Deer Gun Season Opens Statewide December 1st

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Approximately 450,000 hunters are expected to participate in this year's statewide deer-gun season that begins Monday, December 1, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

"Hunters will have more opportunities in a number of counties to take antlerless deer this year because of the expanded hunting zones," said Mike Tonkovich, a forest wildlife biologist with ODNR. "With a white-tailed deer population estimated around 681,000, we anticipate a harvest of 120,000 to 125,000 during this time period."

The deer-gun season will be open each day from Monday, December 1, through Sunday, December 7, from a half-hour before sunrise to sunset. Ohio is divided into three deer hunting zones. A limit of one deer may be taken in Zone A (29 counties) or Zone R (5 counties). Hunters may take a second deer in Zone B (54 counties) by purchasing additional deer permits. Hunters may purchase up to four urban deer permits to take antlerless deer only within the urban deer zones. Urban deer zones are located around Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Toledo, Dayton and Cincinnati.

Hunters may take a deer of either sex during the deer-gun season, except in the five-county Zone R, where a deer of either sex may be taken during the first two days of the season and an antlered buck only during the remaining five days. Zone R lies primarily in northwestern and western Ohio.

A deer permit is required in addition to a valid Ohio hunting license. Hunters may take only one antlered deer, regardless of zone, hunting method or season. During the seven-day gun season, hunters must visibly wear a vest, coat, jacket or coveralls that are either solid hunter orange or camouflage hunter orange. A hunter orange hat or cap alone does not satisfy legal requirements during the deer-gun season. Hunters may use 10, 12, 16, 20, 28 or .410-gauge shotguns; handguns with five-inch minimum barrels, using straight-walled cartridges of .357 caliber or larger; muzzleloading rifles of at least .38 caliber or larger; longbows or crossbows. Rifled barrels are permitted when using shotgun slug ammunition.

It is illegal to take a deer with a shotgun capable of holding more than three deer slugs, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler that can only be removed by disassembling the gun. Since the three-shot limit was enacted in Ohio, deer-gun season hunting accidents have been reduced one-third statewide.

Temporary deer tags no longer have adhesive backing. The deer tag must now be separated from the deer permit and tied to the deer. All harvested deer must be properly tagged before they are removed from the field and taken to a check station.

Hunters are reminded that since the Division of Wildlife synchronized the sale of hunting and fishing licenses to coincide on March 1 of each year, hunting licenses purchased in spring 2003 are valid through the end of February 2004.

Only deer, waterfowl (in season), wild boar and coyote may be hunted in daylight hours during the statewide deer-gun season.

Targeted monitoring of Ohio's deer herd has been in effect since June 2002 and has found no sign of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The ODNR Division of Wildlife will continue surveillance of the state's deer herd and the Ohio Department of Agriculture will test random samples of deer from deer check stations during the statewide deer gun season. A scientific protocol has been developed to determine how many deer should be tested across the state, so the public can be assured that CWD does not exist in Ohio.

Additional hunting regulations and maps of the state's deer zones are contained in the 2003-2004 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations Digest. This free publication is available where hunting licenses are sold and from the ODNR Division of Wildlife by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE. It is also available on the Internet at .

Deer hunting contributes an estimated $266 million to Ohio's economy each year and helps to support thousands of jobs. Deer hunters also contribute thousands of pounds of venison to organizations that help feed less fortunate Ohio residents through special programs such as Safari Club International's Sportsmen Against Hunger program.