Your help improves access to hunting ground in the Buckeye state

The difficulty of obtaining access to hunting ground is increasingly given as a reason fewer hunters are going afield each year. Rumors of badly-behaved hunters and liability concerns are increasingly given as a reason fewer farmers are willing to give permission, even though Ohio's deer herd causes millions of dollars in damage to farmers' crops each year in the Buckeye state.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife and Ohio Farm Bureau are teaming up to do something about it, and they need hunters' help.

Last week, the Ohio Division of Wildlife announced that it was teaming up with the Ohio Farm Bureau to consider a pilot program that will help manage local deer herds and expand hunter access. A survey was made available at to help determine deer hunters' interest in participating in such a program (the survey is now closed).

This week, Toledo Blade outdoors writer Steve Pollick has weighed in on the subject, and our own outdoor writer, Larry S. Moore, has some thoughts of his own.

From the Toledo Blade:

The good old handshake days are gone forever for a lot of reasons, partly because everything has gotten so much more complicated in this 21st century life by committee.

But no sense crying: Reality stares at us, slaps us in the face.

So give credit to Wildlife and the Farm Bureau for trying to find a way to give land-poor hunters, which constitutes most of us, access to private land, which comprises 95 percent of Ohio's land base and most of the best hunting ground.

"Go online at and take the hunter access survey," Pollick encourages. "Support it."

Heck, if it takes a background check for me to gain access to prime whitetail or turkey ground, I'm all over it. "They" - the "gummint" - already knows everything short of my shoe size anyway. And my lack of criminal record, is well, on record. Every lawman in the state knows I have a concealed-carry license; it's linked to my driver's license. So big deal if a farmer wants to know who I am - how the dickens else can he be expected, in this goofball day and age, to know that I'm OK?

"Access to hunt deer is key to successful deer management," the online survey begins. It is, moreover, "vital to the success of Ohio's deer management program.

"Access to private property is a privilege that cannot be legislated. For that reason it is essential that hunters and landowners work cooperatively to develop positive relationships that facilitate the harvest of deer, specifically does, from private property."

The wildlife division and the Farm Bureau are assessing a possible Web-based program, wherein landowners and farmers looking for hunters to help control local deer herds would select hunters from a searchable database based on a set of criteria.

For instance, the survey notes, "the landowner may be looking for someone with 10-plus years of bowhunting experience who is willing to bow-hunt only, harvest a doe before a buck, and limit their hunting to weekends only. This search may yield contact information for 25 hunters. The landowner would select hunters from this list and contact the hunters directly. Hunters who participate would have to agree to a set of rules and regulations governing the use of the land. Hunters unwilling or unable to abide by these established guidelines would be removed from the database."

So, there. The ugliness behind all this are the countless incidents told, repeated, and never forgotten of bad behavior by slobs, scofflaws, litterers, sign-shooters, poachers, and other scum that sully the hunting ranks. It only takes once to poison a landowner's outlook.

Still, the survey notes, "hunters and landowners alike still stand to reap all of the same benefits of the past [this in terms of deer herds - and crop damage - reduced, and venison in the freezer]. The only difference is that hunters must be willing to build a 'profile' of themselves in addition to the old-fashioned handshake. When using this program, interested hunters must be willing to 'apply' for a place to hunt on participating properties. There would be no cost to apply or to hunt."

So far, says state deer biologist Mike Tonkovich, hunter response to the survey has been 90 percent affirmative. He urges hunters to complete the survey, which takes less than a minute.

Commentary: It is hard to see a downside to this initiative - unless you have something to hide. Here's hoping this program happens, the sooner the better. A tip of the hat to both Wildlife and Farm Bureau for cooperating on this important issue.

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Association and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award and 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year. Moore offers his own thoughts on the press release, and subsequent Blade article:

The effort by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to link hunters and farmers is really needed. Getting permission to private land is often difficult. Farmers and hunters have a tremendous amount more in common than they do differences. Both know the land and are closer to the food source. 99% of the farmers are working hard and taking care of their land. 99% of the hunters are safe and ethical in their pursuit of game. The 1% of pollution violators or illegal hunters tarnishes the reputations of both. Many farmers are concerned about lawsuits but the Division of Wildlife provided permission slips cited the Ohio Revised Code that states recreational users with permission can not sue the landowner for any injury.

Pollick mentions that he has been background checked for his concealed handgun license. So have I and many other hunters. The presence of the CHL should be an automatic pass on the background check for hunting access.

Farmers who want more deer killed can certainly ask the hunters to take a doe before going after the bucks. It is well proven that controlling the doe population is what controls the overall population of the deer herd. I prefer to take a doe and get that meat in the freezer.

Hunters should also be encouraged to work with "Farmers Hunters Feeding the Hungry" or other food bank donation programs where venison can be processed and donated to local food banks.

This can develop into a win-win for everyone.

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