Category Archives: Ohio Deer Hunting

HB 490 Reaches the Senate Ag Committee.

…and so does OCF’s opponent testimony.  The following opponent testimony was submitted in writing to the Senate Agriculture Committee and circulated to the offices of Senate leadership.

November 28, 2014

Chairman Hite, Vice Chair Balderson, Ranking Member Gentile, and Members of the Committee: My name is Matt Misicka and I am the Vice President of the Ohio Conservation Federation.

On behalf of the Ohio Conservation Federation (OCF) and the thousands of Ohio sportsmen and women that its members Buckeye Big Bucks Club, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, and Pheasants Forever represent, I am writing to you today to express our concerns regarding proposed amendments to HB 490 pertaining to (1) the issuance of free deer and turkey permits to any person assisting a mobility impaired hunter, (2) the creation of “deer sanctuary” permits, and (3) House-added language that is in conflict with the Great Lakes Compact.

HB 490’s proposal of free licenses and permits to mobility-impaired hunters and those assisting with the hunt, should be removed.  As written, there are no standard definitions of what constitutes impaired mobility, the type or number of assistants, or duration of the validity of the free licenses and permits. This overly broad perspective is poised for misuse, and as DOW has already issued a directive regarding non-hunting assistants in the field, inclusion of this amendment is unwarranted.

Ohio’s sportsmen and women are overwhelmingly supportive of the Division of Wildlife’s management of our white-tailed deer herd.  DOW’s biologist’s thoughtful scientific approach has developed a strong, healthy deer population, making Ohio a top 10 destination for deer hunting and creating a vibrant economy wrapped around this important natural resource.

OCF strongly opposes the amendment to create “deer sanctuary” permits.  With an economically successful wild population of more than 700,000 wild white-tailed deer in the state, the risks/benefits of creating such permits do not justify the inclusion of such an amendment.  When mistakenly taken from their natural habitat by the well-meaning, the 9 out of 10 fawns “rescued” that are not actually orphaned or abandoned have little chance of surviving if/when returned to the wild.

In light of the recent discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a captive herd in Holmes County, the risk of introducing or transmitting CWD is magnified whenever and wherever deer are confined or raised in captivity. In 2009 the Division of Wildlife (DOW), with the support of the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, implemented a law prohibiting the rehabilitation of deer and fawns in Ohio.  We feel it is in the long-term interest of Ohio and its wild white-tailed deer that regulatory authority remain with the Division of Wildlife, not the Department of Agriculture.

Lastly, OCF and its members are very concerned with water quality and quantity in Lake Erie and its tributaries.  HB 490’s re-definition of “adverse impacts” is a threat to the entire Lake Erie watershed, its fisheries, and its fisherman.  Alongside deer hunting, Lake Erie’s walleye, perch, and waterfowl provide the foundation of a sustainable multi-billion dollar outdoor industry that employs directly or indirectly tens of thousands of Ohioans. Until a clear definition of “adverse impacts” based upon the best science available that takes into account impacts on habitat, flow rate, and water chemistry, OCF urges that this language be stripped from this bill.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony regarding our concerns with HB 490. The Ohio Conservation Federation stands ready to assist Members of this Committee, the Department of Natural Resources, the Governor, and related stakeholders in finding common ground on these issues.

Conserving our world-class waters and wildlife is essential to the health of our state, economy, and hunting heritage.

Sincerely,

Matt Misicka Vice President Ohio Conservation Federation

OCF Welcomes Buckeye Big Buck Club

24 August 2014

Founded in 1957 to recognize the successful efforts of the Division of Wildlife’s management strategies and the growing quality of Ohio’s trophy-caliber deer hunting,  BBBC’s goals include encouraging trophy whitetail hunting in Ohio, maintaining a permanent record of the hunters and their trophies taken in fair chase hunts, fostering wise use of natural resources, and promoting positive relationships between Ohio’s hunters and landowners.  BBBC’s representative to the OCF board will be the organizations current President, Jerry Weingart.  Welcome Jerry and Welcome Buckeye Big Buck Club!

You can learn more about Buckeye Big Buck Club from their website www.buckeyebigbuckclub.org .

Proponent Testimony Submitted for Non-Res Hunting Fee Increase

8 May 2014

Ohio Statehouse, Senate Finance Committee

Today, alongside Adam Wright & Tony Celebrezze (USSA), Larry Mitchell (LOOS), Dan Schneider & Roger Burns (PF), Vicki Mountz, and DOW Chief Scott Zody, I spent the morning at the state house prepared to give proponent testimony supporting DOW’s proposed increase to Non-Resident Hunting Licenses and the creation of a Non-Resident Deer permit.  While I have given opponent testimony on the House side before, I had never given proponent testimony or presented before a senate committee.  As we learned today, unlike a house hearing where one can walk-in, sign-in, and present, it takes pre-registration with the Committee chair’s office at least 24 hours in advance.  You learn something new everyday!  I was able to submit a written copy of the testimony below for the record.

