More than 40 state legislators are against proposed limits on deer hunting they say would cause problems related to overpopulation and would affect local hunters with the elimination of a two-day season in December.
Senators and representatives recently signed a letter addressed to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources wildlife chief opposing the regulations, saying it would “disrupt the successful deer management policies” and that the new rules appear to based on subjective information and not scientific data.
But the ODNR says it based the proposed changes on science and data.
“The Division of Wildlife has biologists on staff who perform research and gather data on Ohio’s deer population, observations, hunter feedback and success, and wildlife related complaints,” spokesman Mark Bruce said in an email. “Ohio’s current deer regulations are a compilation of results from past rules, which have been modified and adjusted to meet future deer management needs. As these needs change, so must the regulations.”
Lawmakers are, in part, concerned the elimination of a special two-day gun season in late December would take away opportunities for hunters and increase the potential of motor vehicle crashes with deer and crop damage due to increased population, state Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, said in a news release.
These crashes could also increase if urban deer units are eliminated as proposed, lawmakers said.
Urban deer units exist in several large metropolitan areas, including parts of the Greater Dayton area, where archery hunters are permitted to take deer, according to ODNR.
“The elimination of urban hunting poses a danger to communities already on edge about the risk of car accidents and property damage caused by deer,” Widener said.
Clark and Champaign counties are not within an urban deer unit, according to the division’s website.
State Rep. Bob Hackett, R-London, also signed the letter. It did not appear that Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, had signed the letter as of Wednesday. His office couldn’t be reached for confirmation on Wednesday.
They also oppose a new bag limit of two to three deer for hunters in 12 other Ohio counties, an existing two-deer limit in Madison County, and the elimination of muzzle-loader deer hunting in several parts of the state.
Bag limits in Clark and Champaign counties are currently at four per year and would remain at that level in the proposed rules.
The letter also supports the Ohio Farm Bureau’s suggestion to provide landowners with the opportunity for voluntary, free pre-registration with the ability to use the state’s call-in system to register their harvest.
“Hunting is one of Ohio’s vibrant and vital traditions. Many families rely on game as an important source of food, and even more Ohioans benefit from hunters’ contribution to safe roads and reduced crop damage,” the letter says. “Rules set by the Division of Wildlife must promote outdoorsmanship while maintaining order and safety for our state. Certain provisions of the proposed rule changes have failed in this regard …”
The agency’s long-standing rule-making process was followed for the proposed changes, Bruce said, including holding seven open houses around the state and accepting comments online.
“Also as part of procedure, the Ohio Wildlife Council will have the opportunity to weigh-in and offer advice before any final decision is made,” he said.
Generally, responses to a Springfield News-Sun Facebook post seeking comments on the topic weren’t in favor of new limits on deer hunting, citing motorist safety.
“All the deer hunters I personally know do consume the deer they harvest. I do enjoy seeing the deer around our home and yard, but with the number of deer/car accidents and dead deer along the roadside, I cannot think we would need to lower the limits or days they can be hunted,” wrote Springfield resident Mary Ayers Shuman.
But K. Dale Frazier had a different view, suggesting giving deer guns, too, for it to be a real sport.
“If a person needs to hunt for food to feed themselves and their families then I can see it. But to hunt for the ‘sport’ of hunting is barbaric,” he said.