Outdoors: Deer numbers take upward turn

Mike Tonkovich doesn’t get excited about comparing numbers. It’s easy enough for you and me to look at this year’s deer-gun-week results and say, “Wow, this year’s take was 72,814 and that’s about 9 percent better than last year’s harvest of 66,758.”

Dr. Tonkovich, deer project lead biologist for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, likes our enthusiasm, but he quickly cautions us to look at more than just last year when you start comparisons.

“It’s difficult to draw any conclusions when you are looking at the results for just two years,” he said. “Last year the weather was terrible. Opening day was a washout. And when there is a bad opening day, the week usually isn’t very good.

“Yes, we had a good gun week this year, but it was not better than the year before last (73,399). So you have to be careful when you make comparisons,” he said.

The weather this year was sunny and warm. It was good for hunter comfort, but actually a bit too warm for good meat preservation.

“I know some meat processors who were ready to close because they had no more room in their refrigerated areas,” Tonkovich said.

With temperatures in the 40s and 50s, it was actually a little too warm for deer hunting. The ideal day would be in the 30s with no rain or wind. If you have a light wind in your face and a light snow cover, that’s idea deer hunting weather.

This year’s bonus weekend of deer-gun season is coming up (Dec. 16-17). The muzzleloader season is Jan. 6-9 and archery season remains open through Feb. 4.

Following are gun-week results in area counties. The first number shows the harvest numbers for 2017; the 2016 numbers are in parentheses. Adams 1,166 (1,082), Allen 341 (363), Auglaize 334 (268), Brown 1,029 (823), Butler 352 (289), Champaign 431 (356), Clark 197 (184), Clermont 744 (542), Clinton 303 (260), Darke 305 (259), Greene 229 (203), Hamilton 191 (155), Highland 1,076 (948), Logan 754 (639), 373), Mercer 310 (262), Miami 251 (196), Montgomery 157 (103), Preble 300 (235), Shelby 394 (334), Warren 313 (236).

Turkey talk: The results are in for Ohio’s fall wild turkey hunting season, Oct. 14-Nov. 26. Hunters killed 1,053. That’s less than half the turkeys taken during the 2016 fall season (2,168). Surprisingly, the fall season included 67 counties, with 11 open for the first time this year.

“The results for our fall season were lower than we anticipated, but 2016 was an outstanding year in the other direction,” said state turkey biologist Mark Wiley. “There was also a large cicada emergence before that. And we always seem to have a large harvest following a cicada emergence.”

Wiley pointed out the size of the fall take is not an indication of the number of turkeys available.

“We anticipate a strong spring season in 2018,” Wiley said. “Last year was a good reproductive year, so there will be a good number of two-year-old gobblers in the spring.”

According to Division of Wildlife records, fall turkey season first opened in 19 counties in 1996 and harvests have fluctuated between 1,000 and 3,000 turkeys during that time period.

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