It is mainly good news for Ohio deer hunters, with liberal tag availability and continued efforts to reduce overabundant deer in some counties.
Ohio deer hunters may not get overly excited about the forecast, but they should still be smiling. Everything is lining up for a great deer hunting season.
After changes to some management zones and regulations, with some shuffling of deer tag availability, the prediction is for a harvest of approximately 200,000 whitetails. Bag limits remain very liberal in many areas. Some hunters will be able to harvest as many as six deer during the season in some zones by hunting different counties. Other counties will allow four, three, or two deer limits.
Antlerless tags remain fairly controlled, with single antlerless permits per hunter in four counties and a three-deer limit in four of the northern counties. No antlerless tags will be available this season in Union, Licking, Fairfield, Pickaway, or Madison.
Mike Tonkovich, a deer project leader for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, has identified there will likely be an increase of 5-10 percent in the Ohio deer harvest this season from last season. Namely, it's a result of rebounding deer numbers from sound management.
Liberal bag numbers were also maintained in some counties resulting from an overabundance of deer and farm owners reporting an increase in crop and property damage. That signaled a need to further control whitetail numbers. Controlling an overabundance of deer also points towards having better quality bucks, as there is less competition for important mast feeds and browse which will produce better deer in fewer numbers.
If a harvest of 200,000 deer is achieved, it will be a benchmark not seen since the 2012-2013 season when over 218,910 whitetails were taken.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife will continue to monitor and adjust regulations moving forward based on deer populations, landowner feedback, and harvest data. When it's all said and done, Ohio should continue to have a balanced approach that will satisfy hunters and interested parties alike.