Deer were rare in Ohio not so long ago

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deer during winter

It was a white-tailed deer, running from right to left across the cow pasture behind the barn. A real deer!

Yes, that’s exactly what it was. The sight was amazing and forever stamped in my memory.

A first

The deer was the first I had ever seen and still a rarity in much of Ohio.

The antlered animal run in graceful bounds and cleared the pasture fences like they were mere shadows. The nearby Ravenna Arsenal might have been its home base, and I was told that the thousands of forested acres behind the facility’s security fence held all sorts of wildlife, including lots of deer.

We lived in town but our next door neighbor held a guard job at the arsenal, now the Garfield training base.

He regularly patrolled the huge enclosure and often had a story or two about the critters he spotted.

It was butchering day on the Seyfried farm in the early 1950s, well before deer hunting had the huge following it does today. Uncle Harold, who seemed to always know something about most everything, looked up from his attempts to corral a hog and pointed out the deer so younger eyes could see the sight.

History

But even at that time, Ohio was already offering limited deer hunts. Controlled deer hunting actually got its Ohio start in 1943 when a first-ever, very short, buck only “season” was held in three rural counties with a total kill of just 168 bucks.

Even back then Buckeye hunters expressed interest in big game hunting, probably after experiencing the activity in neighboring states.

According to Ohio Division of Wildlife publications, 8,500 permits were sold for that first controlled hunt.

It’s known that even though many of us had never seen a deer in the wild before that butchering day, there were already a considerable number of white-tails in parts of the state including some northeast Ohio counties.

After decades of none or nearly none, the number of deer had grown significantly mostly from the influx from expanding herds in Pennsylvania and other nearby states.

Keep in mind that killing only bucks had become the culture in neighboring states where deer hunting had already become a tradition. Pity the sap that dragged a doe back to camp where the comments would rain down in large amounts of stinging pity patter.

Doe population

It didn’t take too long for Ohio deer managers to learn that a limited doe harvest was needed to keep the herd in check and healthy.

The first year to see an Ohio deer harvest total in excess of 10,000 was 1974 when 10,747 were tagged. Hunting in all 88 counties was not permitted until 1979.

In 1988, the kill topped 100,000 which was almost evenly split between bucks and does. The highest harvest number ever was in 2010 when it topped a quarter million and the deer herd deemed to be out of control.

Now, county by county management strategies will certainly prevent that huge number to ever be seen again.

Never the less, hunters still look forward to deer hunting season more than any other hunting opportunity in the state.

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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.

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