Deer Regulations Proposed

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

We’re into March again, and if the weather prognosticators are correct it will be coming in like a lamb. Of course, I don’t think a lion showed up all winter long, and I was okay with that. Regardless, we’re in another transition time, and spring weather is just around the corner. Sportsmen are always looking forward during a seasonal transition period, and a few even look ahead to fall and the next deer season. Fueling that fire is the announcement of the proposed 2020-2021 deer hunting regulations. They have importance for deer hunters. Dates may determine how vacation time will be set during the fall. County bag limits may determine when and where a hunter might spend time in the field. Some deer hunters won’t give the sport a thought for the next six months while others consider chasing deer a year-long activity. Either way, deer hunters now have a strong hint what rules they have to follow next fall.

As usual, the proposed archery season opens in late September and runs through the first week in February. That’s a liberal season providing over four months of hunting opportunity for more than 75% of Ohio deer hunters who hunt with a bow or crossbow. There are those who say the archery season is all but over after the state’s muzzleloader season. I always thought that to be true, but harvest reports show that archery hunters are busy until the last day. During the four weeks following the muzzleloader season, archery hunters took another 6600 deer. There were 38% more antlerless deer killed during that period which might suggest that hunters were using the time to fill out their tags. Of course, bagging a buck might be more difficult after a long hunting season. Also, a lot of archery hunters chase bucks which is reflected in harvest reports prior to the gun season. During that time, bow hunters killed 15% more antlered deer. Archery season is long, and hunters take advantage of every day. The proposed youth gun season is November 21-22, a full weekend before the regular 7-day gun season that runs from November 30 through December 6, 2020. The bonus weekend is December 19-20. The 4-day muzzleloader season is proposed for January 2, 2021 through January 5, 2021.

Hunters had a successful 2019-20 deer season with a total harvest of 184,465 deer. That’s 11,795 greater than the previous season. From that number and other information, proposed county limits were changed to reflect management goals of Ohio’s deer population. Auglaize and Mercer remain two-deer counties while nine other two-deer counties are proposed to be three deer counties. Clinton, Fayette and Pickaway counties will be the only one-deer counties in the state if the deer regulation proposals are approved.

The proposed statewide bag limit is six deer with no more than one being antlered. I’ve always heard comments that a six-deer limit was excessive. Actually, it has little, if any, overall effect on the total harvest. There might be a few who consider themselves subsistence hunters. They and their families eat a lot of venison, however, taking the cost of permits, extra effort, and time in the field, there are probably cheaper alternatives. On the other hand, the health benefits of venison alone are probably worth it. Regardless, if the statistics are relatively stable, roughly 77% of hunters who harvest a deer will only take one. 18% of Ohio hunters will take two and 4% three. Only .1 percent will take more than four deer during any given season. Solid game management protects Ohio’s deer population.

Another proposal of interest is the inclusion of small game and fur bearer hunting during the seven-day deer gun season. The only restriction is that hunter orange must be worn by everyone except waterfowl hunters. From what I’ve read, the purpose of this rule change is to provide more hunting opportunities for the small game hunter. I’m not sure what I think of this idea, but in this part of the state, I doubt if small game hunters would greatly impact deer hunters. If I were living in an area that had both deer hunting and bird hunting, I don’t think I would take my bird dog in the woods during the deer season. If there would be a benefit, having small game hunters beating the brush would help keep the deer moving.  If I were asked to vote on the proposal, I’d probably turn it down. On the other hand, I can’t see many instances where a small game hunter would want to be in the field during the deer season. There might be some ruffled feathers if a pack of small game hunters crossed paths with a pack of deer hunters. That would have to be rare.

I’m ready for spring, and I’m personally not overly excited about the new deer regulation proposals…maybe later. Right now, I’m looking for warmer weather and the chance to get on the water and enjoy the fresh air. If things work out, that just might happen.