Deer gun week unfolds, though not as it always did, beginning Monday a half hour before sunrise.
Gun week ballyhoo doesn’t approach that of several decades ago when 90% of the whitetails taken in Ohio fell during a gun week that lasted six days and not seven. Sunday hunting wasn’t instituted until 1998.
More recent statistical trends suggest this year’s gun-week take will amount to about a third of the deer checked between the late-September start of the archery season and its early-February conclusion.
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Gun week a year ago yielded 71,651 whitetails after a weather-plagued start that produced the lowest opening day count in at least 40 years. By week’s end, however, hunters had outstripped both the 2019 total of 63,493 and the three-year average of 65,566.
Another indicator of change: About 44% of the deer taken during last year’s gun week was downed with rifles using straight-walled cartridges, a type of firearm legal to hunt deer in Ohio only since 2014. Shotguns using slugs, the traditionalists’ choice, accounted for about 47% of the take.
Some 300,000 hunters chase deer during gun week and the statewide bonus gun weekend. The two-day bonus hunt is scheduled Dec. 18-19. A four-day muzzleloader season kicks off in early January.
Within a geezer’s taxed memory was a time when the few deer on the Ohio landscape held little allure for hunters.
In 1960, for example, only about 4% of the state’s 680,000 hunting license holders pursued whitetails, Ohio Division of Wildlife records show. By 1978 some 38% of the 573,000 license holders chased deer. By 2003 the percent of deer hunters to license holders hit 80% and has remained at or slightly above that plateau.
Additional deer hunting tidbits follow:
• Resident landowners and close family members, who are not required to purchase a license or a deer permit when hunting their property, accounted for almost three in 10 of the whitetails checked in Ohio last year.
• Hunters age 17 and under checked 7,634 deer during last weekend’s youth gun season. That’s an increase of 1,839, or 31.7%, from the 5,795 reported in 2020. The count also easily surpassed the three-year average of 6,210.
• Licking led central Ohio counties in youth results with 158, followed by Fairfield with 71, Union 45, Pickaway 29, Delaware 28, Madison 26 and Franklin 16. Tuscarawas led all counties with 322, followed by Coshocton with 306.
• The wildlife division hasn’t issued a caution, though a number of health officials across the nation have noted that deer hunters might continue to be careful in the handling of whitetails. Studies of deer in the wild conducted early this year showed widespread presence of the virus that causes COVID-19 or its antibodies.
• The transmission of a coronavirus from deer to humans has yet to be documented. However, anyone concerned about infection should wear rubber gloves and keep hands away from face while field dressing.
• The wildlife division is exercising caution in regard to deer taken from an area where wild deer in Ohio for the first time were found last season to be infected with chronic wasting disease, a lethal condition. Deer taken in Wyandot County and parts of Marion and Hardin counties require special reporting as part of an ongoing effort to restrict the spread of the disease.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Outdoors: Deer hunting week sees plenty of changes