If you pursued whitetails the last two years in Ohio, the 2012 season must have felt strangely similar to 2011. Like a deer hunting version of the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray, the 2012 season was virtually a repeat of 2011.

“The 2012 harvest differed from the 2011 harvest by less than 1,000 deer,” said Mike Tonkovich, deer program administrator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). “While there are many regulation changes this year, I would expect that we should be within 5-7 percent of last year’s harvest.

In other words, Groundhog Day for deer hunters in 2013.

Regulation Changes
One change is that the ODNR extended legal shooting hours for all firearms seasons. Beginning this fall it will be ½ hr. before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset, which is what’s it’s been for archery hunters for years. There will also be an antlerless-only muzzleloader season Oct. 12-13. Hunters must wear blaze orange, and they’re free to use archery equipment as well.

The December bonus gun season has been eliminated, and bag limits are now county-specific, rather than zone-specific. In addition, antlerless deer permits ($15) will not be valid after December 1, 2013. For more changes, see the Deer Hunting Digest.

Thankfully, epizootic hemorrhagic disease has not been too big of a problem this year. While some local deer herds were wiped out by the disease last year, populations will be able to rebound within a couple years.

Public Land
Southern Ohio has good public hunting land, thanks to agreements the state has with American Electric Power and MeadWestvaco Timber Company. Lands in Game Districts 4 and 5 provide some of the best public hunting in the state.