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Biologists and Hunters Debate Over Size of Ohio Deer Herd

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The debate at the Ohio Deer Summit last week was primarily on the size of the deer herd in Ohio. 

Hunters, farmers, and biologists all met at the Ohio Deer Summit on Saturday and argued over the size of the Ohio deer herd.

Mike Tonkovich, in charge of managing the Ohio deer population, told the eager crowd that the Ohio deer herd is shrinking by design to benefit the Buckeye State in the long run.

Tonkovich told reporters, “If I’m hated equally by both hunters and farmers, then I must be doing my job.”

Tonkovich said the Ohio deer population grew beyond its capacity, meaning less food for bucks which results in fewer fawns reproduced. He argued for the current policies that will result in higher quality deer, not just larger quantities.

Denny Malloy, director of Whitetail Unlimited, said Ohio’s management plan is too akin to neighboring states, many of which have seen a decline in deer population. This year Ohio hunters harvested 170,000 deer, this number down from the record set in 2009-2010 with 261,260 harvests.

Malloy told reporters, “We’re seeing (wildlife agencies) creating new science and coming up with new management policies for deer. They’ve created a new suit when the old suit had worked pretty well (for sportsmen). Maybe there’s a problem with the new science. Wildlife officials have to remember the wildlife agency works for us, the people who buy licenses and permits, not farmers.”

Bob McKinney, a landowner and farmer of Freeport, agreed with Tonkovich;

We need to kill six to 10 deer each year to keep the population in check, and some years as many as 13 deer. I have 14 trail cameras set up. Because of the hunting pressure during the early archery and black powder rifle seasons, I can tell you that 90 percent of the deer are nocturnal by the time the gun season rolls around.

Tonkovich said they have plans to do more research come spring, and plan on speaking to both hunters and farmers about future deer conservation.

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Biologists and Hunters Debate Over Size of Ohio Deer Herd