Division of Wildlife Proposes Deer Regulations - sure to stir controversy

Editor's Note: While the Division of Wildlife is proposing numerous changes to the deer hunting regulations, they have not yet answered hunters' requests to allow pistol caliber rifle cartridges for deer hunting.

CLICK HERE TO PARTICIPATE IN AN ONLINE SURVEY REGARDING THE USE OF PISTOL CARTRIDGE RIFLES FOR DEER HUNTING.

by Larry S. Moore

It has been quite some time since I can remember a year when the Division of Wildlife has proposed sweeping changes to Ohio's deer hunting regulations. I've written in the past that the lack of attendance at the annual open houses are due partially to a lack of interest but in great part due to the lack of controversy in any changes. The last several years the Division has largely been tweaking the system here and there. This year the changes could be considered wholesale in nature. If my predictions are true, then the open houses on March 2, 2013 should be jammed packed with excitement and comments.

First, a summary of the changes is in order:

  • Eliminating the Urban Zones for deer.
  • Eliminating the Zone A, B, C. Bag limits will be set by county. 8 counties to have 1 regular and 1 antlerless-only bag limit. 23 counties to have 2 regular and 1 antlerless-only bag limit. 57 counties to have 3 regular and 1 antlerless-only bag limit.
  • Eliminating the additional gun weekend in December.
  • Eliminating the early muzzle loading season on the 3 special areas - Salt Fork; Wildcat Hollow; and Shawnee State Forest.
  • Adding a statewide early muzzleloading 2 day season that will be for antlerless deer only. The season is slated for the second weekend of October. The entire weekend will be for antlerless deer only regardless if you use a muzzleloader or bow hunt. This will cause a delay of opening fall turkey season to the Monday following this season as turkey hunters are not going to wear hunter orange as required for all hunters anytime there is a deer gun season.
  • Allow hunting 1/2 hour past sunset for gun seasons to align the regulations with the current archery hunting hours.
  • No change to the late statewide muzzle loading season in January.
  • Antlerless-only deer tags will continue to expire on Sunday before the deer gun season.
  • No deer or fall turkey tags will be sold until June 1.

Let's examine the Division changes and their reasons.

Dr. Mike Tonkovich hinted at some major statewide changes last fall. He clearly hinted at the move to alter the zones into county by county harvest. The Division deer management approach has always had population goals by county. In the last couple of years we've seen some rather unique groups within the zones or counties moved to zones different than surrounding counties. This move is facilitated by the additional license and harvest data the Division can track with their new computer system. It no doubt sets the stage for more micro-management and specific deer tags by county.

Wholesale movement in the seasons is sure to cause feedback. Some people will have their favorite season moved or eliminated and are sure to complain. Others, who may think it's about time the Division figured out how stupid a season was, will be happy but much less likely to show up to comment. No one should ever "assume" the regulations are a "done deal" until after the Wildlife Council gives final approval in April.

Many hunters really like the extra bonus gun weekend. This is especially true for those hunters, such as my two sons, who have little vacation time to hunt the traditional gun week. This means they are weekend hunters. While they welcome the opportunity to get out earlier in October, they will miss the bonus gun week. I'll go whichever way they want to go and will be perfectly happy to pheasant run with the Brittany or run rabbits with my Beagles. I've never really liked the bonus weekend because I thought it was too close to the deer gun week and the deer herd had not calmed down from the pressure. But then I'm flexible and will be happy to just go hunting.

Some hunters are already complaining about the early muzzleloading season. While the muzzleloading hunters like the idea of getting a weekend, concerns have been expressed about foliage causing a problem. Many archery hunters have chimed in expressing their opinions that gun hunters are intruding on a weekend that has been traditionally archery. They don't like being forced to take doe only and even perhaps wear hunter orange. The statistics provided by the Division indicate that 80% of the deer killed that weekend were doe anyway. So the comments here should be interesting indeed.

Allowing the gun seasons to hunt 1/2 hour past sunset to align the entire deer season in a consistently manner makes sense. Data from neighboring states who allow hunting 1/2 hour past sunset indicates there have been no safety issues. The Division noted in their presentation, "It is the hunter's decision to pull the trigger." (For the complete Division of Wildlife deer proposal background document click here.)

The change regarding the sale of tags on June 1 is so the computer system updates can be completed to print the season dates on the tags. The antlerless-only deer tags expire on Sunday before deer gun week BUT they still have the entire hunting season through 2/28/13 printed on the tags. This confused some hunters. In addition, some hunters also apparently got confused between their spring and fall turkey tags and used the wrong one at the wrong time.

Game Check is also changing. The Division has been hinting about this for over a year now. Hunters will have to provide a temporary tag to place on the animal. The deer/turkey permits will no longer have a separate section to be filled out and put on the harvested animal. This is like land owners who do not buy tags have to do currently. You will also have to fill out the harvest info on the appropriate tag to invalidate the tag. When you do the game check you will be given an 18-digit number. That number MUST be written on the game tag; it must be on any parts of the animal taken to a taxidermist or to a processor. And it must remain on the mount when completed. Landowners who don't buy tags will still not be able to use the phone-in system. They must use the website or go to a check station.

Whether you agree or disagree with the proposals, the March 2 Open House events are the best opportunity for sportsmen to make their voice heard. People who are not able to attend an open house at one of the seven locations can provide input online. Comments are accepted through March 2 at www.wildohio.com. Click on Open House Comments to submit a response.

Remember - if you don't voice your opinion, then don't complain about the results!

CLICK HERE TO PARTICIPATE IN AN ONLINE SURVEY REGARDING PISTOL CARTRIDGE RIFLES FOR DEER HUNTING.

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year and the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.

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