Ohio's archery deer harvest has increased 11 consecutive years
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Don Sharp is seeing the usual seasonal burst of activity at his Willowick archery shop.
With the start of Ohio's four-month-long archery deer hunting season now just a few days away, Don's Archery Shop, located at 30540 Lakeland Blvd., is busy addressing the needs of bowmen.
What exactly these hunters will find beginning Saturday is a matter of importance to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, as well as for Sharp.
Increasingly, Wildlife Division officials say, Ohio's longbow and crossbow archers are accounting for a good portion of the state's annual deer kill.
"We're starting to see more shooters come in as we get closer to the opener," Sharp said. "We're also replacing a lot of worn bow strings, plus other repairs to bows."
Sharp says his shop also is catering to hunters who need to qualify for municipal permitted, controlled archery deer hunts. Among those communities that require passing an archery test are Kirtland City, Bentleyville Township and Moreland Hills Township.
Those communities notwithstanding, the Wildlife Division believes that up to 350,000 of the state's deer hunters will take to the fields and forests armed with some form of archery tackle. That's about eight in 10 Ohio deer hunters, said Mike Tonkovich, the Wildlife Division's deer management administrator.
"It seems that during the old days we'd get excited about killing 20,000 animals with archery equipment," Tonkovich says. "Not anymore."
Last year, all Ohio deer hunters killed 261,260 deer. Among them were a record 91,546 deer taken by archery tackle, including 49,065 animals killed by crossbow archers.
The 91,546 deer taken by archers also represented a 7 percent increase, Tonkovich said.
"That figure has been increasing, too — excluding a slight drop in 2005," Tonkovich said. "The 2009 harvest marked the 11th consecutive year for an increase in the archery deer harvest.
"Fully 35 percent of our total deer harvest is taken by archers. That is very high when compared to the archery deer harvest in other states."
However, good, bad or otherwise, Tonkovich said, biologists are seeing an "equilibrium" on what hunters can do in the way of harvesting animals and what the state's deer population is capable of doing.
It is believed Ohio's deer population is about 750,000, up about 5 percent, Tonkovich said.
"The deer population is increasingly ever so slightly, but we're just not catching up with it," Tonkovich said.
"The days of dramatic swings in the deer harvest are behind us."
Beyond there simply being more deer to hunt, Tonkovich credits the popularity of crossbows with doing their part in deer management strategies.
"Take away that crossbow harvest and the archery harvest is going to be comparable to other Midwest states," Tonkovich said.
"My other comment on crossbows is that as hunters age they are going to more ‘user-friendly' seasons and equipment. The gun season can be very cold, and with the four-month-long archery season, you can be much more flexible."
Archery also offers more opportunities, since there is an increasing number of communities that offer archery-only opportunities, Tonkovich said.
"But that's true across the country as well," he said.
While no specific statistics are available, it is believed fewer archers travel to deer camps than shotgun hunters. That means archery hunters are more likely to anchor themselves much closer to home for a few hours in the morning or the evening.
"I'd absolutely say that, yes," Tonkovich said.
"Many of our hunters are multi-disciplined hunters who use a variety of tools."
Still, Tonkovich notes, it is important to recognize the majority of deer the state's hunters kill are still being taken during the shotgun season, including the bonus two-day weekend hunt in December.
"These seasons accounted for 134,130 deer harvested last year — and that was just during nine days of gun hunting vs. four months for the archery season," Tonkovich said.
What Tonkovich is now stressing deals with the shooting of this year's male deer, called "button bucks." Last year, Ohio's deer hunters shot 32,943 button bucks, about one-third of which were killed by archery hunters. Take a pass on these critters if you can, Tonkovich said.
"Given the opportunity to get a deer in close, it may be time to think twice about shooting a button buck and focus on shooting a doe," Tonkovich said.
"You really don't do much to help reduce the deer population by killing a button buck. There likely will be an opportunity to harvest a mature doe or a doe fawn at some point."
Ultimately, Ohio's archery deer hunters can expect a season very similar to that experienced last year. More specifically, Deer Zone A, which consists of northwest Ohio and a couple of western Ohio counties, and Deer Zone B will see a slightly larger harvest, relative to Deer Zone C
"Either zones will be near what they were or slightly up," Tonkovich said.
Tonkovich believes that when all is said and done, the state's deer hunters will kill between 255,000 and 265,000 animals by all means and during all seasons.
On the down side for archery hunters is an abundant mast crop.s situation could negatively affect archery hunters, since it will become more of a problem to pattern deer. That is because the animals will find and stick with a patch of well-producing white oak trees, Tonkovich said.
"Unless you're in the middle of deer, it may be difficult to find them," Tonkovich said.
"In essence, deer will be found almost anywhere. That's much less of an issue, though, during the deer firearms hunting season."
Come one now...last year there weren't enough acorns...this year there are too many?