To:          The Honorable Senator Scott Oelslager, Chair, Ohio Senate Finance Committee, MBR Appropriations – 2nd Hearing – Proponent

From:   Ohio Conservation Federation

Re:          Support for Proposed Increase to Non-Resident Hunting Fees (HB 483)

Dear Senators,

Ohio’s reputation for trophy-class white-tailed deer hunting has the Buckeye State regarded nationally as a Top Ten deer-hunting destination, annually selling 38,000 hunting licenses and 41,000 deer permits to non-residents.  Long considered an undervalued state when it comes to charging non-residents to hunt whitetails, the Ohio Conservation Federation’s membership, including the Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio State Trappers Association, and Pheasants Forever, supports the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ proposed modest, non-punitive fee increase for non-residents, with revenues intended to take fullest advantage of available Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Funding.

The proposed increase from $149 to $250 for a Non-Resident hunting license plus a Non-Resident either sex deer permit would move Ohio from 35th to 17th nationally in costs to hunt deer. Even with the proposed increase, Ohio remains an attractive destination, well below the average of the Top Ten deer-hunting states ($400). As part of ODNR’s commitment to increase youth participation in outdoor recreation, the proposed increase does not include a change to the price of licenses for non-resident youth.

Conservatively, even in the unlikely event of a 10-20% decrease in non-resident hunters, revenue is expected to increase by an estimated $3-3.5 million.  The funds from the fee increase will help the Division of Wildlife (DOW) meet the 25% state match requirements, ensuring that we are better able to leverage increasing P-R funding. The additional funds will help the DOW maintain current service levels to both resident and non-resident hunters, anglers and trappers as well as attract new potential customers by improving recruitment, retention and re-activation of sportsmen and women.

Currently, the DOW is in the design phase of a multi-year grant to relocate the Delaware Shooting Range, a fully eligible P-R project with an estimated $5 million total budget ($3.8m P-R share). While there are also plans to improve and develop shooting and archery ranges across the state, a wide variety of other critical projects exist including habitat maintenance & restoration, wildlife research, survey & inventory, facilities operation & development, and hunter education.  In each of these cases, timing and success are dependent upon the availability of cash to match.  The fee increase proposed in the MBR legislation HB 483 is critical to DOW’s ability to successfully carry out these projects in a timely manner.  To the benefit of Ohio’s outdoor heritage, its resident sportsmen and women, and non-resident guests, OCF urges the Ohio Senate to ensure the non-resident license fee increases remain intact in HB 483.

Sincerely,

Matt Misicka

 

 

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

Sportsmen’s Caucus Meeting (Feb 19)

 

Sportsmen’s Caucus Meeting

Wednesday February 19th, 2014

Senate Finance Room, Ohio Statehouse

Unprecedented Meeting: Ohio Division of Wildlife Meets With Members of the Legislature to Explain Proposed Deer Hunting Regulations.

Included amongst the nine Initiatives adopted by the membership of the Ohio Conservation Federation at its inaugural meeting on February 15th, was one directing the OCF to work to support the time tested, successful Wildlife Council system in Ohio and protect the Council from undue political influence.   Work on this Initiative began right away.

OCF’s Vice President Matt Misicka and Policy Director Steve Gray participated in a meeting at the Statehouse facilitated by Senator Joe Uecker (R – Dist 14), chair of the Ohio Legislature’s Sportsmen’s Caucus. The topic of the hour-long meeting focused on the 2014-2015 hunting season’s deer regulations.  Division of Wildlife’s Chief Scott Zody, Assistant Chief Tom Rowan, and Wildlife Management & Research Administrator Dave Kohler gave presentations that included (1) a report on the history and current status of the deer herd in Ohio, (2) the proposed 2014-2015 changes to the county deer bag limits, and (3) the background on the proposed inclusion of rifles chambered for straight-walled pistol cartridges.

State Senator Chris Widener (R – Dist 10) and Allen Armstrong a South Charleston, Ohio farmer and board member of the Ohio Soybean Association engaged the DOW’s representatives with several questions concerning the accuracy of DOW’s assessment of the size of the deer herd and suggested both a return to more liberal bag limits and reinstating the Bonus Weekend.  As has often been the case, where farmers see too many deer and want seasons opened, hunters see too few and want the herd size increased.  Based upon the data presented, collected from 2013 harvest statistics and the number of ODOT reported deer/auto collisions, the deer population appears to being steadily decreasing as planned towards the targeted levels established many years back.  Subsequently, like landing an airplane on a fast approaching runway, the biologists at DOW are trying to make small adjustments to the bag limits to bring the herd and the public’s expectations into a sustainable balance while at the same time generating continued interest by giving deer hunters the opportunity to use rifles chambered for a select set of pistol cartridges for the very first time.

Alongside the OCF, five other groups were represented: Larry Moore (Buckeye Firearms Assoc), John Hobbs (Ohio Bowhunters Assoc), Larry Mitchell (League of Ohio Sportsmen), Evan Heusinkveld and Adam Wright  (US Sportsmen’s’ Alliance), and Mike Rex (Buckeye Big Buck Club).

Submitted by Matt Misicka