When the final shot has been fired during the 2014 deer gun season (Dec. 1-7) biologists at the Ohio Division of Wildlife expect to see fewer whitetails killed than in 2013.
“For the entire season, we expect 3-5 percent fewer deer to be killed than a year ago,” said Dr. Mike Tonkovich, deer project leader. “The gun season should reflect that percentage.”
Last year’s gun week accounted for 75,408 deer killed out of a season total of 191,503. Both numbers were around 12-13 percent lower than the previous year.
Tonkovich said there are a few reasons why he expects the numbers to be lower: there were several counties which did not allow antlerless permits this year and some counties have lower bag limits.
“And there are some counties that just have fewer deer,” he added.
During the first 59 days of the deer season, which started with archery on Sept 27 and includes the antlerless muzzleloader and youth-gun weekends, Ohio hunters killed 81,715 deer last year, compared to 79,666 this year, a reduction of 2.51 percent. Because of those counties that had no antlerless permits this year, the number of bucks killed has risen 3.39 percent, while antlerless deer numbers are down 6.54 percent.
During last weekend’s youth gun season, 6,453 deer were killed, compared to last year’s 6,640, a decline of 2.82 percent.
That brings up the question: are hunters going to see fewer deer this year?
“I guess that depends on where you hunt,” said Brett Beatty, district wildlife supervisor for southwest Ohio. “I don’t think any hunter will deny that we have had some fairly liberal bag limits since 2007, the first year we introduced antlerless tags. So, yes, I think the deer numbers are a little down. But, again, that depends on where you are hunting.”
No doubt, hunters who do a little pre-season scouting will increase their chances of success.
Even with some lower county bag limits, there are no counties with less than two. Most hunters are happy to see and take even a single deer. Some see does, but wait for bucks. Beatty said the number of hunters taking two or more deer is very small.
“I think the average hunter is happy with taking one deer,” Beatty said. “Sometimes if they take a doe, they will continue to hunt for a buck. But if they get a buck early, participation drops off a lot.”
This year the major change for the gun season allows hunters to use straight-walled cartridge rifles in addition to shotguns, handguns and archery. This change appears to be more of a convenience move by the Division of Wildlife than an effort to increase the number of hunters.
“There could be a slight increase because of the use of rifles, but I doubt if it will be that significant,” Beatty said. “Most guys who try it are just going to put down their shotguns and pick up their rifles.”
For more information, visit wildohio.com or call (800) WILDLIFE.
Ohio’s 2014-2015 deer hunting seasons:
• Archery: now-Feb. 1, 2015.
• Gun: Dec. 1-7.
• Muzzleloader: Jan. 2-5, 2015.