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IMPROVING HUNTER ACCESS

May 7, 2009
By Brian Miller, Field Editor
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 15 years you have come to realize that gaining hunting access on private property is becoming harder and harder. Unless you have Uncle Fred still farming or are independently wealthy you’re likely going to be left hunting public property. And although I’ve seen some amazing wildlife on the public hunting grounds private land is where most of hunting is taking place. In Ohio, 95 percent of the land is privately held. Access to hunting land is an important part of the success if the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODNR) wants to manage the wildlife.

Ohio has a growing deer problem with a herd of over 700,000 whitetails. Hunting access is a critical link between hunters and herd management. According to Chris Henney from the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Farm Bureau both agree hunter access is the link to better wildlife management. As the deer herd continues to grow, access becomes more important.

Managing whitetails, especially when reducing the antlerless deer population, has resounding effects for both hunters and farmers. Reducing the antlerless deer herd helps eliminate the millions of lost dollars through crop damage. Dealing with antlerless deer is often the key to improving land habitat. Then after harvesting antlerless deer you can begin equalizing the buck/doe ratio. Harvesting antlerless deer will then bring better habitat and better buck hunting. Tighter ratios and lower deer densities mean healthier animals, more pronounced ruts and simply bigger racks. In the end, hunter access is the component which makes this a win-win solution for the hunter and farmers.

Over the years I have observed many different states wildlife division’s policies and practices but Ohio is on the right track. Henney indicated “this program is like the e-harmony of the hunting world.” The concept is to match hunters and farmers with similar ideas. Often there is a gap between why a farmer grants hunting access and why a hunter takes the woods. Some farmers want only antlerless deer taken while others do not care which animals are taken. In the same token, some hunters are only after mature bucks, while others are looking for table fare. If the hunter and farmers ideas are not matched one of them will be very disappointed.

While surveying several landowners/farmers, some of the most important topics to them were harvesting antlerless deer, gaining a hunters profile or hunter "resume", preferred hunting method and sharing hunt ground with other hunters or without exclusive access. This program is trying to get landowners/farmers who have traditionally not participated in other hunter access programs an opportunity to be selective over the hunters accessing their land. It is an opportunity the hunting community cannot take lightly. As hunters, we must put our best foot forward and show the ultimate landowner respect. Hunters need to turn those non-hunters (not anti-hunters) into hunter advocates. If someone doesn’t have a strong opinion it is to our benefit to get them to understand why hunting is so important for our wonderful state. And if it takes me allowing a background check by the landowner/farmer, then go ahead. If we’re going to be carrying a weapon onto someone’s land, I can completely understand their caution.

Currently the ODNR is surveying hunters to gather their opinions and willingness to participate. If hunters and landowners/farmers are willing to align their expectations, this program could become the factor that opens thousands of acres of Ohio’s prime private land. This fall, the ODNR is looking to pilot a program in Eastern Ohio. The pilot program will help the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Farm Bureau develop a program that aligns hunters and landowners/farmers. Whether you’re after small game or big game, a properly executed hunter access programs is a winning solution for everyone.



To learn more about the author and gain valuable hunting tips and tricks visit his Website at www.strictlywhitetails.com.

Article Photos

While surveying several landowners/farmers, some of the most important topics to them were harvesting antlerless deer, gaining a hunters profile or hunter 'resume', preferred hunting method and sharing hunt ground with other hunters or without exclusive access.

Fact Box

Read this article and more in the first issue of the Outdoor Times, due on newsstands May 15.

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