WOOSTER, Ohio — The blazing orange vests and hats were blatantly visible last week in Ohio, where an estimated 420,000 hunters took to the fields and woods for the annual deer-gun season.
Initial reports show hunters took about 1.7 percent more deer on opening day (Nov. 30) than opening day of 2008, good for more than 33,600 deer.
For the first full week of deer-gun season, Ohio hunters took more than 114,600, a couple thousand less than in 2008, when about 116,800 deer were taken. Ohio’s deer gun season ran Nov. 30-Dec. 6, and returns again for an additional weekend, Dec. 19-20.
Pennsylvania’s deer-gun season continues through Dec. 12. Kill numbers in Pennsylvania will not be available for several weeks.
Officials with Ohio Department of Natural Resources said conditions were “near ideal,” with good weather to get the season started.
Combined with deer taken during Ohio’s early muzzleloader season, the first six weeks of archery season and the recent youth deer-gun season, a preliminary total of 97,371 Ohio deer have been killed so far this year, compared to 95,074 harvested last year at this time.
In all, hunters took a total of 252,017 deer during all of last year’s hunting seasons.
It was a different story for opening day in some parts of Pennsylvania, where heavy rain persisted for most of the day, said Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor for the Southwest Region.
“I’m sure that might have had an impact on numbers harvested,” Fazi said, adding that 80,000-90,000 deer are typically harvested on opening day alone, with the two-week season netting about 300,000 deer.
Crop farmers in both states likely will be pleased with those numbers. An estimated two-thirds of Ohio is favorable deer habitat — open land interspersed with woodlots — reported Ohio State University’s Dave Apsley, during a deer damage management workshop in November.
Deer even do well in areas of urban sprawl, said Apsley, a natural resources specialist, and they especially enjoy farmers’ crops.
Deer population has the potential to increase at a rate of 40 percent per year, he said, with no natural predators to curb population growth. His advice for controlling population is go after the does, many of which give birth to twins.
“The long-term strategy on a broader scale is to control the population and to do that you really need to take does,” he said.
In addition to hunting, farmers seek to manage deer numbers with fencing, tree and shrub selection, chemical repellents and mechanisms that induce freight. Controlling population is difficult for independent, small-property owners, he said, because of the wide-ranging territory a deer will roam.
The average doe will stay within a 1-mile block, he said, with the average buck stretching to 2-3 square miles.
In the same presentation, ODNR Wildlife Biologist Heidi Devine said hunting accounts for 60-90 percent of deer mortality, making it “the key to managing deer.”
Last year, hunters donated nearly 220,000 meals to Ohioans in need, he said. Hunters who give their deer to a food bank are not required to pay the processing cost as long as the deer are taken to a participating processor and funding for the effort lasts.
Counties served by this program can be reviewed online at www.fhfh.org.
Pennsylvania hunters can donate their deer or money to meat processors participating in Hunters Sharing the Harvest. More is available at www.sharedeer.org.