2018-19 Deer Regulations Proposed

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

Deer hunting is probably the most popular hunting sport in Ohio, and the same applies to most of the other states with a viable deer population. The skill level of Ohio deer hunters has risen over the years since the percentage of deer hunters who hunt with a bow or crossbow is now around 80%. There is a definite correlation between archery hunters and the skill set necessary for success. Consequently, there are more serious deer hunters around who focus on their sport most of the year rather than the occasional gun hunter who gets serious the night before opening day. In plain words, a lot of deer hunters are already interested in the 2018-19 regulations and bag limits so they can start making preparations.

The new deer proposals made this week to the Ohio Wildlife Council contained few bag limit and season date modifications. It was proposed that the Jefferson County bag limit be reduced from three deer to two. This was the only bag limit proposed change. Jefferson County is on the far eastern side of the state bordering Pennsylvania. Archery hunters again get a liberal season which opens on September 29, 2018 and runs through February 3, 2019. Gun hunters get a seven-day season plus a bonus two-day weekend. The gun season is November 26 through December 2, and the bonus weekend is December 15-16. In addition, the deer muzzleloader season runs from January 5, 2019 through January 8. The special youth deer gun season is November 17-18.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife also proposed modifications for hunting on public land. These proposed changes are designed to create some growth in the deer population on these areas. Consequently, the doe population is protected by limiting the harvest. If the proposals are accepted, hunters would only be allowed to harvest one antlerless deer from public hunting areas per license year. Also, after December 2, only antlered deer can be harvested on public land. The statewide bag limit was proposed to remain at six deer, only one of which may be antlered.

The white-tailed deer in Ohio is one of professional game management’s biggest success stories. Along with other factors, hunting is the primary way herd size and quality are maintained. Success is evident by the fact that hunters harvested more than 186,000 deer during the 2017-18 season. According to the Division of Wildlife, regulations over the past three seasons have been designed to allow for moderate herd growth throughout most of the state. Deer are managed to provide maximum recreational opportunities while minimizing conflicts with land owners and motorists. I’m assuming the automobile insurance industry and agricultural lobbying groups also need their feathers stroked. I don’t think there’s any doubt the Ohio deer herd could be increased to greater numbers. The deer harvest statistics for 2008 and 2009 were well over 250,000. The management techniques are capable of increasing a deer population. Social restrictions temper the goals.

Picking season dates and setting bag limits isn’t an arbitrary task. There are many other management considerations than people realize, some more obscure than others. For example, I never considered that hunter attitudes and ethics might need to be considered. Is it okay to bag a young doe just to fill a tag or a doe with a fawn? Personally, I find both cases unacceptable although there is justification following certain deer management protocols. Some hunters will harvest anything that moves without any qualms while others will only take a trophy buck. In the long run, the hunter who takes a skillet deer is probably having a better management effect that the hunter who bags the trophy buck. Something to do with the gene pool is my guess.

Regardless, area hunters should have deer to hunt next fall. Auglaize and surrounding counties have shown gradual harvest increases over the last couple of years and that trend should continue. There were 848 deer checked in Auglaize County during the 2017-18 season compared to 751 during the 2016-17 season. Consequently, the skilled hunters can usually take a deer assuming they aren’t too particular. That sounds like a good deal in this day and age, especially since there was a time in our neck of the woods during my lifetime when there weren’t any deer to hunt.