Hunting deer is necessary to keep herds healthy

According to figures just released by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, hunters killed 21,064 deer during the two day bonus weekend gun season held Dec. 18- 19. So far this fall and early winter, 210,361 deer have been taken by archers and gun hunters, down slightly from last year’s 227,748 total for the same time period.

During all of last season’s deer seasons, including archery, special muzzleloader, special youth only hunt, the week and bonus weekend of gun hunting, and the winter muzzleloader season, hunters killed 261,314 deer. Prior to the fall hunting seasons, wildlife officials estimated Ohio’s deer herd to be 750,000. It takes the removal of big numbers of deer to keep the overall herd in check.

Muzzleloader season

This year’s four day muzzleloader season is set for Jan. 8-9, 2011. Interestingly, this late season hunt used to be known as a primitive weapons hunt, a special short season fashioned to allow hunter who enjoyed the challenge of hunting with traditional muzzleloaders, guns that often misfired, bellowed smoke, and roared like Civil War cannons.

Today’s muzzleloader is anything but primitive. In fact, some hunters, this one included, shoot scoped, in-line, muzzleloaders even during shotgun season, guns that are reliable, accurate, affordable, and easy to like. The upcoming January Muzzleloader season, originally a bonus opportunity for hunters has become an important tool in the effort to cull the herd.

States that have created a “bucks-only” hunting culture have experienced declining deer herds and much of the blame can be attributed to overcrowding. To see the effect, one only needs to spend time in the wooded areas of overcrowded deer habitat where every bit of browse has been eaten by hungry animals. Ohio wildlife officials have been fortunate to have developed a deer hunting culture which encourages the harvest of does.

Doesn’t help herd numbers

Why is this important? Because the killing of a buck has little to do with limiting total numbers. However the harvest of a single doe effectively removes three deer from the herd since almost every healthy doe, given access to adequate food sources, will give birth to twins every spring. Unchecked, an already large deer herd can and will balloon in size, often to the point of self destruction by starvation and disease. That’s exactly what happens in forested areas that are not hunted.

Homies

It is interesting to note that whitetail deer are homies. That is, even when their habitat is exhausted, the deer living there turn to dining on residential shrubs and other nuisance behaviors. That instead of leaving for greener pastures.

Ohio deer hunters are fortunate to have extended seasons, generous bag limits, and a wide choice of weaponry to hunt with including long bow, crossbow, shotgun, handgun, and muzzleloader.

Ohio’s Division of Wildlife Chief Dave Graham challenges all Ohio deer hunters to share the bounty from the upcoming muzzleloader season by donating deer to the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program. How? Drop your permanently tagged deer at a participating processor. It is the right thing to do. Look on the Division of Wildlife website for the name of the processor in your area.

About the Author

Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer, and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian. More Stories by Mike Tontimonia

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