DOW's chief biologist expects few changes to deer regulations
about 8 hours ago
By ART HOLDEN
Daily Record Outdoor Editor
The 20010-11 deer hunting season is in the books, and though Division of Wildlife chief whitetail biologist Dr. Mike Tonkovich doesn't have the "official" final numbers in yet, he's seen enough to know that no major changes in deer hunting regulations are slated for the foreseeable future.
"Right now, the ball park figure is (a harvest of) 235,000," said Tonkovich, the Division of Wildlife's deer management administrator. "And folks need to keep in mind, even if the harvest is off, I don't feel we have fewer deer."
Last year, the Ohio deer harvest was a record 261,314, and the year before that, 252,017.
There are several factors that play into yearly harvest totals, chief among them weather conditions. This year, severe weather during the muzzleloader season cut into harvest numbers. But what may be the biggest factor this year could have been a bountiful acorn crop.
"There's some validity to the entire mast argument," said Tonkovich. "You couldn't buy an acorn in the woods last year. The squirrels were going nuts looking for acorns and this year is just the opposite."
Squirrel road kills were up last year as the bushy-tails were on the move looking for acorns. The same for deer. Last year they were constantly searching for mast crops, and this year they didn't have a problem finding an area to put on the feed bag.
Backing up that statistic is that last year the Ohio Department of Transportation picked up 18,000 deer from roadways, and this year the number dropped to 15,000.
Numbers, though, are just that -- numbers, and Tonkovich is extremely cautious to base his findings strictly on any totals -- let alone harvest totals.
The public, though, as well as the media, can better relate to numbers -- such as herd size, harvest totals, and licenses sold.
One number the Division of Wildlife used this year was 750,000, as in three-quarters of a million deer prior to the start of the fall hunting season.
Tonkovich says that number is irrelevant when it comes to The Division of Wildlife's management of the whitetail deer.
"We don't manage deer on a statewide population. We manage deer on the county level," said Tonkovich. "In my opinion, 750,000 is a low number. It's a harvest-based total. It's an index, and keep in mind that it changes from one year to the next."
Tonkovich pointed out that without a hunting season, he has no doubt that the deer population "would explode." Hunting is the chief tool the Division of Wildlife uses to manage the herd, and liberal hunting regulations should remain in effect not only for next year's hunting season, but for the next 3-5 years as well.
"We're committed to reducing the population to goal," said Tonkovich. "We're going to keep after them."
Tonkovich says hunting pressure has had a "flat" effect on Wayne County and Holmes County deer populations. "There's been no measurable impact on populations," he said.
In Holmes County, one of the state's top deer-hunting counties, the target goal is 9,500 deer, with the (2009) pre-hunt estimate at 16,000. Numbers are based on buck harvest, bow hunter observations and road kill to name a few. Since 2005, the buck harvest in Holmes County has run right around 2,000, plus or minus 200.
"It's just a frame of reference," said Tonkovich. "They're minimum population numbers."
Maybe the best news Tonkovich got this year when it comes to the public's view of the Division of Wildlife's management of the whitetail population, is the absence of disgruntled hunters.
"I've not heard boo from people," said Tonkovich. "Hunters haven't asked, 'What happened to the deer?' There's not a lot of unhappy hunters out there."
I have to admit though... I thought i heard it all.... I expected the same old "weather" excuse.. And the same old "Food excuse"... BUT Citing Squirrel road kill totals being down as an excuse as to why deer harvests are down predominantly statewide is a new one.. Why does the tap dancing Planters peanut come to mind when i read this..