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Deer gun season opens with a bang

LAKE AREA – Monday was a great day for hunters, but a bad one for deer.

Lake area deer check stations were busy. Alyssa Skeens of Glenford’s B&C Drive Thru said B&C checked 65 deer Monday, which was opening day for deer gun season. At the other end of Buckeye Lake, Millersport Bait & Tackle’s Mary Schilling said 28 deer were received Monday.

Carly Bowen, a customer service rep for Hebron’s Buckeye Outdoors wasn’t really sure how many deer her employer checked, but it was a lot. “I can’t tell you how many we’ve had, even today,” she said. Bowen wasn’t ready to predict that 2008 would be a stronger year for hunters than 2007, but so far, so good.

Lindsay Deering, wildlife communications specialist for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said this year’s deer harvest is already a giant increase over 2007. She said hunters took 33,034 whitetailed deer on Monday alone. The deer-gun season remains open through Sunday, Dec. 7, then reopens for two days on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 20-21.

According to Ohio Division of Wildlife, preliminary figures from deer check stations throughout the state show a significant increase from last year’s opening day total of 19,391. Monday’s weather was breezy with intermittent rain or snow across the state, a stark contrast to opening day 2007 when hunters were hampered by heavy rain.

Counties reporting the highest numbers of deer checked on Monday included Tuscarawas- 1,821, Washington-1,456, Coshocton 1,307, Harrison-1,286, Guernsey-1,202, Licking-1,134, Ashtabula-1,089, Holmes-1,088, Knox-954, and Athens-828. Locally, Fairfield County had 452 (last year was 279), Licking County had 1,134 (last year was 494), and Perry County had 580 (last year was 340).

The statewide deer population was estimated at 700,000, up from 650,000 in 2007, said Deering. She said last year, the lake area total harvests were Fairfield County- 3,130 deer, Licking County- 7,523 deer, and Perry County- 4,344 deer. Licking County traditionally places in the top five counties for bowhunting harvest, said Deering.

Combining the results of Monday’s harvest with those from the early muzzleloader season, the first six weeks of archery season and the recent youth deergun season, a preliminary total of 95,074 deer have been killed so far this deer-hunting season. That number compares to 84,161 harvested last year at this time. In all, hunters took a total of 232,854 deer during all of last year’s hunting seasons. Approximately 400,000 hunters are expected to participate in the statewide deergun season.

Deering said the bag limit in each lake area county this year is three deer and only one may be antlered. Also, hunters may use up to an additional three non-antlered deer permits to kill additional deer through December 7.

Extra venison can be donated to food banks and shelters through a program called Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Bower & Sons in Millersport is the only local participant in the national program. Call (740) 467-3800 for more information.

Deering said the Dillon Wildlife Area is a nearby public hunting area. Deer can be legally hunted with a gun from one half-hour before sunrise to sunset through December 7 and during the extra-designated weekend. The Division of Wildlife anticipates 115,000 to 125,000 deer will be killed during the nine-day season. Approximately 400,000 hunters are expected to participate in this year’s season, including many out-of-state hunters.

According to the division, the whitetailed deer is the most popular game animal in Ohio, frequently pursued by generations of hunters. Ohio ranks 6th nationally in annual hunting-related sales and 4th in the number of jobs associated with the hunting related industry. Each year, hunting has a $1.5 billion economic impact in Ohio. Hunting related retail sales in Ohio total more than $700 million.

Venison is the number one wild game served by hunters in Ohio. Deer hunters also contribute thousands of pounds of venison to organizations that help feed less-fortunate Ohioans through special programs.

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