Outdoors: Deer numbers drop, but not drastically

At first look, the numbers released by the Ohio Division of Wildlife this past week might be alarming to some. But they really aren’t.

When the 2016-17 deer season ended Sunday, hunters had killed 182,169 white-tailed deer. That total is about three percent lower than the 2015-16 total of 188,329.

In fact, that difference of 6,160 fewer deer taken this year goes right along with the goals of Ohio Division of Wildlife biologists, who have been trying to slowly build up the state’s deer herd. 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.”

“I feel it was a successful season,” said Dave Kohler, ODNR’s executive administrator for wildlife management and research. “Anytime you kill 180,000 deer, it’s a successful year.”

But it is really more complicated than that. Biologists look at the overall season, but they also have to break it down to 88 different seasons. That’s because there are goals for each of Ohio’s 88 counties. In other words, a county that has a large number of deer that should be reduced (to avoid those landowner conflicts, high automobile accident rates and to head off possible diseases), the goal is to kill more deer, especially does. So bag limits are raised. But in counties that have low deer populations, the goal is likely a lower number of deer to be taken, so bag limits are lowered.

On Wednesday, the division proposed only a few changes for next season, adjusting bag limits in 28 counties, but there were no changes proposed for southwest Ohio.

At the same time, there can be only so many individual goals when it comes to setting deer hunting regulations. They can have individual county bag limits, but most of the regulations have to be set up for the whole state. So in that sense, a three percent drop probably fits right in to the state’s deer goals.

“We think it’s better to make slight changes slowly,” Koehler said. “That’s better than going along and eventually having to make a drastic change.

“When we looked at the numbers, it wasn’t so much that fewer deer were killed. Last year was artificially high, because of several factors. But this year was about average,” said Kohler.

He also pointed out that 2016-17 was one of Ohio’s safest deer hunting seasons, with no human fatalities.

Following are the deer season totals for area counties. (The numbers in parentheses are last year’s totals.)

Adams 3,272 (4,157), Allen 1,039 (1,102), Auglaize 751 (828), Brown 2,448 (2,754), Butler 1,231 (1,382), Champaign 1,118 (1,242), Clark 661 (759), Clermont 2,343 (2,821), Clinton 719 (789), Darke 679 (738), Greene 816 (835), Hamilton 1,589 (2,007), Highland 2,587 (2,919), Logan 1,919 (2,071), Mercer 661 (603), Miami 774 (833), Montgomery 591 (684), Preble 847 (965), Shelby 961 (1,050), Warren 1,095 (1,266).

For more information about deer hunting in Ohio, visit wildohio.gov.

Spruced up: Funds made available from the Ohio legislature will go for the renovation of cabins at two area state parks. There will be eight cabin renovations at Buck Creek State Park in Springfield and eight at Cowan Lake State Park in Clinton County. There has been no word on when the renovation work will begin.

If you have suggestions for how money for Ohio’s state parks might be spent in the future, visit parks.ohiodnr.gov/improvements and fill out a survey.

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