Although there were more than 11,000 fewer deer killed this year during Ohio’s weeklong gun season, there’s not much to complain about. After all, a seven-day harvest that numbers more than 75,000 freezer-bound bundles of venison is nothing to sneeze at.
Nevertheless, even with liberal bag limits in place for almost all of Ohio, this year’s gun season results are down considerably compared to 2012 when nearly 87,000 deer were killed.
The lower harvest was not unexpected, according to reports, as Ohio wildlife managers work at strategies to bring Ohio’s deer herd down to a number more agreeable to all stake holders.
Herd management is about harvest numbers and it is the only reliable management tool officials have. Overall, the total harvest, which includes archery, youth, and other seasons, is right on target at just a five percent drop.
The lower numbers have some hunters grumbling but farmers and insurance companies are pleased. There’s still more archery time left as well as a four day muzzle loader season beginning Jan. 4.
Consider this: Ohio never had a modern deer season at all until 1943, when hunters in three counties took 168 deer. That’s before most of us were born but still a historical date for Buckeye hunters who adore the activity.
Two Streetsboro brothers killed matching bucks that year with their trusty 16 gauge pump guns. Of course they were shooting what were called pumpkin balls, primitive ammo compared to today’s highly accurate rifled slug barrels and sabot ammunition.
The boy’s bucks were featured in an Akron Beacon Journal photo and were the talk of the town at the time. To me they represented the first of hundreds of thousands of modern hunters who burn countless hours planning, scouting and dreaming.
These two trophy bucks, both around 20 points, were taken in the lowland swamps just west of Streetsboro, a dense habitat quite familiar with the young hunters, who were probably trappers as well.
I remember in vivid color a butchering morning in the early 1950s when our family was visiting an aunt and uncle who lived in northeast Portage County, not far from the recently fenced Ravenna Arsenal.
We were attempting to corral an uncooperative hog when someone spotted a deer bounding across the cow pasture. What a sight! It was a buck and he was in a hurry to be somewhere else. His antlers stretched well above his ears and he sailed over the wire fences like they were nothing.
It was the first deer I had ever seen, even though there were several around I was told, especially in the 21,000 wild acres of the arsenal. In fact, it was in the early 1940s when the famous Hole-In-The-Horn buck was found dead, near the north fence of the Arsenal.
Speculation about the monster buck’s demise included a losing collision with a train, a poacher’s muffed shot and other guesses. Some thought the small hole in the buck’s antlers might have been the result of a misplaced shot.
I knew a fellow who, as a boy, saw the dead buck when it was brought into Freedom Station and he described the remarkable animal as a huge deer with a brush pile on its head. That deer is one of the largest recorded statewide and nationally.
Ohio’s deer herd expanded rather rapidly, allowing a statewide deer season in 1956 when hunters killed 3,911 bucks. In the late 70s hunters could apply for one doe permit, which were limited and available in a few select counties.
Ohio has always been a leader in promoting the harvest of does, a management tool that effects herd numbers more than any other harvest strategy.