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Officials monitor deer population

Recent drops in the deer population have placed strict limitations on hunters in Ross, Pike, Scioto, Vinton, Jackson and Lawrence counties this year.

Tuesday, November 16, 1999

Recent drops in the deer population have placed strict limitations on hunters in Ross, Pike, Scioto, Vinton, Jackson and Lawrence counties this year.

When deer gun season begins Nov. 29, hunters will only be allowed to claim one deer before the Dec. 5 closing date, said Dr. Michael Tonkovich, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife research biologist.

"We’ve projected the deer population to be below target this fall, as it has been for the past four seasons," Tonkovich said. "We’re projecting that the buck harvest will be down this year. In 1998, we allowed hunters to bag two deer, one of either sex, but this year, we will only allow one deer."

Based on the number of vehicle-deer accidents, and the previous year’s buck harvest, wildlife biologists like Tonkovich decide how much hunting is necessary to control the wildlife population without depleting a species.

"In the state, we have a target population level that we would like to see the deer at or very near," Tonkovich said. "The number of bucks harvested during gun season is a reliable index to the size of the deer population. If it was up 10 percent this year, more than likely the population was up. The reason we can do this is because everything else is held at a constant."

The drop in deer population, however, probably means local hunters will be limited in the amount of deer they are allowed to kill for at least another two to three years, Tonkovich said.

"The herd isn’t replacing itself and the population has begun to decline," he said. "I’m guessing it will take about two to three years to replenish."

Outlawing hunting completely would not be the answer, however, said Mike Taylor, Division of Wildlife law enforcement supervisor for district four.

"Hunting’s a necessary part of the job, because you can’t stop the critters from reproducing," Taylor said. "And hunting and trapping are the only logical financial means of reducing the population."

But the seasons must be controlled so that not too many are killed, and the animals are given enough time to regroup, Taylor added.

"During the summer reproduction months we don’t allow hunting so that the wildlife will have time to replenish itself," he said.

And violating hunting laws should never be considered, Taylor said.

Hunting rules and regulations are in place to protect both the hunter and the wildlife. And a hunter could end up in court for violating one of the season’s laws.

"It varies from court to court, but the maximum penalty on a first offense deer violation, which is a misdemeanor of the third degree, is a possible fine of $500, up to 90 days in jail, loss of hunting privileges for a year, and, if the deer is illegal, another $400 fine because something of value has been taken from the state," Taylor said. "The ownership of the wildlife belongs to all the people, and it is up to the Division of Wildlife to manage that wildlife and enforce the rules."

With different hunting seasons, and the ability to hunt outside of the hunter’s residential area just a permit away, violations do not occur too often, Taylor said.

"By far, more comply than don’t comply," he said.

When deer gun season comes in Monday after Thanksgiving Day, here are a few of the regulations hunters should be seen complying with:

– All deer taken must be checked at an official deer check station in the county where taken or in an adjacent county in the deer gun zone where killed. Lawrence County is in zone B.

– Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

– All hunters must visibly wear a vest, coat, jacket or coveralls of either solid hunter orange or camouflage hunter orange.

– Shotgun hunters may not possess and use a shotgun capable of holding more than three deer slugs.

– Legal hunting implements include 10, 12, 16, 20, 28 or .410 gauge shotgun using one ball or one rifled slug per barrel; or muzzle loading rifle .38 caliber or larger; or handgun with 5-inch minimum length barrel, .357 magnum, .41 magnum, or .44 magnum, .45 Long Colt, or .357 maximum; or long bow or crossbow.

– Carry a note giving written permission for hunting when on private land.