Outdoors: Deer gun season should find large, healthy herd

When Ohio’s deer hunters head out into the field Nov. 27 — opening day of the deer gun season — they might not realize there is something going on in the background.

When they plunk down their money to buy a hunting license and deer permit, they are financing a sophisticated web of wildlife officers, supervisors, technicians, experts and support staff, all with simple goals in mind: “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.”

By tweaking bag limits in individual counties over the years, the Ohio Division of Wildlife tries to meet these goals for hunters by providing strong deer numbers throughout the state. This might be the year it happens.

“The outlook is good this year,” said Bret Beatty, wildlife management supervisor for Wildlife District 5, southwest Ohio. “We have had conservative bag limits in recent years and that has helped us build up the herd.”

“Anecdotally, I have talked to a number of guys who are seeing good numbers of deer this year,” he added.

Deer gun season will take place Nov. 27 to Dec. 3, and Dec. 16-17. It will be followed by the annual muzzleloader season, Jan. 6-9.

Last year hunters took down 182,169 deer during the entire season, about 3 percent lower than the year before. As for gun season totals, Ohio hunters bagged 66,759 whitetails, about a 9 percent drop from the previous year.

While some look at the sagging numbers and become alarmed, the planners look ahead and say lower harvest numbers one year means more deer available for the next season. The wildlife management people see their job as providing a healthy herd, not insuring a successful hunt.

That’s up to the hunters.

Regulations for hunting deer this year are mostly unchanged from last year. A few county bag limits have changed and this year all straight-walled cartridge rifles are legal, between .357 and .50 caliber.

For questions about regulations, bag limits or anything else pertaining to deer hunting, visit wildohio.gov or call (800) WILDLIFE (945-3543).

Healthy herd: With few exceptions, Ohioans should find a healthy bunch of whitetail deer out in the woods and fields this year. "There are a few eastern Ohio counties with cases of EHD, but it's not a big concern," said Beatty.

EHD is epizootic hemorrhagic disease, confirmed in both cows and deer. It is an often fatal disease spread by midges, not passed directly from one animal to another. Midges are killed by the first frost.

Wildlife officials are more concerned with CWD (chronic wasting disease), even though the disease has never been detected in a wild deer in the state. There was one in a captive deer facility in Holmes County a couple of years ago. So now the state monitors deer in that area. If you plan to hunt deer in Holmes or Wayne counties, check to make sure you comply with testing procedures.

For more information about rules regarding hunting in the Disease Surveillance Area, CWD or statewide hunting regulations, visit wildohio.gov.

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