OCF Attends DOW Deer Hunter Summit

OCF Attends First DOW Deer Hunter Summit

Alongside 25 prominent sportsmen & women, including Gary Oates (Board member, USSA), Cheryl Leffman (President, Ohio Bowhunters Assoc.), John Hobbs (VP, League of Ohio Sportsmen), Larry Moore (Buckeye Firearms Assoc.), Scott Popplewell (Past President, Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters), Lonnie Sparkman (Lake County Rod and Gun Club), Tom Young (Whitetails Unlimited), and Mike Betts (Betts Archery, Arcadia Ohio) amongst others, OCF’s Vice President Matt Misicka attended the first DOW Deer Hunter Summit:

Deer Hunter Summit

17 March 2014

Columbus, Ohio: DOW District One Headquarters

The meeting, facilitated by Susie Vance (Executive Administrator for Information and Education), began with the participants introducing themselves, who they represented, and what issues were key to them.  Given the opportunity, I echoed the sentiments of Gary Oates and John Hobbs regarding the importance of protecting the process of DOW rule-making; from informed, science-based proposals through unfettered approval by the Wildlife Council and JCARR (Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review).

Leading off the event was Ken Fitz (Executive Administrator of Law Enforcement) reporting on the past history, hard work, and recent developments that lead to the creation of a Pistol-Cartridge-Rifle proposal for the 2014 deer season.  If approved by the Wildlife Council and JCARR, Ohio hunters will be allowed to use rifles chambered for straight-walled pistol cartridges for the first time ever this season.  The Buckeye Firearms Association was a driving force behind this process and their due diligence in getting the Ohio Farm Bureau on board was instrumental.

Next up was DOW Deer Biologist Mike Tonkovich.  Mike talked about the ”most successful, least understood deer management tool”; the $15 antlerless deer permit.  Proposed changes are in the works for this coming season that will result in fewer doe tags being available in some areas.  Approaching the deer density goals set many years ago is like landing an airplane on a windy day; as you get closer to the end of the runway, it means adjusting a little up, a little down, a little left, a little right.  DOW’s team of experts are piloting the state’s deer herd in for as smooth a landing as possible in an effort to keep all their passengers as happy as possible. Mike concluded by introducing the newest addition to DOW’s deer management team, Deer Biologist Clint McCoy.

Clint laid out for the audience perhaps the most exciting news of the evening; new Deer Management Units are under development.  Working with an OSU post-doc to gather and analyze the best data available, DOW will gather detailed information from hunters regarding harvest rates and use landscape features rather than county lines to establish up to six regional units.  Over the next two years, those units will be further divided and refined using major roads and rivers as boundaries.

Lastly, DOW Chief Scott Zody addressed the requested increase to non-resident hunting licenses and deer permits.  With the additional money raised, DOW will better able to leverage the influx of Pittman Robertson funds for projects including long-term shooting range projects, expanding archery ranges in Metro parks and State parks, and strategic land purchases that don’t add significantly to maintenance and management costs.  Even with the increase, the health and quality of Ohio’s deer herd is expected to keep out-of-state hunters booking hotel rooms, buying groceries and spending money in communities around the state from October through January.

The evening wrapped up with an open period of questions & answers.  Overall the participants were happy with the meeting. The published summary included numerous comments supportive of the division’s direction, wished it could have lasted longer, and hoped that meetings would occur in all the districts in the future.  Participants reported that hunter access, nuisance permits, herd health & size, non-resident fees, and keeping politics out of the rule-making process remain high on the list of future concerns.

Thanks to the Division for putting on this event!

Submitted by Matt Misicka