Weeklong deer gun season in Ohio underway

It’s that time of year again.

Ohio’s deer gun season begins Monday and runs through Dec. 4. There’s also a two-day window (Dec. 17-18).

I recently spoke to Dr. Michael Tonkovich, the deer program administrator in Ohio, for an in-season update and how the deer gun week is setting up.

Tonkovich said the deer season — which began in Sept. with archery — thus far has been one of the strangest of his career with the up-and-down weather and Hemorrhagic Disease. The only thing that seems to make sense is the hardest hit HD counties (based on reports) are also posting the largest harvest decline. Overall, state-wide harvest numbers are down from the three-year average.

As for the deer gun season, Tonkovich said it will be dependent on the weather and the harvest leading up to Monday, including the youth season (which began Nov. 19). If it cools off like it’s supposed to, bow hunters should do well. Cold weather during the youth gun season would have the opposite effect.

Last year, hunters harvested 70,381 deer during the weeklong gun season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

We’ll check in with Tonkovich to see how it turns out when we do another in-season update after the muzzleloader season (Jan. 7-10, 2023).

I talked to Mark Wiley, a wildlife biologist for ODNR who specializes in forest birds (turkeys and grouse) to get a fall season update.

Wiley said the grouse population, including the drumming rates and flush rates, remain at historic lows. Grouse hunter numbers continue to decline. In 2021-22, there were an estimated 2,519 ruffed grouse hunters. The season wraps up today on public land and Jan. 1, 2023, on private land.

Avid grouse hunters in Ohio do a lot of their hunting in Michigan and Minnesota. Both have liberal bag limits of five and plenty of public hunting areas.

I have often wondered why hunters don’t buy a turkey tag when they archery deer hunting in the fall. Turkeys can and do show up during a fall deer archery hunt. Why not buy that tag and take one of those turkeys?

The 2022 season wrapped up Nov. 13 and in select counties exceeded the previous year despite a reduction in the length of the season. Approximately 1,005 wild turkeys were checked this fall compared to 695 in 2021. The fall harvest typically increases in years with an above-average poult index. In 2022, the poult index was 3.0 poults per hen. The 10-year average is 2.7 poults per hen. Approximately, 7,100 fall turkey permits were issued in 2022 compared to 7,470 in 2021.

Until next time, enjoy the outdoors.

Contact Jerry at jkoutdoorconnection@yahoo.com

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