New Deer Population Estimate

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A new method of estimating the state's white-tailed deer herd is providing state wildlife biologists a clearer picture of Ohio's deer population, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. The Division of Wildlife estimates Ohio's deer herd to be approximately 681,000 this fall.

"Our previous model was based on a formula that used data primarily from the deer gun hunting season," said Dave Risley, executive administrator of ODNR's Wildlife Management and Research Group.

"Hunting methods have changed with the times, and the steadily growing numbers of successful archery and muzzleloader hunters have caused us to revise our method of estimating the deer population."

The new, refined survey method, shows a larger deer herd than measured by the previous method. State wildlife biologists point out that the deer population now is actually lower than it was at this time last year. Last's year's population was estimated at 575,000, but using this year's method, the deer population would have been estimated at 685,000.

The new method incorporates the total deer harvest in each county, along with birthrates, into models that project population size. Wildlife biologists point out that while the previous technique was useful in monitoring population trends, it likely underestimated the actual number of deer in Ohio.

Risley said along with the new model, biologists will expand the number of aerial surveys conducted during winter to provide a secondary means of estimating deer density.

Deer densities vary widely across Ohio. East-central and southeastern Ohio densities are between 25 to 35 deer per square mile. Densities are much lower in agricultural areas of central and western Ohio, about 5 to 10 deer per square mile.

Excellent weather and unrestricted Sunday hunting contributed to a record harvest of 204,652 deer last year. Lower deer densities than in many surrounding states have allowed Ohio to maintain high antler quality and healthy deer. Ohio has long been recognized as having a high-quality and healthy deer herd. Ohio ranked fourth nationally in the combined number of entries into the Pope & Young and Boone & Crockett record books from 1990 to 1999. Testing in 2002 found no evidence of Chronic Wasting Disease or tuberculosis in Ohio.

"We expect to have a great deer season in 2003 and are excited about the new youth deer gun season," said Risley. "If conditions are normal we expect a total harvest of 185,000 to 195,000 deer this year for all the deer hunting seasons."

The archery season opens October 4 and lasts through January 31, 2004. A new youth deer gun season will be held on Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23 on both private and public lands. The statewide deer gun season will be held from December 1 through December 7. The statewide primitive or muzzleloader season will open on December 27 and run four days through December 30. Special area primitive hunts will be open October 20 to 25 at Salt Fork, Shawnee and Wildcat Hollow state wildlife areas for antlered deer only.

A detailed list of deer hunting rules is contained in the 2003-2004 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Digest that is available where licenses are sold, or may be viewed online at ohiodnr.com