs, I’m going to find another spot. A drop in 15,000 deer kills in one year (from 191,455 to 175, 745) is not a reason to demand the state to change it’s deer management program. In the most recent press release about the final deer numbers for 2014-15, the state added this statement, “The ODNR Division of Wildlife remains committed to properly managing Ohio's deer populations through a combination of regulatory and programmatic changes. The goal of Ohio's Deer Management Program is to provide a deer population that maximizes recreational opportunities, while minimizing conflicts with landowners and motorists. This ensures that Ohio's deer herd is maintained at a level that is both acceptable to most, and biologically sound.” A sound plan that may not be agreed upon by everyone, but Ohio has had a pretty good track record for building its deer herd. Are we forgetting about all of the monster bucks we see taken each year? And I can’t help thinking about all of the problems Pennsylvania has had with its deer management program. Always, when we do sportsman’s shows in PA the most asked question we get from PA hunters is: “where can we go hunting in Ohio, because there’s no deer in PA?” That’s another story. Proof that there is deer hunting success in Ohio can be witnessed each year by visiting any key check-in station or outdoor shop that caters to hunters. One such location would be Runzo’s Sports Center, in Beloit, OH (Columbiana County). Our office is located about 20 miles from Runzo’s so we get several reports from this location. And we see a lot of nice buck photos they share on social media. For several reasons Runzo’s is a popular spot to take trophy bucks. With the state’s fairly new Internet based check-in system it’s not necessary to take your harvest to a check-in location. A good number of hunters now take advantage of the new system and check their deer or turkey in via the telephone or Internet. But, what the new system doesn’t allow is the chance to show off your trophy harvest to your peers. So, places like Runzo’s across the state are a fantastic place to let others view your trophy. And in addition to that they take your photograph, post it on the Internet — Facebook — and enter it in a Big Buck Contest, which Runzo’s sponsors through a local newspaper. Tifani Firestone, gun counter salesperson at Runzo’s Sports Center, says the outdoor shop is very busy during hunting season for several reasons. “We’re still busy (during hunting season). Sometimes there’s a mob of people at the counter, getting new deer tags, getting licenses and checking in deer,” said Firestone. “We have so many people coming in. Many of those to check in deer. Mostly bucks though. I think a lot of those come in for the contest and some for the photos (for their Facebook page). Firestone added that not many hunters check in does at their shop. “Most do that online. Of the hundreds of deer we check in, we maybe checked in around 10 does this year.”


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