Opening Day Deer-Gun Harvest Down

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Hunters took 43,052 deer on December 1, opening day of the popular statewide deer-gun season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. The deer-gun season remains open through Sunday, December 7.

The preliminary figure obtained from deer check stations throughout the state represents a 5 percent decrease from last year's opening day total of 45,296. Counties reporting the highest numbers of deer checked on Monday included

* Coshocton - 1,901;

* Tuscarawas - 1,590;

* Guernsey - 1,536;

* Muskingum - 1,436;

* Harrison - 1,400;

* Washington - 1,374;

* Holmes - 1,301;

* Licking - 1,257;

* Athens - 1,208;

* and Jackson - 1,153.

Despite strong, gusty winds hunters experienced a great opening day. A covering of snow in many northeast Ohio counties, some of which went from a one-deer to two-deer limit this year, generated an increase in the number of deer taken in that region. In northwest Ohio, the number of deer taken increased 11 percent. Last year hunters took a record total of 204,652 deer during all the hunting seasons.

"Over recent years, we have seen a change in the pattern of deer hunting with an increasing number of deer being killed during the four-month archery season, as opposed to the week-long gun season. We are also seeing the distribution of deer taken spreading beyond southeast Ohio to more of a statewide kill," said Steven A. Gray, chief of the ODNR Division of Wildlife.

Early numbers from the deer-archery season showed hunters took advantage of days afield before the deer-gun season. In the first six weeks of archery season, hunters harvested 36,241 deer. And 5,208 deer were taken in last weekend's first-ever youth deer-gun season. Approximately 450,000 hunters are expected to participate in the statewide deer-gun season this week. The statewide deer population was estimated to be 681,000 prior to the start of the fall hunting seasons.

A total of five hunting incidents were reported on opening day. One was a fatality in Knox County that is still under investigation.

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

A detailed listing 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