Ohio Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

Last year, Ohio's deer harvest dipped by 20,000 deer. Most of that deficit occurred during the deer-gun season, where Ohio hunters bagged 90,282 whitetails compared to 105,000 deer during the 2010 gun-deer hunt. Mike Tonkovich, deer project leader for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR), credited most of the decline to torrential rains that pounded deer and deer hunters on opening day of the gun season. Deer were hunkered down and many hunters headed indoors--or never left home.

Click here for the forecast of your state's 2012 deer season.

Ohio has an estimated deer population of between 700,000 and 750,000 animals, and the herd is generally stable, Tonkovich said.

"We have no health or disease issues to report in our deer," says Tonkovich. "As of early spring, our herd remained disease free."

By mid-August, there were no reports of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in Ohio. But with deer dying from EHD in border states of Indian and Michigan, Tonkovich says he wouldn't be surprised if EHD showed up in Ohio by summer's end.

Deer are increasingly a political issue in Ohio. The Ohio Farm Bureau, for example, has lobbied to have deer hunters kill up to twice as many deer annually as they are currently taking, as a way to lower the amount of crop damage. The Bureau won't get its wish this season, as the Ohio DNR has implemented only very minor changes for this fall's hunt.

Those Ohio archery hunters who want to fill the freezer should consider hunting in urban units and take part in Division of Wildlife-authorized controlled hunts. As was the case last year, urban units and controlled hunts will again have a six-deer bag limit, and those deer will not count against the hunter's zone bag limit.

Ohio's definitely been growing bigger bucks over the last decade. The state's 215 entries in the Boone and Crockett books from 2005 to 2010 put Ohio at #4 for all states -- compare that to the 14th rank it had in the B&C lists between 1980 to 1985, with just 16 entries!

Buckeye State bucks usually reach the peak of their rutting behavior during the second and third weeks of November.

The Midwestern Regional Report
_Winter in the Midwest was mild to nonexistent, and deer herds came into spring in very good shape. However, drought could be an issue in some states. "Hard and soft mast crops will likely be compromised, and clover and row crop production is threatened by dry conditions," says Iowa deer biologist Tom Litchfield. In parts of Indiana and Illinois, some farmers were forced to plow under failing corn or chop it up for cattle feed in midsummer.

Deer numbers are stable to growing in most locales, though disease is taking a toll in several states. North Dakota is still reeling from last year's EHD outbreak, CWD is spreading within Illinois and Wisconsin, bovine tuberculosis is still a concern in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and Nebraska and Missouri experienced EHD outbreaks this summer._

Top Trophy Zones
IL: Pike, Adams, Brown, and Fulton counties. KS: Units 11, 12, and 16.
KY: Christian, Grayson, Hardin, Hart, Muhlenberg, and Ohio counties.
MI: Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties. MN: Zone 3. This fall will be the third year of antler-point restrictions here.
MO: Saline, Putnam, Calloway, Chariton, and Cooper counties.
NE: Since 2005, hunters have taken 44 record-book mule deer bucks in Cherry County, including a 171 2⁄8 typical in 2010 and a 210 4⁄8 non-typical in 2005.
OH: Muskingum County. WI: Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Waupaca counties. Between 2005 and 2010, the Dairy State led all other states with 383 Boone and Crockett entries.