Ohio’s gun hunters took fewer white-tailed deer this year than last year, but, really, who’s counting?
It doesn’t matter that Ohio hunters killed 66,759 deer during the regular gun season (Nov. 28-Dec. 4) compared to 73,392 the year before. And over the extra gun weekend (Dec. 17-18) the total was slightly less than last year, 9,229 vs. 9,447.
Such numbers fluctuate from year to year. They often depend on the weather on just a few days of the deer gun season – opening day and, perhaps, Saturdays and Sundays. If there is rain, wind or extremely cold temperatures, hunters often stay inside. Snow isn’t as much of a deterrent, unless it’s heavy.
Another factor, it seems, is the method of hunting. While gun hunting has always been a popular way to hunt deer, archery has increased in popularity in recent years. In fact archery numbers have been higher than gun numbers recently. But while state biologists certainly take note of the lower gun numbers, what really counts are the final numbers in February, once the deer season is over. Those are the numbers that count. And it’s those final numbers that are likely to shape future deer hunting regulations.
Next up will be the annual muzzleloader season (Jan. 7-10). The archery season remains open through Feb. 5.
Deer management biologist Clint McCoy said the trend has shifted when it comes to hunting deer.
“It used to be that most hunters went out to hunt during gun week,” McCoy said. “But that has been changing. We are not seeing dramatically different numbers, except that gun week keeps going down. That means more are hunting with archery equipment.
“In some cases it is a matter of hunters hunting with both. Gun hunters have found archery allows them to expand their season. A survey showed three out of four gun hunters will hunt archery as well,” McCoy added.
Whatever the case, the 9 percent drop in the regular deer gun week numbers has to do with pressure, not deer herd population numbers. Pressure means the amount of people hunting and permit numbers are down about 5 percent from the same period a year ago.
“At this point there are no red flags,” McCoy said. “We’ll crunch all of the numbers at the end of
the archery season and they will help us see which way it’s all headed.”
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