Proposed 2015-16 Ohio deer season includes smaller bag limits

Posted: February 15, 2015 by gamegetterII in deer hunting
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By Dave Golowenski For The Columbus Dispatch

The regulatory screw on Ohio’s deer hunters likely will get a little tighter next season, though opportunities would change significantly.

Pending approval, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s deer-hunting proposals for next season eliminate the use of antlerless permits in all but 10 urban counties, reduce bag limits in most counties, and cut the statewide bag limit from nine whitetails to six.

Changes also are in order for muzzleloader and shotgun hunters, as well as for those participating in the youth gun season.

Madison, Pickaway and Fairfield in central Ohio would join a large number of counties in southeastern and west-central Ohio where antlerless permits would not be available and only two deer could be taken. Two-deer counties include whitetail strongholds such as Coshocton, Tuscarawas, Harrison, Guernsey, Noble, Athens, Perry, Vinton, Hocking, Morrow and Meigs.

Years of liberal bag limits and heavy whitetail kills led to the proposals, which are designed to curtail the harvest in many traditional deer-heavy counties at least for one season, said wildlife biologist John “Clint” McCoy, a deer specialist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

“Most of those counties are basically where we want them to be in terms of population,” and further paring risks deer densities that are too low to satisfy hunters, he said.

Based on previous results, the elimination of antlerless permits is expected to have a “ significant impact” on reducing the harvest in the affected 78 counties in 2015-16, McCoy said.

Also in the works is the suspension of the October antlerless-only muzzleloader hunt. Moving into that weekend slot would be the statewide youth gun season, which previously was held on a weekend one week before the start of gun week. Harvests declined during the past two youth weekends in November.

“We’re trying to get youths in the woods at a time when they can enjoy a little more comfortable weather,” McCoy said.

An additional two-day gun season has been proposed to take place Dec. 26-27, when many hunters are on break from work. The statewide muzzleloader hunt would be held Jan. 2-5 under the proposals, which were announced last week.

“That’s a short window between the gun weekend and the muzzleloader hunt, but that’s only because it worked out that way this year,” McCoy said. “A year from now, the start of the muzzleloader hunt would fall on Jan. 8.”

One other proposed change is the addition of the .450 Marlin to the list of rifles using straight-walled ammunition that are legal during the statewide gun seasons, including the youth weekend.

Franklin and Delaware counties would be among six urban counties in which four deer permits can be used. One of the four may be an antlerless permit. The other four-permit counties are Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Lucas and Summit.

Antlerless permits would be legal in the

10 urban counties from the start of the archery season, Sept. 26, through the day before gun week, Nov. 29.

Three-deer counties include Licking, Union and Knox in central Ohio. As usual, only one buck may be taken each hunting year.

The wildlife division proposed that small-game hunting seasons should continue during the Dec. 26-27 gun weekend.

The proposals must be approved by the Ohio Wildlife Council. Open houses, which give the public an opportunity to offer comments about hunting, trapping and fishing regulations and wildlife issues, are scheduled on March 7 at wildlife district offices in Columbus, Akron, Findlay and Athens. Comments are accepted at the website wildohio.com through March 8.

A statewide hearing on the proposals is scheduled for 9 a.m. on March 19 at the wildlife District One office, 1500 Dublin Rd.

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