2019-20 Deer Hunting Proposals under Consideration

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

February is almost over, the days are getting longer, and the average daily temperatures are slowly creeping up. I’m not going so far as to say that spring is on the way, but there’s hope for those of us who enjoy warmer weather, fresh smells, and the new growth the season brings. The extended weather forecast doesn’t show any major warming trends for the next few days, but that could change. My dad always told me that winter was over by the third week of this month. That meant we wouldn’t have any long-term cold spells to deal with. That usually panned out. His other prediction was that we would have open water by the middle of March. For the most part, that was usually a safe bet. Regardless, while many outdoorsmen are waiting for spring activities, others are already looking forward to next fall’s hunting seasons, especially the deer season.

Proposals for the 2019-2020 deer season were presented to the Ohio Wildlife Council. After public hearings and discussions, season dates, bag limits, and other regulations will be finalized at the Council’s April 10 meeting. The proposed dates are similar to last year starting with the archery season that opens on Saturday, September 28 and ends on Sunday, February 2, 2020. The youth gun season is Saturday and Sunday, November 23 and 24. The regular seven-day gun season opens on the Monday after Thanksgiving, December 2, and wraps up on Sunday, December 8. The bonus weekend is scheduled for December 21 and 22. The proposed deer bag limits are to remain the same for all counties.

Another interesting proposal dealt with first steps toward electronic permitting. It was proposed that hunters be allowed to carry either a printed or electronic version of their valid deer and turkey permits. Hunters are currently required to invalidate their paper permits by filling them out. It was also proposed to allow hunters to transport their deer or turkey to their residence or temporary lodging without a game tag being attached to the animal as long as the permit is properly filled out and the hunter remains with the animal.

Another proposal was to change the name of the antlerless deer permit to deer management permit. The change better reflects the purpose of this bonus permit and reminds hunters about the need and importance of whitetail management practices. The management permits will only be used in 10 counties that have the largest bag limits. Another proposal is to require hunters who harvest a deer within a disease surveillance area (DSA) to deliver the head to an inspection station to check for chronic wasting disease (CWD). This only applies to five townships in Holmes County and two townships in Tuscarawas County. The disease was identified in a captive herd in 2015 and a DSA was designated at that time. A new DSA was designated earlier this year. So far, chronic wasting disease has not been identified in any Ohio free-range deer. This proposed requirement is only for the regular gun season.

CWD is a terminal illness that is contagious potentially causing severe population problems. Nationwide, the overall occurrence of CWD in free-ranging deer and elk is relatively low. However, in several locations where the disease is established, infection rates may exceed 10 percent (1 in 10), and localized infection rates of more than 25 percent (1 in 4) have been reported. According to the maps, the heaviest concentrations of CWD affected areas are located in western Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming. The areas infected in those states have increased dramatically since 2000. There are also major concerns in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Lower Michigan. Counties in western Pennsylvania are also having issues with this disease. Ohio wildlife management specialists are keeping a close eye on the situation. Regulations are in place to control bringing harvested deer across state lines unless specific guidelines are followed.

Hunters have a long wait until the next deer season and some have voiced concern about the local population. From what I’ve heard, there are still a decent number of deer in this neck of the woods. I’ve talked to area hunters who have seen large herds that have “yarded up” for the winter. During harsh weather, these animals concentrate where the food is and range to different areas when the food supply is exhausted. When the weather warms, they return to their normal stomping grounds. Deer management practices try to maintain a deer population that provides quality hunting while taking into consideration societal concerns mostly related to agriculture and transportation. Regardless, deer are the most popular animal hunted in Ohio, and the management practices in place are reflected in the solid numbers and high-quality of our whitetail population.