Ohio’s Most Popular Big Game Animal
Ohio’s 2016 deer hunting has been underway since Sept. 24, when the archery season began. It continues through Feb 5. In between these bookend dates were the youth deer-gun hunt, the regular gun season and the bonus two-day gun season. Upcoming is muzzleloader season. Hunting still remains the primary method for effectively maintaining deer populations at suitable levels, not only here in the Buckeye State, but across the country.
Despite some of the misperceptions some folks hold in regard to hunting, it remains the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s most important deer population management tool today. Regulated hunting — with designated seasons and harvest limits — is the most effective and economical method of controlling overall deer populations, in both rural and urban settings. It serves to help address human-wildlife conflicts, be it crop and property damage or safety matters where travel is concerned.
The most successful deer management is made possible when landowners play an active role. Whether it’s a hunter, farmer, business or even a suburban dweller, the Ohio Division of Wildlife continues to solicit and welcome public input, asking for individuals to freely express their interests and concerns by participating in surveys or open houses when held. This feedback definitely factors into decisions the Ohio Division of Wildlife makes in regard to the direction of deer management in the future.
One of the methods for measuring the success or failure of a deer management program is by counting the number of deer harvested and determining the sex and age of the animal, typically by examining the jawbone. For the first two days of Ohio’s deer-gun season, I was at one of the Erie County stations where hunters could bring in their deer for meat processing. Over the years, this process of evaluating a deer’s health has proven to be one of the most reliable indicators of management success.
Our wildlife researchers and managers take a look at the lower jawbone of the harvested deer to determine its age, which is based on tooth replacement and the extent of any progressive wear. A buck’s antler development is also taken into consideration in the effort to ascertain the condition and health of the deer.
From the data collected from two of the local processors, a total of 290 deer were evaluated. Of those, 199 (69 percent) were does or male fawns, with 35 determined to be yearlings (1 ½ years old) and 76 adults (2 ½ years of age).
We checked 91 antlered deer that were estimated to be between the ages of 1 ½ and 4 ½ years old. Forty-nine of the antlered bucks brought in to the processor were observed to be 1 ½ years old, and 27 were estimated to be 2 ½ years old. Of the overall tally, only 15 of the bucks were determined to be 3 ½ years old or older.
This kind of data plays an important role in helping to determine if Ohio’s deer are healthy, based on its age and growth. For example, a six-point, 1 ½-year-old buck might indicate excellent health, whereas the same size antler growth on a 3 ½-year-old would suggest the contrary. Wildlife managers can utilize these data collections and comparisons, along with the stats gathered from other processing stations across the state, to provide them the information they rely on in determining the deer harvest recommendations that will be projected.
The main goal of Ohio’s Deer Management Program is to make adjustments as necessary to deer population that will maximize recreational opportunities, for hunters and wildlife viewers, along with minimizing potential conflicts between farmers, the orchard, vineyard and landscape nursery producers, and motorists. To learn more about the program, download a free copy of the publication “Managing Ohio’s Deer Herd” from its website.
Originally posted by Tim White | wildlife specialist with the Erie Soil and Water Conservation District, for the Sandusky Register
Image courtesy ForestWander Nature Photography