Archers rule annual Ohio deer harvest

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

The number of hunters chasing deer with archery equipment in Ohio continues to grow. During the 2020-21 deer season, 48% of deer were taken with archery equipment, including 33% using a crossbow and 15% using a vertical bow. Overall, archery hunters harvested more than 93,000 deer last season, the highest total on record. 

Deer hunting is open in all 88 counties and an estimated 310,000 hunters participate. In 2020, nearly 410,000 deer permits were purchased or issued. Hunters harvested 197,735 deer during the 2020-21 season. Among the total were 80,003 bucks, accounting for 40% of the total harvest. Does represented 48% of the harvest with 94,771 taken, while 19,629 button bucks were taken, for 10%. Bucks with shed antlers and bucks with antlers less than 3 inches long accounted for 3,332 deer, or 2% of the harvest. Deer harvest summaries can be found on the Deer Harvest Summary page at wildohio.gov. 

Ohio offers plenty of opportunities for hunters of all ages to pursue deer both with bow and gun. Young hunters had a chance to harvest a deer during the youth gun weekend, Nov. 20-21. The statewide deer gun season opened Monday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 5, and again on Dec. 18-19. Deer muzzleloader season is open Saturday, Jan. 8, through Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. You can find complete details in the 2021-22 Ohio Hunting Regulations. 

Landowners can now receive an incentive to allow hunters access during specific hunting seasons through the Ohio Landowner and Hunter Access Partnership Program. Visit the Ohio Landowner and Hunter Access Partnership Program page at wildohio.gov to sign up as a landowner or hunter. For those who want to try hunting Ohio’s public land, go to wildohio.gov for a list of locations. 

A favorite app of mine, the free HuntFish OH mobile app can be downloaded to conveniently purchase fishing and hunting licenses, check game, view wildlife area maps, and much more. The HuntFish OH mobile app is available for Android and iOS users and can be found in the app store. Users can access the Division of Wildlife’s online system to check harvested deer while out in the field, even without a Wi-Fi connection. 

The Division of Wildlife wants to help new and experienced hunters alike make the most of their outdoor pursuits. You can visit the Wild Ohio Harvest Community page at wildohio.gov for information on getting started, hunting opportunities, and wild game recipes.

CWD testing area expanded

Speaking of deer hunting, testing for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Ohio’s white-tailed deer population is continuing through the 2021-22 hunting season. CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer and other similar species, including mule deer, elk, and moose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no strong evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans.

Two CWD-positive wild deer were confirmed during the 2020-21 hunting season in Wyandot County. A disease surveillance area has been established in response to the confirmed cases, and intensive monitoring will continue for at least three years in Wyandot County as well as portions of Hardin and Marion counties.

Specific regulations apply to hunters who harvest a deer in the specified area, including mandatory testing during the seven-day gun season, Nov. 29 – Dec. 5. In-person sampling is available at the Big Island Wildlife Area Headquarters, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area Headquarters, and the Wyandot County Fairgrounds on those dates. Self-serve kiosks are also available. A list of kiosk locations and instructions can be found at ohiodnr.gov/cwd.

In addition to mandatory testing, the following regulations apply within the disease surveillance area:

• Prohibits the placement of or use of salt, mineral supplement, grain, fruit, vegetables, or other feed to attract or feed deer

• Prohibits hunting of deer by the aid of salt, mineral supplement, grain, fruit, vegetables, or other feed

• Prohibits the removal of a complete carcass or high-risk parts from the disease surveillance area, unless the carcass complies with deer carcass regulations or the carcass is delivered to a certified taxidermist or processor within 24 hours of leaving the area. Additional information on carcass regulations and a complete list of certified processors and taxidermists can be found at wildohio.gov.

• Normal agricultural activities, including feeding of domestic animals, as well as hunting deer over food plots, naturally occurring or cultivated plants, and agriculture crops are not prohibited.

To help protect Ohio’s deer herd from CWD, hunters should properly dispose of their deer carcasses by double-bagging all high-risk parts (brain, spinal cord, eyes, and lymphoid tissue) and setting it out with their household garbage for trash pickup. Those without trash pickup can double bag the carcass and take it to a municipal solid waste landfill or bury the carcass at least 3 feet deep on the property of harvest. The proper handling of carcasses, trims, and parts dramatically decreases the odds of spreading CWD.

The Division of Wildlife has conducted routine surveillance for CWD since 2002, with more than 30,000 deer tested. CWD has previously been detected at captive deer breeding facilities in Ohio. CWD has been detected in 26 states and four Canadian provinces.

Hunters may test a harvested deer at the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory for a fee. Call (614) 728-6220 for more information.

Special deer hunt in Seneca County

Also on the topic of whitetail hunting, Seneca County’s Seneca Conservation District is accepting applications for the annual Keith Owen Memorial Deer Hunt for the Mobility Impaired at Miller Conservation Farm, an opportunity offered each year in cooperation with the Tiffin-Seneca chapter of the Izaak Walton League since 1998. This autumn’s hunting will take place through Dec. 3 to give people who have mobility issues the opportunity to enjoy the outdoor experiences associated with deer hunting.

Hunters are chosen randomly through a lottery system for four hunting blinds positioned throughout the farm, each hosting one hunter for each day. Volunteers from the Izaak Walton League will assist hunters to and from their blinds, field dress deer and provide meals.

Anyone interested in participating in the hunt can register for the lottery by visiting conservesenecacounty.com or calling Wildlife Technician Rick Hassinger at (419) 447-7073.

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