The annual Ohio deer gun week, which began on Monday following Thanksgiving, is a tradition for many families. Various hunting rigs including campers, trucks or SUVs pulling trailers with all-terrain 4-wheelers, deer stands and a variety of other equipment were seen heading south east to Ohio’s hill country. Sunday before opening day my family joined the migration toward our destination in the hills of Vinton County. It is something we’ve been doing for several decades – perhaps longer than I care to count. However, each year creates new memories which will be shared around campfires and grills for many more years.
I was blessed to be with family and close friends to enjoy the experience of another deer season. While the rain lingered longer than anticipated by Tuesday afternoon it was vastly improved and the rest of the week was near perfect. We enjoyed success with everyone in our group bringing home a deer. I took a good sized eight-point buck even though the rack was small. Friends Josh Kell and Bill Warner snapped their cold spell with both taking deer this year. Kell really was fortunate taking a buck on Wednesday and a very good sized doe on Thursday. We were elated to have the venison to butcher when we arrived home. We processed all the steaks and ground over 130-pounds of burger this year. We take very good care of the meat and ensure it is all used throughout the year.
While our tradition continues, there is a change in deer hunter habits. Archery season, or bow hunting, for deer has increased in popularity. The opportunity to hunt in the beautiful fall weather, along with warmer temperatures, is increasingly attractive. The advances in archery equipment for both crossbows and the compound bows have made them easier to use for many people. Perhaps the increasing popularity of hunting among women is also adding to the change. The deer gun season harvest dominated the total kill for many years. However, the archery harvest is now the largest single segment of the total harvest.
Ohio deer hunters concluded the weeklong gun season with 63,493 deer taken, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. This is a small increase over the 60,752 deer were harvested during the same period in the 2018 season. Continuing the trend of bow hunting popularity, 76,822 deer were taken by Ohio archery hunters prior to the start of the gun season. Plus, Ohio’s youth hunters checked 6,234 white-tailed deer during the 2019 two-day youth gun season which was November 23 and 24. A number of Greene County young hunters took advantage of that season to take deer including my grandson. However, the total harvest is still below the five-year averages.
“Ohio hunters took full advantage of a great week of deer hunting,” said Mike Tonkovich, Ohio Division of Wildlife deer program administrator. “The fall weather has been the most hunter-friendly we’ve seen in a long time, and this year’s harvest is certainly proof of that. The deer harvest is a direct result of our ongoing efforts to align Ohio’s wild deer herd with the interests of the majority of Ohio’s farmers and hunters. This has been and will continue to be the backbone of Ohio’s deer program.”
The top counties for deer harvest continue to be the same over many years. Top ten counties for deer harvest during the weeklong deer-gun season were: Coshocton (2,322), Tuscarawas (2,127), Muskingum (1,972), Ashtabula (1,901), Knox (1,771), Guernsey (1,734), Licking (1,514), Carroll (1,473), Holmes (1,465), and Washington (1,464). The Ohio deer season continues with a two-day bonus weekend on December 21 and 22. The annual muzzle loading firearms season is January 4 through 7 while the archery season runs through February 2. Indeed Ohio offers a long season for hunters to enjoy both the early fall colors or the cold snowy weather. The Greene County deer harvest through December 8 is 232, which is up over the 2018 total of 196. Complete details of the season can be found online at wildohio.gov. Summaries of past deer seasons are also available at wildohio.gov/deerharvest.
Thankfully there were no fatalities or serious injuries during the week-long gun season with only two “hunting incidents” as the ODNR Division of Wildlife reports. One occurred December 3 in Vinton County and the other on December 7in Washington County. The Vinton County incident was a self-inflicted leg wound by a hunter using a handgun. The Washington County incident apparently involved a rifle with the injury, which was not self-inflicted, also to a leg. The Division of Wildlife reports both incidents remain under investigation.
According to the ODNR Division of Wildlife, Ohio is a popular hunting destination for many out-of-state hunters. To date in 2019, more than 34,000 nonresident Ohio hunting licenses have been sold. The top five states for purchasing a nonresident hunting license in Ohio include: Pennsylvania (6,490), Michigan (4,294), West Virginia (3,717), North Carolina (2,816) and New York (2,365). Each year, Ohioans take an estimated 171 million outdoor recreation trips and contribute $5.9 billion to the Buckeye State’s economy, according to a report entitled Economic Valuation of Natural Areas in Ohio, recently released by The Ohio State University.