The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has counted every Ohio whitetail taken by legal means for the 2016 -2017 season. The results show a steady decline over the last seven years.
The ODNR reported that 182,169 whitetail deer were harvested statewide this season. This is down slightly from the 2015 -2016 season, which saw hunters check in 188,329 Ohio whitetail. The largest one-year decline came in the 2014 -2015 season. That was expected, due to reduced harvest regulations implemented prior to the season according to Mike Tonkovich of the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
Mike Barnabi discussed in Columbus Monthly some theories about this trend affecting Ohio whitetail hunting. He believes one factor is an exploding coyote population that has lead to increased fawn kills across the state. Another, is the shift from gun hunting to archery hunting over the last 25 years. As recent as the early 1990’s, the week long gun season accounted for 90% of Ohio whitetails taken. Now, bowhunters and crossbow hunters account for the majority of deer harvested in the buckeye state during a four month long season.
One thing that is certain is Ohio’s popularity as a destination state for trophy bucks has increased. No longer a “sleeper state” native Ohioans now have to share their herd with an influx of out of state hunters. Trophy caliber deer, along with an inexpensive over the counter non-resident license has been an economic boon for Ohio. According to the ODNR, hunting has an $853 million impact statewide, and Ohio ranks 11th in the nation in hunting-related jobs.
Ohio also ranks fifth in the nation in resident hunters. When you add up all the factors it’s easy to understand why harvest totals are down. Nevertheless, there are 6 Ohio whitetails that are top ten Pope and Young, and Boone and Crocket. Of those record book deer killed, 3 have been since 2000. (Remember the Coffman Buck from 2015?) That’s enough of a reason for me to make my way to the Buckeye state. Reduced harvest totals aside, I plan on hunting for my own Ohio whitetail in the fall of 2018.